"Pencil Rain" as written by and John S./flansburgh Linnell....
The possible dream
Finale of seem
The moment that some call eternal that some call insane
Now helmets on each head awaiting the first lead
The pageant is named the pencil rain

The infantry stands
And holds out its hands
The marshal's binoculars focus and skyward they train
They're searching the yonder blue
They look out for number two
The heraldry of the pencil rain

And now hear the roar that none can ignore
The thunderous clatter of splintering wood and lives that are claimed
And none who have witnessed all
Can think of a nobler cause than perishing in the pencil rain
The pencil rain
The pencil rain
The pencil rain

Lyrics submitted by qshapadooy

"Pencil Rain" as written by John Linnell John Flansburgh

Lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

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Pencil Rain song meanings
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  • +2
    General Comment"Pencil rain" is not artillery. It's death by pencil-pushers, by mismanagement from desks far away from the battlefield. Pretty clear. "Awaiting the first lead" = lead pencil. "Number two" = No. 2 Pencil. "Splintering wood" = pencils again.
    wdfarmeron March 31, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"They look out for number 2" could not only be about #2 pencils, but for the second world war!
    great geo234on February 01, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"Finale of Seem" is a reference to Wallace Stevens' poem "The Emperor of Ice-Cream." The line in the poem is "Let be be finale of seem," that is, if something seems a certain way, let yourself conclude that it is that way.
    skibum8713on October 31, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe way I interpret it, the song describes WWI..
    In short, the song focus on the manipulated people who were told the war would be glorious, short, and not at all dangerous.

    Enthusiastic about fighting in the war, many men died helpless in the trenches where they could do nothing but wait for....artillery bombardment , the "pencil rain"
    Owl---on July 06, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAs I was told at a TMBG CD signing, the song is to be taken literally.

    Think plastic soldiers, and children playing war using pencils as missiles.
    Brother_Daveon October 04, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTheres this telgram sound in the middle of the song, so I'm going with the WW1 story.
    k0rkadon November 01, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthe first line (The possible dream) is a reference to "The Man of La Mancha - Don Quixote" The Impossible Dream)

    'They Might Be Giants' (the bands name) refers to a quote from Don Quixote when he sees windmills but he thinks that "They Might Be Giants" and he tilts them. It is actually a movie from 1971 of the same name (They migth Be Giants) about Sherlock Holmes in modern day Manhattan that has a reference in it to Don Quixote in it.
    JeffKaos71on February 01, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe 'Pencil Rain' could be rain lashing down so hard that it feels like sharp 'pencils'.
    This song reminds me of a Roman legion awaiting orders.
    They look out for number two: they look out for each other.
    The splintering wood could be their spears breaking in battle.
    "And none who have witnessed all
    Can think of a nobler cause
    Than perishing in the Pencil Rain."
    Their undying loyalty.
    blindfoldon December 04, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentC'mon - TMBG said it themselves, take the song literally, the puns are funny, I remember I first heard this song when I was seven, and my dad who is a huge TMBG fan pointed the puns out to me after the song and I thought it was great. I think it was this piece that made me first realize the humor in the Johns' songs :)
    admiralthrawn_1on July 22, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI would agree that this song is probably meant to be taken literally, I used to launch pancils at plastic soldiers with elastic bands, but the song still makes me think of standardized testing, all the students lined up in rows, clutching their #2s as if their lives depended on them.
    carseron July 25, 2007   Link

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