"Tear Stained Eye" as written by and Jay Farrar....
Walking down Main Street
Getting to know the concrete
Looking for a purpose
From a neon sign

I would meet you anywhere
The western sun meets the air
We'll hit the road
Never looking behind

Can you deny
There's nothing greater
Nothing more
Than the traveling hands of time?

St. Genevieve can hold back the water
Saints don't bother
With the tear-stained eye

Seeing traces
Of the stars that came before
Hitting the pavement
Still asking for more

When the hours don't move along
Worn-out wood and familiar songs
To hear your voice is not enough
It's more than a shame

Can you deny
There's nothing greater
Nothing more
Than the traveling hands of time

St. Genevieve can hold back the water
Saints don't bother
With the-tear stained eye

Like a man said
Rode hard and put away wet
Throw away the bad news
Put it to rest

If learning is living
And the truth is a state of mind
You'll find it's better
At the end of the line

Can you deny
There's nothing greater
Nothing more
Than the traveling hands of time?

St. Genevieve can hold back the water
Saints don't bother
With the tear stained eye

St. Genevieve can hold back the water
Saints don't bother
With the tear stained eye


Lyrics submitted by punchyk

"Tear Stained Eye" as written by Jay Farrar

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., BMG Rights Management

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Tear Stained Eye song meanings
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7 Comments

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  • +3
    General CommentDefinitely a song about moving on in life but it is related to a specific event: the Mississippi floods of 1993 and the town of St. Genevieve, MO. It's a small town about 50 miles south of St. Louis, right on the Mississippi River. It was originally settled around 1735, making it one of the oldest European settlements west of the Mississippi. During the massive flood in the summer of 1993, the town's historic district was threatened, and people came from miles around to help build an enormous stone, earth, and sandbag levee to "hold back the water." It was a close call, but they ended up being successful, at least in the downtown area. The story got quite a bit of national attention at the time, Jay Farrar said he heard about it on CNN.
    EnviroAg96on August 21, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti think it's about a guy who's sad because he misses some girl and wants nothing more than to meet up with her, he'd meet her anywhere. he misses her so much he would drop everything, leave the life he knows and not look back, all for her.
    that there is nothing more definite than time moving.
    and he's just moping around this old familiar place where everything reminds him of her. and he's trying to get over her but he can't.
    you live and you learn from it. i'm not sure who's at fault but he's just feeling bad and thinks time will be the only solid thing to help.
    yourfacesmellson August 20, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentProbably some of my favorite songwriting ever. It's fairly pure and simple imagery but, like a lot of Farrar's writing, the meaning is always vague.
    cubbyjoon June 12, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree that it's about the July 1993 floods in Missouri, and that's what Ste. Genevieve (a town in SE Missouri) refers to here.

    But I also think it's interesting that the historical woman Genevieve (patron saint of Paris) urged the Parisians not to evacuate when Attila the Hun was on his way to attack them. She told the people that they should fast and pray for God to protect them. The Huns never showed up in Paris -- they went to Orleans instead because they got word that the Romans were staging a counterattack.

    If you've ever watched coverage of natural disasters, particularly in the Bible belt of the midwestern U.S. (where there are often floods and tornadoes), the residents often cite their faith in God as a reason why they won't evacuate, even against common sense. So I think the confluence (no pun intended) of those two elements (the person Saint Genevieve and the town Ste. Genevieve) adds an interesting dimension to the meaning of this song.

    It's a beautiful song, and my very favorite by Son Volt.
    sharkycharmingon February 19, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI don't think this is a song about the Missouri floods at all as other commenters have mentioned, I believe that's just a reference which I will explain shortly. I think this is a
    song about Jay Farrar, by now a seasoned touring musician, reflecting on his time with his previous band and specifically his writing partner- Jeff Tweedy. Jay left the band, they were younger then, maybe now he's reflecting on the good times they had ( 7 years/ 3 Albums ) and how they couldn't work out their differences. He's "walkin' down main st. Lookin for a purpose from a neon sign" wondering what does all this touring from city to city really mean if two friends couldn't just get along doing what they loved. They forged a path together once " Seeing traces of stars that came before/hitting the pavement still asking for more". Now it's kinda wearing on him, he's older and thus, wiser, more reflective, more emotionally mature "Worn out wood and familiar songs"
    He thinks about Jeff a lot now probably when he hears Wilco on the radio and just wonders what might have been - "To hear your voice is not enough/it's more than a shame"
    We grow a few years older and some of us, if we do it right , we admit that maybe we were wrong and we were the ones who could have made some better decisions
    "Throw away the bad news/put it to rest" i.e. End the feuding/bitterness.
    "If learning is living and the truth is a state of mind...ther's something better..."
    I really think this is a song about a guy who's a little older now and kind of regrets things playing out the way they did and at the same time owning up to his part of how things transpired. It's a deeply sad and melancholic tune and hence St. Genevieve can hold back flood waters but Saints 'don't bother with tear-stained eyes . Irony ; Flood ( HUGE pool of water) and then the Tears of regret.
    ......Genius song writing
    Boychildon January 07, 2018   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm not exactly sure what this song is about. To me it seems to having something to do with just moving on in life "We'll hit the road, never looking behind" and "throw away the bad news, just put it to rest". I just think it's a beautiful melancholy song and I love the symbolism in it. Jay Farrar's voice is perfect. The whole album that this song is from is awesome- great for driving the open road in the desert somewhere.
    xerophyteon August 24, 2006   Link
  • -1
    General CommentThanks for that info, enviro. Thats what i love about this site, learning more about songs i love.

    I think this is one of those beautifully abstract songs that can mean so many htings to people, depending on their circumstances. I take it as living life the best you can, getting the most out of it as you can, experiencing as much as you can, because time moves on regardless, and our time on this earth islimited, even if what we can experience is not.

    mbrattion February 06, 2009   Link

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