Posts tagged ‘Cohen’

November 4, 2014

your struggle and your suffering is the same as everyone else’s

On Old Ideas, Cohen sang of wanting to write “a manual for living with defeat.” Cohen says:

I wish I could really come up with something ’cos we are all really living with defeat and failure and disappointment and bewilderment, these dark forces that modify our lives. Everyone is engaged in a mighty struggle for self-respect, meaning and significance. The first step would be to recognise that your struggle and your suffering is the same as everyone else’s. I think that’s the beginning of a responsible life. Otherwise we are in a continual savage battle with each other with no possible solution, political, social or spiritual.

From this interview with Neil McCormick.

October 27, 2012

you must not ask for so much

I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch
He said to me, “You must not ask for so much.”
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door
She cried to me, “Hey, why not ask for more?”

Lyrics from Leonard Cohen’s “Bird On a Wire” (recorded 26 September 1968 in Nashville and included on his 1969 album Songs from a Room).

March 30, 2012

where you want your slave to go

Good stuff from an honest man. These are the lyrics to another Leonard Cohen song from his album Old Ideas.

“Show Me The Place”
by Leonard Cohen

Show me the place
Where you want your slave to go

Show me the place
I’ve forgotten I don’t know

Show me the place
For my head is bending low

Show me the place
Where you want your slave to go

Show me the place
Help me roll away the stone

Show me the place
I can’t move this thing alone

Show me the place
Where the Word became a man

Show me the place
Where the suffering began

The troubles came
I saved what I could save
A thread of light
A particle a wave
But there were chains
So I hastened to behave
There were chains
So I loved you like a slave

Show me the place
Where you want your slave to go

Show me the place
I’ve forgotten I don’t know

Show me the place
For my head is bending low

Show me the place
Where you want your slave to go
The troubles came
I saved what I could save
A thread of light
A particle a wave
But there were chains
So I hastened to behave
There were chains
So I loved you like a slave

Show me the place
Show me the place
Show me the place

Show me the place
Help me roll away the stone

Show me the place
I can’t move this thing alone

Show me the place
Where the Word became a man

Show me the place
Where the suffering began

February 17, 2012

brief elaboration of a tube

I’ve been enjoying Leonard Cohen’s recent album, Old Ideas. Here are the lyrics from one song, first published as a poem in The New Yorker (January 23, 2012). Although the title and refrain are in Cohen’s voice, I hear all the rest of this as a wry commentary by Cohen’s Creator (who uses him as a speaking tube):

GOING HOME
by Leonard Cohen

I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit

But he does say what I tell him
Even though it isn’t welcome
He will never have the freedom
To refuse

He will speak these words of wisdom
Like a sage, a man of vision
Though he knows he’s really nothing
But the brief elaboration of a tube

Going home
Without my sorrow
Going home
Sometime tomorrow
To where it’s better
Than before

Going home
Without my burden
Going home
Behind the curtain
Going home
Without the costume
That I wore

He wants to write a love song
An anthem of forgiving
A manual for living with defeat

A cry above the suffering
A sacrifice recovering
But that isn’t what I want him to complete

I want to make him certain
That he doesn’t have a burden
That he doesn’t need a vision

That he only has permission
To do my instant bidding
That is to SAY what I have told him
To repeat

Going home
Without my sorrow
Going home
Sometime tomorrow
Going home
To where it’s better
Than before

Going home
Without my burden
Going home
Behind the curtain
Going home
Without the costume
That I wore

I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit

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November 17, 2011

the world is like an oilpress

I’m not sure that Augustine lists some of the most intense and subtle pressures in this world, and I wish that he more fully identified the splendor (or the inevitable response that this splendor elicits from the meek and hungry): the ongoing expression of broken hallelujahs under pressure (as sung about by Leonard Cohen). However, this image of Christ (“another sort of man”) under pressure is profoundly true and echos the “ooze of oil” that is so central an image in the poem “God’s Grandeur” by Hopkins.

Thus the world is like an oilpress: under pressure. If you are the dregs of the oil you are carried away through the sewer; if you are genuine oil you will remain in the vessel. But to be under pressure is inevitable. Observe the dregs, observe the oil. Pressure takes place ever in the world, as for instance, through famine, war, want, inflation, indigence, mortality, rape, avarice; such are the pressures on the poor, the worries of the states: we have evidence of them. …We have found men who grumble under these pressures and who say: “how bad are these Christian times!” …Thus speak the dregs of the oil which run away through the sewer; their color is black because they blaspheme: they lack splendor. The oil has splendor. For here another sort of man is under the same pressure and friction which polishes him, for is it not the very friction which refines him?

From Augustine’s Sermons (ed. Denis, xxiv. 11. and quoted in Meaning in History by Karl Lowith).

August 22, 2011

broken Hallelujah

A couple lines from Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” I heard it recently from a friend and teacher. With several versions during Cohen’s long career and recordings by some 50 artists, the lyrics seem to vary slightly each time.

It’s not the laughter of someone who claims to have seen the light
No, it’s a cold, and it’s a very broken Hallelujah

…There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

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