"howdy, lem," my grandfather said with his eyes closed
wiping the eastbound dust from his sunburned brow
a life before doubt.

i smell the engine grease and mint the wind is blending
under the moan of rotting elm in the silo floor.

down a hill of pine tree quills we made our way
to the bottom and the ferns where thick moss grows
beside a stream.

under the rocks are snails and we can fills our pockets
and let them go one by one all day in a brand new place.

you were no ordinary drain on her defenses
and she was no ordinary girl
Oh, Inverted World
if every moment of our lives
were cradled softly in the hands of some strange and gentle child
i'd not roll my eyes so.


Lyrics submitted by rudegirl

One By One All Day song meanings
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26 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentIt seems to me like he is going further than just wishing god good be a child.

    "Oh, Inverted World
    if every moment of our lives
    were cradled softly in the hands of
    some strange and gentle child
    i'd not roll my eyes so.

    seems to suggest that he doesn't believe a strange and gentle god/child even exist as far as mankind are concerned. As in; "if there were a higher power to guide us, i'd not be so skeptical/have so much to worry about
    sean2458on February 15, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General Comment"if every moment of our lives were cradled softly in the hands of some strange and gentle child" is obviously a reference to earlier in the song when he described picking up snails and letting them go in new places. it may have something to do with god, but i seriously doubt it, and there's no real reason to think so.
    egotrippingon January 08, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentmemories
    bermudababe273on November 22, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think it's about something in his past and nature. When i read this song i can imagine some 10-year old kids playing in a place of nature such as a rainforest (the ferns, moss, streams). Just looking at the nature and taking it all in.

    "down a hill of pine tree quills we made our way
    to the bottom and the ferns where thick moss grows
    beside a stream.
    under the rocks are snails and we can fills our pockets
    and let them go one by one all day in a brand new place"

    Kids seem to be able to really respect and see things in a far more beautiful way than adults. I think this is because adults have seen the real world with all of the money and greed. Kids haven't seen that yet and are still learning, just taking it all in. The song, as i see it, is about how when we are young we see things so differently to when we are older

    Ps. "a life before doubt" ...enough said
    beulahon June 04, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commentamen beulah.
    allyouneediscakeon August 22, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree with you, beulah, I think that mercer often wishes the world had more of the child-like innocence. Its a theme in New Slang to me as well.

    The song references that feeling and the memories that come when you go back home or a place you frequently visited in your youth.

    The song defiantly seems like it is about an old memory and reflection, but the last verse seems really randomly placed to me. I thought for a while maybe the words were coming from his grandfather kind of giving him advice about a failed relationship, but I dont think that fully explains it.
    LFHolland01on January 19, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt's about the brillance of childhood and wanting every moment to be like that. And smelling...it's about smell just as much as anythign else
    Sunquaion February 15, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti love this song and the way everything ties together. while not all children are gentle and reverent, this really pulls together the image of a careful, innocent child.
    brain.damageon March 05, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhat a good song.
    princessKATIEon July 16, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment[To preface this, I think the narrator is visiting a place that makes him remember his childhood, I like to imagine that he's at his late grandfather's farm]

    "howdy, lem," my grandpa said with his eyes closed
    wiping the eastbound dust from his sunburned brow
    a life before doubt.

    [He's remembering the days he spent with his grandfather as a child, a time before he was corrupted, before he started thinking so much, before he doubted everything. His grandfather seems to have been a working man]

    i smell the engine grease and mint the wind is blending
    under the moan of rotting elm in the silo floor.

    [He can still smell the mint and engine grease in the air from back then, the silo floor he used to walk on is now rotted and old, which is symbollic of him becoming an adult. Life is no longer as bright and fascinating as it once was.]

    down a hill of pine tree quills we made our way
    to the bottom and the ferns where thick moss grows
    beside a stream.

    [see next]

    under the rocks are snails and we can fills our pockets
    and let them go one by one all day in a brand new place.

    [He recalls how him and his grandpa used to walk through nature down a hill to a special place where there was a stream. There he used to catch snails and let them go in different places, almost like it was a game. ]

    you were no ordinary drain on her defenses
    and she was no ordinary girl
    Oh, Inverted World

    [This part, to me, is the main focus of the song. The narrator is now thinking about a much more recent event, probably about a failed a relationship. When he says 'you' I think he is actually talking to himself, saying that she was one in a million and he truly loved her and he regrets that his way of thinking drained her and eventually led to their downfall. "What a backwards world," is the afterthought of his nostalgia.]

    if every moment of our lives
    were cradled softly in the hands of some strange and gentle child
    i'd not roll my eyes so.

    [Now he ties the whole thing together. My guess is that his last girlfriend believed in God or fate or something but the narrator disagreed, which led to their falling out. He remembers the childhood game he played with the snails and sees it as a metaphor for God's hypothetical relationship with humans. He thinks, "if only life were really like that... but it's not" and then rolls his eyes. The last stanza also feels like the narrator is lamenting his childhood]

    It's a wonderful song. Mercer always does a fantastic job of intertwining complex ideas and themes among his experiences with relationships and love.
    rebelquietlyon March 26, 2009   Link

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