One of the three (or more) references for this song is unquestionably "Wichita Lineman" (ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wichita_Lineman )...
I'm an engine driver
On a long run, on a long run
Would I work beside her?
She's a long one, such a long one

And if you don't love me, let me go
And if you don't love me let me go

I'm a country lineman
On a high line, on a high line
So will be my grandson
There are power lines in our bloodlines

And if you don't love me, let me go
And if you don't love me, let me go

And I am a writer, writer of fictions
I am the heart that you call home
And I've written pages upon pages
Trying to rid you from my bones
My bones
My bones

I'm a money lender
I have fortunes upon fortunes
Take my hand for tender
I am tortured, ever tortured

And if you don't love me, let me go
And if you don't love me, let me go

And I am a writer, writer of fictions
I am the heart that you call home
And I've written pages upon pages
Trying to rid you from my bones
I am a writer, I am all that you have home
Home
And I've written pages upon pages
Trying to rid you from my bones
My bones
My bones

(And if you don't love me, let me go)
And if you don't love me, let me go
(And if you don't love me, let me go)
And if you don't love me, let me go


Lyrics submitted by sethbrown

"The Engine Driver" as written by Colin Meloy

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

The Engine Driver song meanings
Add your thoughts

97 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +6
    General CommentOkay, meaning now.

    I think that this is a song comprised of several different characters (obviously) with most of the focus given to the writer (who I think is, in some part, Meloy) -- it's very simple with lots of repetition, but I think it comes down to one moral -- All of these people are something by their very nature; it's in their bones, it's who they are, and they're calling out, "If you don't love me let me go" -- or, if you don't love me for who I really am, let me go.

    Going deeper, you could look at the writer and think, he's trying to rid this love from his bones, so maybe she's become a part of him (assuming the first person is male, sorry) as well; or, he is becoming a part of her, as in "I am the heart that you call home". Yet, he's just a writer of fictions; he's trying to write her out of his life, but she won't let go.

    So they're all people with dilemmas of the heart -- all having to do with the permanent *who* they are perhaps conflicting with their love's perception of them; or anyone's perception of them for that matter.

    In any case, it's a beautiful song. Love it.
    triswebon March 30, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song could be about a songwriter/musician/decemberists frontman.

    Each of the professions he lists in the verses are various parts of being a touring musician.
    "engine driver": touring across a country must feel.
    "county lineman" or electrician: dealing with the equipment.
    "moneylender": the business side of music.

    and of course, a writer using fiction to work out a past relationship isn't a stretch of the imagine.

    maybe colin's most autobigraphy song.
    or i could be completely wrong.

    either way, wonderful song.
    sethbrownon April 30, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI feel as if it's about a writer trying to get over this girl.
    He keeps writing these stories and pouring himself into these different characters
    and no matter who he becomes he still doesn't get the girl.
    ATadBitEerieon March 14, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt's about that girl that you want but will never get, for whatever reason. Still, even knowing this, the love that you feel stays. Meloy is shrieking "if you don't love me let me go", but the love still stays, despite the fact that the writer has "written pages upon pages trying to rid you from my bones." A nasty little spot to be in. Part of me is starting to think that there is only ONE charactor...I'll post more on that once I think about it some more.
    five_to_oneon April 05, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment^^I think that may be reading a bit much into it, as song's that Colin has written about mothers aren't necessarily reflections on his mother. His writing style is rarely ever autobiographical, it's mostly story telling.

    That said...the engine driver in question is experiencing a feeling that I think five_to_one described best. Hopelessness, but at the same time, something deep inside him ("my bones") just won't let go, no matter what he does to try to get rid of her ("I've written pages upon pages").
    Ne Plus Ultraon July 19, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhen the song says 'Trying to rid you from my bones', I don't interpret that as trying to forget a girl. I'm writing a fiction book as well, and it's partially to just get the story out of me.
    brisingr47on May 25, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthe subject seems to be recalling a life, perhaps richly lived, but ultimately empty.

    in his youth, he is an engine driver - in other words, a railroad engineer. it's not a bad life, but it is indeed a lonely one, with long, isolated shifts. he asks himself if his work is compatible with a life lived alongside the girl he loves. in the final line of the verse, he notes "she's a long one" - is he talking about the shift, or the woman? she's a long shot, either way. the tone here is uncertain, but there's a touch of hope.

    later in life, the subject is a lineman; a less rewarding job, perhaps, but more conducive to living as a family man. he's taken up the family trade and left behind his old life. he alludes to having grandchildren here, specifically a grandson. it seems, then, that he is married, although he is still dreaming of this other woman. "there are power lines in our bloodlines," he notes, wondering if his grandson is doomed to the same life he has lived thus far.

    an older man, the subject works now as a money lender. he has amassed riches, perhaps from a life of hard and yet ultimately unrewarding work. in his view, life has been unkind to him. perhaps his current spouse is with him only for his money - is he remarrying, or has his marriage always been this unhappy? "take my hand for tender," he says. there's a sense of defeat, and of unrelenting loneliness.

    at the end of it all, he recalls his life in writing. perhaps he has written all this time, only intensifying the strength of his unrequited love. he has lived many lives, all of them fictions in a sense; rich, but not the reality he has wanted. in each of them, he hopes that perhaps he will be loved in return. the woman in question has taken root in his heart and in his bones, and try as he might, he can't write her out. perhaps he doesn't want to. note the conditional: "if you don't love me, let me go". is he still holding out for that long shot? he is still looking for the life in which he will be loved in return. he knows he may never find it.
    chronostasison December 06, 2018   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"And I've written pages upon pages
    Trying to rid you from my bones"

    I get chills every time. :)
    odalisqueon January 22, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentjust beautiful. My favorite on Picaresque
    Bryia_026on March 31, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti love this song. i totally agree with five to one. i feel bad for him, especially cause im in pretty much the same position.....
    jazzy88on April 07, 2005   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain