Here I sleep the morning through
'Til the wail of the call to prayer awakes me
And there is nothing at all to do
But rise and follow the day wherever it takes me

I stand at the window and I look at the sea
And I am what I am and what will be will be
I stand at the window and I look at the sea
And I make me a pot of opium tea

Down at the port I watch the boats come in
Oh, watching the boats come in can do something to you
And the kids gather around with an outstretched hand
And I toss them a dirham or two

Well, I wonder if my children are thinking of me
'Cause I am what I am and what will be will be
I wonder if my kids are thinking of me
And I smile and I sip my opium tea

At night the sea lashes the rust-red ramparts
In the shapes of hooded men who pass me
And the mad moaning wind laughs and laughs and laughs and laughs
At the strange lot that fate has cast me

The cats on the rampart sing merrily
That he is what he is and what will be will be
The cats on the rampart sing merrily
And I sit and I drink my opium tea

I'm a prisoner here, I can never go home
There is nothing here to win or lose
There are no choices need to be made at all
Not even the choice of having to choose

I'm a prisoner yes, but I'm also free
'Cause am what I am and what will be will be
I'm a prisoner here but I'm also free
And I smile and I sip my opium tea


Lyrics submitted by CHAKA

Opium Tea song meanings
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8 Comments

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  • +4
    My InterpretationA truly great song, so relaxing and serene but at the same time so poignant. I don't think he is saying he is a prisoner in the physical sense, this song seems to be quite clearly about drug addiction so the prison is the use of the drug. To me this song is about the absolutism that drug taking provides, when ones life choices can suddenly be confined to 'where is the next hit coming from' and there are no other choices to be made. The need for an absolute truth in life is something all humans seek and drug taking can be an easy way to find a form of serenity without any effort. The same is true for religion (or any doctrine/belief) where many people rather than seek true knowledge would rather surrender to a series of absolutes that they don't need to question in order to make them comfortable with their existence. Drug taking just happens to be one of the easiest ways of eliminating uncertainty in life, which is what the person in this song seems to have achieved when he can acknowledge the prisoner he is but at the same time quite happily maintain the status quo.
    Rimbaudesqueon February 28, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think anyone who has been addicted to an opiate of any kind such as heroin, can really feel the sympathetic and mellow tone of this song. The lyrics are well written, but I think the melody is more important. The lyrics show someone who is living somewhat a miserable life, acknowledge this, but are content with their drug addiction and continue to life their life accordingly despite all that is wrong.
    Mr.SharpGrinon January 03, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe "wail of the call to prayer" obviously implies that he's in a Muslim country. The "dirham or two" suggests Morocco. I think this song is about William S. Burroughs. He lived in Tangier for a few years while writing his novel Naked Lunch. He was heavily addicted to opiates at the time. He left a son back in the States, which also fits. Nick Cave seems to reference literature a lot in his songs, so it seems like a plausible interpretation. I can imagine Burroughs drifting around the city in an opium haze, thinking about the life he left behind.
    PhylNotCharleson March 26, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI don't think he's in Portugal; i guess he's in Morocco:
    "And I toss them a dirham or two"
    pulceon May 30, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI've always thought this song was about rehab. Don't know for sure but it seems like the Opium Tea is something they use to wean people off.

    These lines especially make me think rehab:
    I'm a prisoner here, I can never go home
    There is nothing here to win or lose
    There are no choices need to be made at all
    Not even the choice of having to choose

    I'm a prisoner yes, but I'm also free
    'Cause am what I am and what will be will be
    I'm a prisoner here but I'm also free
    mackkaon June 18, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti dont think its about rehad, he's just stuck inside his addiction
    "i'm a prisoner here yes, but i'm also free" he's imprisoned by the drug, but he is free when he takes it
    cintaon November 07, 2008   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationPerhaps it's inspired by Thomas De Quincey's "Confessions of an English Opium-Eater"? A great novel indeed. As is this song.
    Idahoon June 23, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"I'm a prisoner here, but I'm also free" means that he can never leave Portugal, as opium is cheap and (almost) legal there. If he comes back to the states, he won't be able to get any. At least, I'm fairly sure he's in Portugal, although it could just as easily be Tangier. Either way, it truly is a great song. He captured the feeling perfectly.
    BamChugon February 24, 2011   Link

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