And when I was seventeen
I made myself a DMZ
But they continued bombing me
Hot and steadily.

They divided me at seventeen
I declared myself a DMZ
But they continued bombing me

Dig in Vienn Ilin, dig in today
The Americans are on their way
American bombs away!
Dig in today!

We make our days as they make us
As I must, as Odysseus
Make myself my own Telemachus
"Bous Stephanos, Stephanoumenos Dedalus!"

And if it hasn't been a bust
Then "land-ho, Ulysseus!"
And all of us like Dedalus:
Dead, dead all of us.

Between the dense red clay and the deep blue sea
What horrors rage internally
And what reactions, chemically
Through synapses so awfully?

Conducting electricity
And converting less efficiently
What potiential energy
For this life of endless tunneling?

So deep beneath the DMZ
Lightless of necessity
Their bombs are heard incessantly
Our days, they make us, clearly.

Lyrics submitted by Yrtlzmo

My Vien Ilin song meanings
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  • 0
    General CommentThis is one of my favorite songs on Tyrrany of Distance, though I don't fully understand the lyrics. My impression is that it uses the metaphor of a divided nation (Vietnam) to illustrate a divided individual--mostly a son divided in loyalties to parents. The DMZ language is pretty obvious as referring to the de-militarized zone between North and South Vietnam.

    I think the most interesting verses begin with the fourth one, with the reference to Odysseus and Telemachus, who were father and son. The last line of that verse is a reference to Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" which has a strong father-son dialectic running throughout it.

    I think there's also a sense of asking the question "do we make our days or do our days make us?" That is, do we determine our fate through our own explorations--as Odysseus--or are we bound to the fate of our forebears, as Dedalus? Leo throws in another possible Joyce reference with "land-ho, Ulysseus!" but I have to admit that I never made it all the way through "Ulysses" so I'll let someone else pick up on that part.
    bluebottle1on February 25, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this song was written and performed to show just how far superior Ted Leo is to the rest of the human species.
    wasmuthkon April 30, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti asked ted himself what this song was about since my brother and i had always been so confused about the lyrics w/ all the greek references and talk of DMZs (de-militarized zones). he gave me a short short answer but it made a lot of sense: "It's about growing up in America."

    In the first verse he's literally saying that he made himself a DMZ, that'd he have nothing to do w/ the military and would not join the army. Despite this though he still felt the pressure from recruiters and promoters of the military.

    As for the greek references, i'm not a classics major so i don't know. it's my theory that the line "Between the dense red clay and the deep blue sea, what horrors rage internally..." is speaking of america. the "dense red clay" is the american right wing and this reflects his feelings on them perhaps (they're "dense"). The "deep blue sea" represents the american left. The sea is of course a big theme on this album and seems to represent something positive throughout it. Ted Leo is extremely liberal and he might be saying what he feels about that side too.

    through the rest of the song he's just talking about escaping the pressure of the military and living in a war hungry america. that's what i've figured out. anyway, ted's answer is definitive.
    cmanon August 26, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOr it could be about the band DMZ.
    believo82on March 19, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOr it could be about the band DMZ.
    believo82on March 19, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGiven cman's info from Ted, you can kinda figure out the classical references, assuming they're not from Ullysses (because no way am I gonna talk about Ullysses).

    Odysseus, after the Trojan War, set off for home, but it took years upon years for him to reach him home, to find it far different than how he left it. Take this as an metaphor for the American soldier, leaving home to fight, then taking to long to return to a home that has invariably changed and may not want him.

    Dedalus was the father of Icarus, and a great architect/mechanic. He crafted wings for the two of them to fly, but Icarus flew too close to the sun and was lost. Afterwards, Dedalus threw himself into the sea. The loss of a child and the ensuing depression/death certainly rings true in this song and in the context of a war-hungry America.
    tgkekeon November 22, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'd still like to know what My Vien Illin is or is it My Vein Illin or Ilin or what's the deal with that
    tgkekeon November 22, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOk, I'm pretty sure this song is a lot more about Ulysses than a lot of people want to believe. Ulysses contains most of the topics already discussed (Ulysses is another name for Odysseus, and Stephen, whose last name was a reference to Dedalus, was also in Ulysses.) One of the most important lines in Ulysses goes something like, "I find my day inexorably pulling me in every direction but that one toward which I intended to go." See how that fits the song? Ulysses combines the ideas in this song, and this song only makes sense on the whole whole as a reference to Ulysses. Ulysses is something of a modern odyssey, and this song is about the odyssey we must all go through, our life. I could be wrong, but being somewhat familiar Ulysses, that's just how I see this song. I believe Ted Leo has even admitted to referencing and liking that book. Just like Ted Leo's songs, it's sort of a puzzle. An ungodly amount of references beautifully synthesized together with an incredibly unique style.
    ephemeralflameon July 04, 2007   Link

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