Oh, great intentions
I've got the best of interventions
But when the ads come
I think about it now

In my infliction
Entrepreneurial conditions
Take us to glory
I think about it now

Cannot conversations cull united nations?
If you got the patience, celebrate the ancients
Cannot all creation call it celebration?
Or united nation, put it to your head

Oh, great white city
I've got the adequate committee
Where have your walls gone?
I think about it now

Chicago, in fashion, the soft drinks, expansion
Oh, Columbia!
From Paris, incentive, like Cream of Wheat invented
The Ferris Wheel!

Oh, great intentions
Covenant with the imitation
Have you no conscience?
I think about it now

Oh, God of Progress
Have you degraded or forgot us?
Where have your laws gone?
I think about it now

Ancient hieroglyphic or the South Pacific
Typically terrific, busy and prolific

Classical devotion, architect promotion
Lacking in emotion, think about it now

Chicago, the New Age, but what would Frank Lloyd Wright say?
Oh, Columbia!
Amusement or treasure, these optimistic pleasures
Like the Ferris Wheel!

Cannot conversations cull united nations?
If you got the patience, celebrate the ancients

Columbia!

I cried myself to sleep last night
And the ghost of Carl, he approached my window
I was hypnotized, I was asked
To improvise
On the attitude, the regret
Of a thousand centuries of death

Even with the heart of terror and the superstitious wearer
I am riding all alone
I am writing all alone

Even in my best condition, counting all the superstition
I am riding all alone
I am running all alone

And we laughed at the beatitudes of a thousand lines
We were asked at the attitudes
They reminded us of death

Even with the rest belated, everything is antiquated
Are you writing from the heart?
Are you writing from the heart?

Even in his heart the Devil has to know the water level
Are you writing from the heart?
Are you writing from the heart?

And I cried myself to sleep last night
For the Earth, and materials, they may sound just right to me

Even with the rest belated, everything is antiquated
Are you writing from the heart?
Are you writing from the heart?

Even in his heart the Devil has to know the water level
Are you writing from the heart?
Are you writing from the heart?



Lyrics submitted by xsloth


Come On! Feel the Illinoise! (Part 1: The World's Columbian Exposition; Part 2: Carl Sandburg Visits Me in a Dream) song meanings
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51 Comments

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  • +10
    General Comment:Sorry for this lengthy attempt at some meaning.

    The two parts of this song for me seem to explore the tension between art and commerce. The first, by examining the 1893 World's Fair, questions whether we have progressed through our creations or actually taken steps back due to our obsessions with consumption. The second part becomes more introspective, as previous posters have mentioned, by looking at artists themselves and how they fit.

    For a little background, the World's Fair of 1893 was very influential on American consumerism. The fair was a look back at the 400 years since Columbus's voyage to the New World, and it attempted to show just how far we've come. By imitating the architectural style in Europe, it created the White City, which tried to show Americans that the U.S. could compete with Europe on a cultural level while at the same time celebrate us as a leader in technology and education. It literally was a grand imitation of high style European cities that was meant to be a contrast to the slowly declining American cities with their crime, poverty and violence. The Fair offered scholarly exhibits with great thinkers and educators of the time (Dewey, for instance), but Americans who visited (over 27 million) were more impressed with the Midway, an amusement park with Ferris Wheels, international singers and performers and new products such as Cream of Wheat, Pabst beer, Aunt Jemima syrup and soft drinks. In a sense, the fair ushered in the idea that enjoying oneself was done through the consumption of material goods. Everything in today's culture, from the power of advertising to Disney to amusement parks, can easily be traced back to the World's Columbian Exposition.

    In the song, Sufjan mentions in the first line having some motivation to comment on society but when he spots the advertising, he is taken over by it. In the next line, the speaker is calling for, in the midst of great confusion and anxiety, entrepreneurs to lead us to the promised line.

    In the next set of lines, to me, he seems to be asking, "Can't our dialogue with each other better connect us rather than advertising and products?" It emphasizes the question by urging us to think on our own ("put it to your head")

    In the next set of lines, he specifically refers to products introduced at the fair but then points out in the lines beginning with "Oh Great Intentions.." that these advertisers seem to have no conscience about the ramifications of the kinds of images they create. "Have you degraded us" the speaker asks. Again, the speaker is thinking hard about what image is presented and what consumerism has done.

    The reference to Frank Lloyd Wright drives home the point, because his creations were independent of the mainstream architects of his time, that we've forgotten that the true sign of progress is our ability to think on our own and we should constantly work to advance our current thinking not imitate what's already been done.

    In Part II, the speaker moves to his own art, mainly his writing, and through his visit with Sandburg, begins to think about how his art should come from his heart, not from what's already been done.

    I also agree with previous posters that Sandburg is saying that even if you're intentions depict a dark and terrible world, are you staying true to what's inside of you?

    The two parts try to show how all of us need to look within ourselves and think on our own, rather than try to be taken by the loads of advertising and products that come our way.
    Bluepags03on January 07, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Comment:I love this song.

    It's about the 1893 Worlds Fair (also called the World Columbian Exposition) held in Chicago. Cream of Wheat and the ferris wheel were first introduced there. As for the "what would Frank Lloyd Wright say?" line, he was an architect whose style was a depart from European influences. The exposition consisted of Romanesque, Greek, and Renaissance architecture.

    I'm not quite sure of the 2nd part of the song yet. Any ideas?
    londiniumon December 10, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:I just love the line:

    Even in his heart the Devil has to know the water level.

    While Carl is asking Sufjan if he's writing from the heart, which Sandburg (as a poet) I believe must have valued, he throws that line in as if to say, "I don't even care if you're the Devil... is it from the heart?" Considering that the next song on the album is John Wayne Gacy, Jr., the question becomes even more poignant as it seems to inspire Sufjan to explore whether he is the Devil or not... beautiful sequencing on the album. I love artists who can work on such a large scale like this.
    jnb987on December 24, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:I adore this song. I absolutely love how he connected the two parts of the song. The instrumental between the songs connects them so smoothly, and adds in such a natural-sounding climax leading to a slower melody. I love the trumpets and violins, not to mention the lyrics. I think i like the second part more because it's more personal. Carl Sandburg was a fabulous poet, and i really like his poem about Chicago.
    cutie_carnivoreon February 16, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:this is an amazing song. its like an essay but in wonderous musical form.
    drowningnoahon March 17, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:the only part of this song that has not been anazlyed, as far as I can see, is the "I was hypnotized, I was asked, to improvise, on the attitude and regret of a thousand centuries of death." Which I think is the most important line in the song. I think it is talking about how man first started using agriculture 10,000 years ago, and as a result, the earth has been dying ever since.
    imaginaryordinaryon April 18, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:can i just ask, or plead, people not to leave comments that dont shed any new light on the meaning of the song lyrics, i'm not sure if this site is for people to comment on whether they like it or not but its a little annoying when you want to understand a song and you have to read either small commments like ''i love this song it rocks'' cos i mean, if you're commenting on the song then we know you like it, probably, or comments that just repeat what other people have already said
    Jsh17on July 30, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:Jsh17...please don't leave comments like yours..thanks!
    indierodon August 14, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:Sorry if I offend you Jsh17 by not making a comment on the meaning of this song; but about 2:20 into the song there is a really cool trumpet bit which reminds me so much of an old(ish) song and I was wondering if anyone else can pick it, cause I can't. It's been bugging me for ages :p
    kervin86on August 15, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:anybody else think the opening sounds like Charlie Brown? lol.
    dustybreezeon April 30, 2008   Link

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