The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Debate on Leonard Cohen's poetry (and novels), both published and unpublished. Song lyrics may also be discussed here.
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mat james
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The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby mat james » Fri Mar 07, 2008 3:11 pm

I intend to morph the poet (dare I say Mystic?) I see in these ten canticles. On this album, Leonard moves from threnody to communion then back to everyday life.
He returns to the everyday "Boogy Street"; but with an enhanced view of his place in the scheme of things.
I offer an interpretation; but that is all it is and all it can be.
(Of course, you hang onto your own.)

I'll get better as I go along; but if this sort of thing bores you, then move on.
The process will be simple. I will post the poem first, and then, saunter through what I see, adding a bit here and there as I morph into the thought before the word, or the nameless before the name.


That Don't Make It Junk

I fought against the bottle,
But I had to do it drunk –
Took my diamond to the pawnshop –
But that don’t make it junk.

I know that I’m forgiven,
But I don’t know how I know
I don’t trust my inner feelings –
Inner feelings come and go.

How come you called me here tonight?
How come you bother
With my heart at all?
You raise me up in grace,
Then you put me in a place,
Where I must fall.

Too late to fix another drink –
The lights are going out –
I’ll listen to the darkness sing –
I know what that’s about.

I tried to love you my way,
But I couldn’t make it hold.
So I closed the Book of Longing
And I do what I am told.

How come you called me here tonight?
How come you bother with my heart at all?
You raise me up in grace,
Then you put me in a place,
Where I must fall.

I fought against the bottle,
But I had to do it drunk –
Took my diamond to the pawnshop –
But that don’t make it junk.
I fought against the bottle,
But I had to do it drunk –
Took my diamond to the pawnshop –
But that don’t make it junk.
Interpretation (or folly)
I had to get drunk on life in order to understand life.
My "higher moments" I recorded in songs and poetry, and these are my "diamonds" and diamonds are not only valuable today, but diamonds are forever, as the saying goes.
The pawn shop for me is popular music. He pawned his poetry in pop music, "but that don't make it junk". While he does not claim to be up there with the best of poetry, of scripture, he knows he has sought and he knows he has found.

I'll continue at leisure.
Matj
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Gullivor
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby Gullivor » Sun Apr 13, 2008 2:26 am

Drinking came to an end because of to much drinking.
He took himself and his life to God and cashed himself in..(most people think thats junk)
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Gullivor
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby Gullivor » Sun Apr 13, 2008 8:19 pm

Or maybe the dimond thing is him selling his spirital side to the world to make money?
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mat james
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby mat james » Sun Apr 20, 2008 5:40 pm


Gullivar,
maybe you are onto something.
Keep going!
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby William » Mon Apr 21, 2008 2:28 am

:?:
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Gullivor
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby Gullivor » Tue Apr 22, 2008 3:10 pm

I know that I’m forgiven,
But I don’t know how I know
I don’t trust my inner feelings –
Inner feelings come and go.
Somtimes he feels forgiven, somtimes he feels hes not.
His inner feelings is his connection with God, sometimes hes connected sometimes hes not.
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secretchord
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby secretchord » Tue Apr 22, 2008 11:55 pm

Gullivor wrote:
I know that I’m forgiven,
But I don’t know how I know
I don’t trust my inner feelings –
Inner feelings come and go.
Somtimes he feels forgiven, somtimes he feels hes not.
His inner feelings is his connection with God, sometimes hes connected sometimes hes not.

not the way I see it, he knows all the time that he's forgiven, his inner feelings is his own personal stuff that is not really relevant and he doesn't believe it tells him anything real because it's liable to change the whole time

his connection with God is constant and it's that that tells him he's forgiven
...that David played and it pleased the Lord...


http://www.myspace.com/morrinmusic
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Gullivor
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby Gullivor » Wed Apr 23, 2008 2:23 pm

That sounds right Secretcord ( I realy didnt want to make a opion of this verse) but I was tring to do them in order.
But I was also looking at the next verse when I wrote on that one and find it hard to understand how he could be connected when feeling as he dose? Iv been dis conected before and know lots of other people as well it happens.
Lets say one it totaly conected and gets hit in the nuts by a fast ball, Im sorry that conection well be gone for a while!
God Bless,
Paul :?
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mat james
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby mat james » Thu Apr 24, 2008 3:56 pm

He seems to tire of getting spiritually "kicked in the balls", as you put it.
And the next verse seems to support your case.
How come you called me here tonight?
How come you bother
With my heart at all?
You raise me up in grace,
Then you put me in a place,
Where I must fall.
Of course this can be read on three levels. He is either referring to his female (I assume) companion, or to his god, or perhaps to his own soul.
How come you called me here tonight?
How come you bother
With my heart at all?
The implication in the first few lines of this verse is that the wish to meet, this night, was not his but that of his companion.
I like the idea that he is talking to his soul (though my first thought was that he was talking to his god).
You raise me up in grace,
Then you put me in a place,
Where I must fall.
He seems to be feeling sorry for himself or sees the absurdity of his psychological/spiritual position “tonight”. His elevated spirit always returns to maya, this world of unsatisfying illusions and he wonders why his soul keeps playing this game of "snakes and ladders" for he always ends up sliding back into this world down the spiritual slippery-dip from elation to dissatisfaction.

I think some of you would prefer one of the other interpretations ( girlfriend or god ).

Why?

Matj
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Gullivor
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby Gullivor » Thu Apr 24, 2008 4:56 pm

Matt,
BINGO on that verse, I couldnt of put it in words better.
With the Girlfriend or God idea.. If one is connected God becomes your true love and you bind togeather in Love.
Some not so conected to God would think love to be for a man or woman.


About falling into the illusion of the world, I use to live in Sebring, Florida and a sign next to Lake Jackson reads "Aligators and snakes present...swim at your own risk"

Gully
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Gullivor
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby Gullivor » Thu Apr 24, 2008 4:59 pm

Oh ya , God and Soul become united in LOVE. The great wedding.
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mat james
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby mat james » Sun May 25, 2008 3:41 pm

Too late to fix another drink –
The lights are going out –
I’ll listen to the darkness sing –
I know what that’s about.

“I’ll listen to the darkness sing”
Perhaps a reference to that state of mind referred to by Cruz in his brilliant poem, “Dark Night of the Soul”. In this state of dark despair and seeming abandonment of hope, the “darkness sings” to the soul of the existence of god and ones soul regains hope and direction.
In a sense, the “darkness” becomes an ally and paradoxically a light and zone of renewal for the soul.
The neo-Platonist, Plotinus, inspired many later mystics to venture into that darkness that leads to what he terms “Undifferentiated Unity” (God).
I tried to love you my way,
But I couldn’t make it hold.
So I closed the Book of Longing
And I do what I am told.
Abandoning “desire” is fundamental to the Buddhist quest to “awaken” into knowing.
“Longing” is a heightened and sustained form of desire.
And seemingly, desire doesn’t work as a key to unlock the door to that kingdom (knowing) so he closes his Book of Longing and opens his Book of Mercy.
By opening the book of mercy, he is accepting that he can’t make it to his God, without his God’s assistance.
So, in this song at least, Leonard has surrendered his “little will” to that of the “Larger Will”, the will of his God (undifferentiated Unity/Tao/Buddha…)
“Thy will be done”, so to speak.
“If it be Your will,
I will speak no more”
for…I tried to do it my way
but I couldn’t make it hold.
Matj
Last edited by mat james on Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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mat james
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby mat james » Sun Aug 03, 2008 2:42 pm

Love Itself

The light came through the window,
Straight from the sun above,
And so inside my little room
There plunged the rays of Love.

In streams of light I clearly saw
The dust you seldom see,
Out of which the Nameless makes
A Name for one like me.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.

All busy in the sunlight
The flecks did float and dance,
And I was tumbled up with them
In formless circumstance.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.

Then I came back from where I’d been.
My room, it looked the same –
But there was nothing left between
The Nameless and the Name.

All busy in the sunlight
The flecks did float and dance,
And I was tumbled up with them
In formless circumstance.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love itself,
Love Itself was gone.
Love Itself was gone.

Leonard Cohen.




The light came through the window,
Straight from the sun above,
And so inside my little room
There plunged the rays of Love.

In streams of light I clearly saw
The dust you seldom see,
Out of which the Nameless makes
A Name for one like me.”

This song, I suggest, is inspired by Saint John of the Cross’ similitude of natural and divine light from;

“Dark Night of the Soul” Juan de la Cruz
(Chapter 8,3 of the book and poem,) (http://www.ccel.org/download.html?url=/ ... _night.txt )
“Thus if the ray of sunlight entered through
the window of one room and passed out through another on the other
side, traversing the room, and if it met nothing on the way, or if
there were no specks in the air for it to strike, the room would have
no more light than before, neither would the ray of light be visible.
In fact, if we consider it carefully, there is more darkness where the
ray is, since it absorbs and obscures any other light, and yet it is
itself invisible, because, as we have said, there are no visible
objects which it can strike.

4. Now this is precisely what this Divine ray of contemplation does in
the soul.”
Cruz/Leonard are suggesting/stating that when one is in a state of pure divine contemplation, the soul and the god unite and become one.
• One becomes “god by participation” as Cruz puts it, or
• “… there was nothing left between The Nameless and the Name.” As Cohen puts it.
( he had previously stated in the song that)
Out of which the Nameless makes
A Name for one like me.
In short, this song (Love itself) is about what is usually termed, Mystical Union.
Mystical union is always said to be ineffable or nigh impossible to explain. So Leonard simply says;
I’ll try to say a little more:
And Cruz, in a more convoluted way says;
Therefore it is most fitting and
necessary, if the soul is to pass to these great things, that this dark
night of contemplation should first of all annihilate and undo it in
its meannesses, bringing it into darkness, aridity, affliction and
emptiness; for the light which is to be given to it is a Divine light
of the highest kind, which transcends all natural light, and which by
nature can find no place in the understanding.


But still Leonard tries to convey the ineffable experience, as simply and as accurately as he can; so he sings:
I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love itself,
Love Itself was gone.
Which is to say that he reached a point/zone through this experience where he was no longer receiving emanations of Love from his God, but had actually morphed into that which emanates. Or as Cruz said it, "become God by participation".
"Love itself was gone" because Love is an emanation and leonard had moved beyond this emanation called Love into the Emanator, his G~d.

For me at least, this is Leonard Cruz-ing with San Juan and god.

Matj
Last edited by mat james on Wed Nov 10, 2010 4:25 am, edited 2 times in total.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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madeline
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby madeline » Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:43 pm

It's easy to fight an addiction when you're doing it. ie. Drink, and decide to stop drinking. Smoke, and decide to stop smoking.
This is my last carton/pack/cigarette. I don't know how many times I tossed my smokes off the balcony in the middle of the night, only to go searching for them in the morning. Of course, where I lived there were lots of bums so the smokes were never there...
writer of contemporary women's erotica, 3 novels with Black Lace, numerous short stories published in anthologies. Screenwriter with short film and TV credits.
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mat james
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby mat james » Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:01 am

Hi Madeline,
It's easy to fight an addiction when you're doing it.
I can see your point for if you/I were not addicted, we would have no reason to "fight it".
(I assume you are commenting on the first song mentioned on this thread, where Leonard says; "I tried to do it my way but I had to do it drunk".
It sounds to me like it is easier to start the fight (the addiction) than to finish it. Probably the fight is never won: just sustained.

MatJ
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.

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