The lyrics are loosely based on a character Mark Twain created in his first novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The book was published 1876....

A modern day warrior
Mean, mean stride
Today's Tom Sawyer
Mean, mean pride

Though his mind is not for rent
Don't put him down as arrogant
His reserve, a quiet defense
Riding out the day's events
The river

What you say about his company
Is what you say about society
Catch the mist, catch the myth
Catch the mystery, catch the drift

The world is, the world is
Love and life are deep
Maybe as his skies are wide

Today's Tom Sawyer
He gets high on you
And the space he invades
He gets by on you

No, his mind is not for rent
To any god or government
Always hopeful, yet discontent
He knows changes aren't permanent
But change is

What you say about his company
Is what you say about society
Catch the witness, catch the wit
Catch the spirit, catch the spit

The world is the world is
Love and life are deep
Maybe as his eyes are wide

Exit the warrior
Today's Tom Sawyer
He gets high on you
And the energy you trade
He gets right on to
The friction of the day



Lyrics submitted by knate15


Tom Sawyer song meanings
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  • +11
    General Comment:I am a new member, and it's so good to see and read so many fellow RUSH fans. Their respective musicianship, demeanor and intellectually progressive style is second to none, in my opinion, and makes them, again in my opinion, the best three piece rock band ever.

    As a drummer, philosopher and appreciator of unique and interesting personalities, I have appreciated Neil Peart in various capacities for some time. As an undergraduate philosophy student (presently working on my Ph.D.) we were assigned in senior seminar to write about our favorite living philosopher. I turned in a twenty page treatise on Neil Peart and the look on my professors face was priceless. Without reading it, he handed it back and told me to grow up and do the assignment, stating "He's not even an academic. How could he be a philosopher?" (such attitudes are commonplace) I told him that if he didn't think differently after reading it I would quit school. He could tell I was serious. The next day, handing me a paper with the first letter of our alphabet scribed widely across the top, he asked me, embarrassed, if I would burn him a CD with "some of their stuff" :-)

    As far as lyrical meaning, it is important to note that, while influenced by Twain, Rand and various others, he is (in his own words), "a disciple of no one." Through his lyrics we can piece together a personal philosophy, a proprietary blend, of anti-idealism/objectivism/individualism (Freewill, The Pass, TOM SAWYER, Show Don't Tell, Vital Signs, etc...), fatalism (Roll The Bones, a personal favorite), existentialism (again, Roll The Bones, Limelight, the title "All The World's A Stage") and several other philosophical influences.

    Tom Sawyer (not Diane Sawyer, Ricky. hehe) is, in both the book and song, the personification of a sort or type of person, the sort of person breaking away from the status quo, exploring and, importantly, the sort who represents both a normative and actual shifting of the human paradigm in the direction of his (man's) rational evolution. This fits, to a greater or lesser extent, with Freud's idea that man evolves in such a way as to shed his dependence on ideals (religion, social norms) and replace that dependence with a greater implementation of reason (leading to self-reliance, a deeper self-awareness and sense of responsibility for ones own "destiny"). Tom Sawyer has thus been a different people at different transitional points in man's evolution (our history). "Todays" Tom Sawyer is exactly what the song says; a leader to the next step in realizing pure reason or rationality; the "space he invades," is his days work, to explore the unknown as progress towards truth; the "friction of the day," is the resistance he faces from both people's unwillingness to embrace change as well as the intellectual rigor of tackling what hasn't already been explored (the guy who cuts a path through the forest faces resistance from the brush leaving those who follow behind with little to do but be complacent and stagnate). He (TS) does all of this with a mind filled only by his own conclusions (i.e. "not for rent"), and via the power coming from honest intellectual reciprocity or dialectical process ("he gets high on you," "he gets by on you"). As far as "riding out the days events," the song is referring to fate controlling what life gives to us, even though it is our responsibility (and can be a point of pride if done well) to live our own life with what fate hands us. In RUSH's "Roll the Bones," Peart refers to the same notion, "we draw our own designs, but fortune has to make that frame."

    The philosophical analysis could go on and on. Tom Sawyer is an intellectually (ideologically) dense song, as are many other of Peart's lyrics. It would take a while to thoroughly unpack them and I feel bad writing as much as I have. Sorry about that. I'm new, and haven't yet developed any restraint :-)
    roll_the_bones79on July 27, 2007   Link
  • +6
    General Comment:Rush are horribly underrated.
    IanoDublinon June 17, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General Comment:Neil Peart collaborated this song with Pye Dubois (a lyricist).

    He said, "A portrait of a modern day rebel, a free-spirited individualist striding through the world wide-eyed and purposeful. I added the themes of reconciling the boy and man in myself, and the difference between what people are and what others perceive them to be - namely me I guess."

    I'm doing a presentation on the parallels between American novels and music, using this song (of course) as an example. When I looked deeper at it, I became confused. To me, it sounds like Peart and Pubois are talking more about Huckleberry Finn and less about Tom Sawyer, though both are rebels in their own way. However, Tom, rebels for his own selfish purposes (someone else said that on here too and I completely agree). Huck, on the other hand, rebels even though he believes helping a Negro would 'send him to hell'. Still confused about it, but maybe I'm thinking too hard which is possible... ahhh
    lekittyon May 05, 2009   Link
  • +3
    General Comment:It's about individualism and not mindlessly bowing to authority, (religion, government, etc.). This song was written in Neil's Ayn Rand influenced period. Look her up.
    pavlovscaton June 24, 2010   Link
  • +3
    My Interpretation:When one understands the underpinnings of soceity, the propaganda and money powers that manipulate societies one truly understands the meaning of this song. Mean stride, mean pride (Tom Sawyer, the hidden hand behind nations, governments.)
    What you say about his company
    Is what you say about society When you question this power of the tyrants (the hidden hand), you are questioning the decency of society itself. They have made it so through mass media manipulation, to make you feel guilty about questioning them. Catch the mist, catch the myth
    Catch the mystery, catch the drift. That is the mystery. We're being lead around by con men and bullshiters. No, his mind is not for rent
    To any god or government (The powers that be have no homeland and answer to no one. Don't put him (them) down as arrogant
    His(there) reserve, a quiet defense
    Riding out the day's events
    The river
    ggrichardson February 14, 2013   Link
  • +2
    General Comment:This song covers a lot of concepts.
    Primarily it is a description of today's rebel hero, Tom Sawyer.
    This person is independent and self-aware.
    Several in TS recurr in other Rush songs:
    ..."He knows that changes aren't permanent...but Change is": change is the only constant
    ..."Love and life are deep...maybe as his eyes are wide": reality is defined by our perception of it.
    mutzon May 19, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General Comment:Any one catch The ep. of Trailer park boys featuring rush? great stuff
    MGDon June 06, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General Comment:god this song is amazing I think it's one of their bests
    Spenca92on July 06, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General Comment:I think this song is about people who use psychedelic drugs to expand their minds. The lyrics refer to many realizations commonly experienced on LSD, while simultaneously making double entendre references to tripping.

    For example:
    "Today's Tom Sawyer
    He gets high on you
    And the space he invades
    He gets by on you"

    'Tom Sawyer' refers to the tripper, because in the classic book Tom Sawyer was a young, inexperienced, but passionate adventurer who took a raft down a river, and one using LSD is also a passionate explorer who recognizes their own lack of knowledge about the nature of self and reality. The "space he invades" refers to his conception of himself as an ego separate from others, which he creates by perceiving others (i.e. "he gets by on you").

    He "gets by on you" because he can only define himself by his differences from others (if no other people existed, their would be nothing to separate your stream of consciousness from everything else). And this stream of consciousness is exactly what "the river" is referring to, as well.

    Peart further suggests that this is the correct interpretation by cleverly including lines that reference drug use, such as "gets high on you," and "maybe as his eyes are wide" (pupil dilation from LSD).

    Oh yeah, one more verse that suggests this interpretation:

    "What you say about his company
    Is what you say about society"

    Society is extremely polarized over the use of psychedelic drugs. Generally speaking, mainstream culture regards it as crazy, dangerous, and generally in a negative light, while the counterculture views it as consciousness-expanding and valuable. Therefore, whether or not you condone someone's use of drugs speaks to your opinion of society.
    SamuraiDrifteron April 14, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General Comment:Yes MGD on the first page of comments, Trailer Park Boys are fucking awsome!

    I LOVE RUSH, but I hate all the trash talk done on the greatest bands in rock.
    shame is on those who feel to express hate on a page for comments on one of the greatest songs ever written
    zoso15128on June 07, 2010   Link

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