"No Man's Land" as written by and Sufjan Stevens....
Up in the highest of heights, O'Hara blinks and fights
This land is yours, this land is mine
I see the captain in red and Cairo at his head
This land is yours, this land is mine

The lightning over the park, the waters, brash and dark
We take a swim, we take a swim
I never meant to escape the carpet and the trade
This land is yours, this land is mine

And when I make up my mind, I change it all the time
I take it back, I take it back
The numbers over the dam, Jo Davies and the band
I count them out, I count them out

There was a car in the bay, by the boat that swept and swayed
Whoever you are in the light, in the water that we made
I'm counting it out, I'm counting it out, I'm working it out
Inside, I'm counting it out from the floor

The ferry hatches Moline, Panola Beauty Queen
She takes a bow, she takes a bow
In Charles, we climb the hill and Danville window sill
I take it back, I take it back

My sister she counts the bars, the Macon county cars
She takes a bow, she takes a bow
The Mississippi amends, the Carver and the bends
This land is yours, this land is mine

My brother punches my ear, the injured ivory deer
I call my dad, I call my dad
We skip inside of the store, the Mason winter door
This land is yours, this land is mine

There was a car in the bay, by the boat that swept and swayed
Whoever you are in the light, in the water that we made
I'm holding your hand by the shore with our collars pulled up tight
I'm counting it out, I'm counting it out, I'm working it out inside

I'm counting it out, I'm counting it out, I'm working it out inside
I'm counting it out

This land is not your land, for the right hand
Takes what it can, ransacks with the mad man
For this land is not yours or mine to have
This land was made for the good of itself



Lyrics submitted by musicforlife!

"No Man's Land" as written by Sufjan Stevens

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No Man's Land song meanings
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22 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentThere is yet another level of connection/symbolism here, and this is on the completely gratuitous level. Would we expect anything less from Mr. Stevens?

    . . .Woody Guthrie, whose song /No Man's Land/ references here, was from Oklahoma. Before the distinctive strip of land (the 'panhandle') of Oklahoma became a part of the state, it was an unclaimed area called 'no man's land,' where various groups sought sanctuary and fought each other.
    Anaxionuson June 16, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthis song rocks, did anyone else notice that this song is in a 17/4 time signature?
    thefiddlehackson July 23, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI know this might be random but did anyone pick up the connection between "O'Hare" who lives up in the highest of heights" and the O'Hare in Gone with the Wind who lives on a hill, believing that her (racist supremicist) lifestyle and the many people who followed were allowed to lay claim to the land even though her ancestors were not from there. It was No mans land. Just my take on the song and yes i know O'hare was not from illinois and yes i know that im not from the U.S and shud not be typing this but its late and im board and my cat just died, my girlfriend got pregnant, i got crabs and iv been watching spike t.v for ten hours after ten cups of coffee and shes still not back yet so there!!!!
    South African Idioton July 07, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe suggestion that Sufjan doesn't realize the time signature he's writing is really just silly. With his proficiency in odd time signatures (7/4 in "Dear Mr. Supercomputer", 5/4 in the first movement of "Come on, Feel the Illinoise", alternating 5/4:6/4 in "Tallest Man, Broadest Shoulders", 9/4 in "Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head!", etc.), it's most certainly a stylistic device he employs with specific intent. I honestly doubt he just plays a riff on one of his instruments and "rolls with it", especially considering the cooperation of people other than himself.

    Also, Dreamer, it's not hard to tell what time signature a song is in if you keep a good running beat in your head as you listen to it. Then you simply count the beats as they come. As for its significance... An unusual time signature, especially when it's part of a passage consisting mostly of common time, usually has an accentuating effect. In No Man's Land, the extra beat added by the 5/4 measure in each phrase is almost exclusively reserved for the flute run. This serves to set it off from the rest of the phrase and signify a transition to a new one.
    Czechnmymailon July 26, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAlso, O'Hare is more likely a reference to the Chicagoan airport by that name. The first section seems to indicate air travel, so it's possible that the song is was inspired by an aerial view of Illinois on a flight out of Chicago.
    Czechnmymailon July 26, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThanks for the info on the time signature! Sometimes I can pick it out, sometimes I can't.

    This is one of my favorites on the Avalanche. In it Sufjan takes us across the land of Illinois.

    It starts with observations, the progresses to actions, then feelings, and all seem to be fueled by memory. He's showing what the land means to him, and at the end decides that the "land was made for the good of itself," but as it fed his memorys, functioned for the good of his existance as well.
    musicforlife!on July 28, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAmazing. Why didn't this song make the real album? It's better than all but 5 songs on Illinoise.

    17/4... it's true, that's insane.

    I love the imagery of the journey. Sort of reminds me of transcendentalism/Romantic poets (you know, Wordsworth waxing poetic about the countryside, the little things that are beautiful, etc.).
    stupid_nameon August 07, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentyea, sufjan is a real pioneer with rhythm; "The Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders" on Illinois is in alternating 5:4 / 6:4.

    I think it's pretty nifty that a song with the lyrics:
    I'm counting it out
    I'm working it out inside
    Is in 17:4
    blame_monsteron August 12, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song plays in the credits of Little Miss Sunshine
    SufjanMyHeroon October 01, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song refers to Woody Guthrie's song "this land is your land".
    Birdyon October 20, 2006   Link

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