"Tea And Sympathy" as written by Greg Wells, Mark Hudson and Dan Haseltine....
Fare thee well
Trade in all our words for tea and sympathy
Wonder why we tried for things that could never be
Play our hearts lament like an unrehearsed symphony

Not intend
To leave this castle full of empty rooms
Our love the captive in the tower never rescued
And all the victory songs
Seem to be playing out of tune

But it's not the way
That it has to be
Don't trade our love for tea and sympathy
'Cause it's not the way
That it has to be

You begin
And all your words fall to the floor and break like china cups
And the waitress grabs a broom and tries to sweep them up
I reach for my tea and slowly drink in

[Chorus]
'Cause it's not the way
That it has to be
Don't trade our love for tea and sympathy
'Cause it's not the way
That it has to be
Don't trade our love for tea and sympathy

So fare thee well
Words the bag of leaves that fill my head
I could taste the bitterness and call the waitress instead
She holds the answer, smiles and asks one teaspoon or two

[Chorus: x2]

Don't trade us for tea and sympathy
Don't trade us for tea and Sympathy
We can work it out
Don't trade us for tea and Sympathy
Don't trade us for tea and Sympathy
We can work it out
Don't trade us for tea and Sympathy
We can work it out


Lyrics submitted by limegreenguitar

"Tea and Sympathy" as written by Mark Hudson Greg Wells

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group

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Tea And Sympathy song meanings
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21 Comments

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  • +2
    General Commenti have to disagree because in england, the term for "tea and sympathy" usually refers to a casual act between friends or family to those that need mere company during a time of trial or sadness...

    tea and sympathy refers to that time spent together, a casual get-to-gether when one is giving sympathy to the one who is heartbroken.

    this song is staged at a place exactly where you might go for tea and sympathy- a restaurant, and the waitress is someone who's very experienced with other people walking in doing just that- having casual conversation with one person giving sympathy while the other is heartbroken.

    what the singer is trying to suggest is that he doesn't want their love to grow into the type of relationship where they only meet to talk of trivial things, conversations where the girl speaks of meaningless things- that's why her words fall to the floor like china cups...there's just no substance in them and they're love has faded into some friendship with casual conversation...

    it's like when you break up with someone you really love, and afterwards, your relationship sometimes ends up being bland, "bitter", and all the things you've said in the past, all the dreams and "castles" you've planned were left unattained.

    in the end, he's pleading to save their love...their relationship, for something more passionate and real than just bland casual friendship with empty words and sympathetic gestures. he reassures her "we can work it out" meaning to continue their romantic relationship and not trading it in for some 'hey, how you doing these days' type relationships...
    marchesaon June 09, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe "tea" in this song refers to things said between two people who love each other. Some of the words are harsh and misunderstood, and "fall to the floor and break like china cups", whereas some of them are calmly and carefully spoken, "slowly dr[u]nk in". The waitress tries to clean up the broken words, and later offers sugar. They taste the "bitterness" of the words spoken, and the waitress offers sugar to sweeten the "tea" -- meaning they need to "sweeten" the words.

    This all might sound silly, but they've put a lot of analogies into the song. The waitress represents a kind of common sense -- trying to fix the mistake of using harsh words, and trying to find better words to use. The tea represents the words being spoken, and the bag of leaves represents those not yet said (not yet mixed).
    japhyon April 19, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Commentwhoa, japhy. Right on. How on earth did you know all that??
    Grim713on May 30, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Commentway to go japhy, i understand it so much better. thanks!
    annemarie_on May 30, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Commenthas anyone thought of this song talkin about a relationship with god and in this relationship the person has been goin thro a bad time and god mad at god and said some bad things and is tryin to make up?
    christianlovingodon May 16, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Commentdoesnt sound that way, i think this is a more people-related song rather than the usual God-related ones jarzzy usually play. :)
    joiedevivreon March 20, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commentmarchesa,

    the way you explaned it just makes the song more clear to me.
    I agree with what you said.

    Thanks-a-lot!
    bear_hug20on October 17, 2008   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationHow about applying the death of a child (perhaps to war) to these lyrics as a plea from the parent not to be shut out by the other:

    Fare thee well = as in goodbye and be well (maybe to the child)
    Trade in all our words = there’s nothing to be said (to their spouse)
    For tea and sympathy = let’s just sit and be together

    wonder why we tried for things = to change the course of life/to protect their child
    could never be = fate
    play our heart's lament = feel and mourn our sorrow
    like an unrehearsed symphony = the loss of a child isn’t something you can truly prepare for

    not intent to leave this castle full of empty rooms = a home that a child will never return to is hard
    to leave, even for a cup of tea
    our love the captive in the tower = what do you do in a tower — you look out and wait for someone —
    their love is now captive in the tower, looking and waiting
    never rescued = for a child who will never come
    and all the victory songs seemed to be playing out of tune = wars are won.....for a cost to some....
    at a cost to others

    cause it's not the way that it has to be= we lost our child, let’s not lose each other
    don't trade our love for tea and sympathy, no = there’s still us, let’s not shut each other out -it’s ok
    to feel happiness and love for each other
    no, it's not the way
    that it has to be

    you begin = the other spouse is trying to breakthrough
    and all your words fall to the floor = the feelings of love for their child and the years shared can’t be conveyed with mere words
    and break like China cups = (china cups are fragile and valuable) the words spoken resurface the loss
    and the waitress = someone unconnected, on the outside,
    grabs a broom = “grabs”(not gets)/rushes — as in grabbing a towel versus getting a towel when something spills
    and tries= because you really can’t
    to sweep them up = an effort — usually futile to make it better
    I reach for my tea, slowly drink in = some sorrow you learn to live with, to incorporate it into who you are

    cause it's not the way
    that it has to be
    don't trade our love for tea and sympathy, no
    and, it's not the way
    that it has to be
    don't trade our love for tea and sympathy

    fare thee well = again trying to find a way to say goodbye and be well (to the child)
    the words, the bag of leaves that fill my head (all the feelings, all the years that memory captures)
    I could taste the bitterness = choice to isolate, be angry, curse fate
    and call the waitress instead = but chooses to reaches out — to a meaningless stranger no less
    cuz she holds the answer, smiles = who it may be revealed knows the pain of losing a child too
    and asks one teaspoon or two = symbolic for a friend today, perhaps tomorrow too

    don't trade us for tea and sympathy = don’t give up
    don't trade us for tea and sympathy
    we can work it out = we will find our way
    don't trade us for tea and sympathy
    don't trade us for tea and sympathy
    we can work it out
    we can work it out
    IrenefromSomervilleon November 18, 2009   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThis song is about someone who leaves a church because they are more focussed on their own need for attention to their lament. The exquisite rendering depicts a brother sitting down to hear the reasons this person can no longer be among the precious brothers and sisters. The singer is the brother singing about this person. The Holy Spirit is the 'waitress.' listen to it like this and it will blow your socks off! :)
    neowwwoneon October 18, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General Commentok you guys, this is a tough one. i have no clue on this one, i've known this song forever, but i've never figured it out. so please help me out!
    limegreenguitaron December 04, 2001   Link

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