"The Guests"

Debate on Leonard Cohen's poetry (and novels), both published and unpublished.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
Posts: 1748
Joined: Sat May 27, 2006 8:06 am
Location: Australia

"The Guests"

Postby mat james » Mon Mar 28, 2016 6:09 am

What a song
... the haunting melancholy. I almost weep when it whispers to my ears, seeps into my thoughts, sinks among my unconscious moon-less midnight void..and then the "torches flare"...what a song...what wonderful, wonderful Wine:
Drunk sublime, I saunter or"stumble" onward and inward...
I'll do the usual thing, post the song ...then ramble on for awhile.

The Guests
One by one, the guests arrive
The guests are coming through
The open-hearted many
The broken-hearted few
And no one knows where the night is going
And no one knows why the wine is flowing
Oh love I need you
I need you
I need you
I need you
Oh . . . I need you now
And those who dance, begin to dance
Those who weep begin
And "Welcome, welcome" cries a voice
"Let all my guests come in."
And no one knows where the night is going ...
And all go stumbling through that house
in lonely secrecy
Saying "Do reveal yourself"
or "Why has thou forsaken me?"
And no one knows where the night is going ...
All at once the torches flare
The inner door flies open
One by one they enter there
In every style of passion
And no one knows where the night is going ...
And here they take their sweet repast
While house and grounds dissolve
And one by one the guests are cast
Beyond the garden wall
And no one knows where the night is going ...
Those who dance, begin to dance
Those who weep begin
Those who earnestly are lost
Are lost and lost again
And no one knows where the night is going ...
One by one the guests arrive
The guests are coming through
The broken-hearted many
The open-hearted few
And no one knows where the night is going ...

Today, the muddy waters of my understanding of this song , The Guests, settled; and the lines were suddenly turned into sweet wine. Once the lines are embedded in the mind, Song/Poetry has an unconscious gestation mechanism of its own. As always, I recognize my ideas are probably flawed but I offer them, all the same, in the spirit of fascination; a fascination for all words Leonard.
I’ll do my usual thing and go through the song/poem elaborating images of interest to me and then signal the meaning of key words that are often used in sacred literature/poems, from Solomon to Jesus, Rumi, Cruz; and particularly in this song, Milton as Cohen…or Cohen as Milton, perhaps with a scent of Blake.

Oh Well, let the games begin! 8)


“One by one, the guests arrive
The guests are coming through
The open-hearted many
The broken-hearted few”
The guests are arriving at the Mansion (life in eternity) referred to by Jesus the Nazarene when he said "in my father’s kingdom there are many mansions". But this “mansion” Leonard is singing of could be occupied by any mystic from any cultural tradition; Jew, Christian, Moslem or even some animistic spiritual tradition like the American or Australian first nations (aboriginal).
“One by one the guests arrive” may refer to any and all of us but I choose to let it refer to the mystics and seekers of all these traditions.
“The open-hearted” and the “broken-hearted”.

Open hearted refers to the lovers of humanity, those who seek for divinity in all cultures, understanding that the breath (YHWH, pneumen) of god is there for all and always has been. The lovers and the mystics know this intuitively (and are sometimes crucified for their generosity of spirit) and they may then become the “broken-hearted” of this song. Lovers or mystics or perhaps Milton's Angels? They are all, for me, saturated by what Plato calls, “divine madness”.
“And no one knows where the night is going
And no one knows why the wine is flowing”
The “night” is the unknowing, the dark night of the soul that Cruz and Plotinus and other mystics sing or write about. It is also the Book of Longing” that Leonard Cohen writes about and the ache and yearning in our hearts that lures us to the music and words (wine) of culture, seers, poets and mystics, like our friend Leonardo; Leonard Cohen. The “wine” is the word of god when we listen deeply enough; our ears are also the ears of the divine; when words and ideas take on a divine dimension; a hint, a blossom, a realization when the water of ordinary words is turned into sacred wine, so to speak. That is probably why you are here, pondering this song, sipping the "Wine".
…and hence this common emotion experienced by the lovers and seekers and mystics that Leonard sings about;
“Oh love I need you
I need you
I need you
I need you
Oh . . . I need you now”
...and Leonard desperately 'needs' the Love of his g~d; like he needs the love of a woman.
He then takes us to an ancient and common action of spiritual peoples, to dance, dance, dance to the end of love, to spirituality, because “words” are just not enough to express this longing; ...and this reminds me of that wonderful moment in the book, “Zorba the Greek” where Zorba is so overcome with sadness and emotion that he can no longer talk, so he jumps up and dances and jumps and kicks and dances more until he is stopped by his friend for fear that he (Zorba) was going to explode his heart and die! And Zorba does the same at another time when he is overcome by joy and friendship. We are all better off for the madness of dancing, I suppose, but some use it to attain the divine-union; like Sufis/Rumi and first nation mystics and many others..
“And those who dance, begin to dance
Those who weep begin
And "Welcome, welcome" cries a voice
"Let all my guests come in."
And no one knows where the night is going ... “
“Welcome, welcome” cries "a voice", the Owner/host of the mansion. “…come in” and join the feast no matter where you come from; you are welcome because you are Lovers of humanity; lovers in divine madness.
And all go stumbling through that house
in lonely secrecy
Saying "Do reveal yourself"
or "Why has thou forsaken me?"
Jesus on the cross. His final words (in two gospels) were “Why hast thou forsaken me?” Plotinus talks of the “flight of the alone to the Alone” and all of us will die, and make that journey through the door of soul-transmigration,into that spiritual mansion, ...alone.... And 'stumble' we will for awhile; and Leonard is suggesting to me that the journey through this “dark night” of stumbling along the passageway into the mansion may be a lonely stumble…until we hear the words 'Welcome, welcome, let all my guests come in.'
“All at once the torches flare
The inner door flies open
One by one they enter there
In every style of passion”
Then, the song suggests, after that lonely walk and clumsy 'stumble' through the dark night of the hallway, the light of the divine (torches flare)(the Spirit of holiness), enlightens us, our soul, and informs us that we are not alone…we hear "a voice", perhaps the "Word" that scriptures mention, speaking from eternity,
“And here they take their sweet repast
While house and grounds dissolve
And one by one the guests are cast
Beyond the garden wall
And no one knows where the night is going ...
Those who dance, begin to dance
Those who weep begin
Those who earnestly are lost
Are lost and lost again
And no one knows where the night is going ...
One by one the guests arrive
The guests are coming through
The broken-hearted many
The open-hearted few
And no one knows where the night is going ...”
Leonard sings of the journey of the soul through the darkness of doubt and death and beyond, into the mercifully emanating light of hope (torch/Word) 'a voice' and 'sweet repast' of Milton, perhaps ("From dance to sweet repast they turn" says Milton in Paradise Lost). We are there, feasting, all of us, refreshed among those other lovers and angels, drunk on divinity's Word. It is as though in this section of the song, Cohen is drunk on Milton's poetry and a "Paradise Lost"...'lost and lost again'.
And again,the mystery of it all:
“the house and grounds dissolve” and we are cast “beyond the garden wall”…
So Leonard abandons us at this point to our own “longing”, weeping and dancing among the Mystic; for what can any human being say beyond this? …in another Cohen song he simply says,
“Love went on and on, through an open door, then Love itself was gone
I’d like to say a little more... love went on and on..then love itself...was gone".
“No one knows” where the Night is going,

he says.
Various traditions would suggest that we are, in this eternal moment, either re-incarnated (“lost and lost again”) or absorbed back into Unity; …the flight of the alone to the Alone to undifferentiated Unity, as Plotinus puts it. And others say similar things: But Leonard does not indulge here; he simply says, "No one knows"
Others inform us that:
"That thou art." (Gita)
"I Am." (Jewish literature)
or, "I am that (particular) I AM."
and, "Tell them there, that the “I AM” …has sent you."
"Before Abraham was, I AM." (Gospel of John)

Summary:
For me, Leonard is contemplating Paradise Lost by John Milton, in particular the lines "From dance to sweet repast they turn". These lines of Milton's tumble Leonard into his own vision of the Voice, the Word, the transmigration of the soul, to Unity; and being "cast beyond the garden wall"; to a recurring re-incarnation and being "lost and lost again", re-cycled, as it were, until we reach Nirvana and enlightenment.

Thanks for reading this far; and please add your own thoughts, ideas and impressions if you feel inclined to do so.

Mat.

MatbellybuttongazerJ
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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mat james
Posts: 1748
Joined: Sat May 27, 2006 8:06 am
Location: Australia

Re: "The Guests"

Postby mat james » Mon Apr 11, 2016 4:14 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBdOr2iRGRc

It is a bit quiet around here so I thought I would play the Shaitan and look at "The Guests" from that deep atheist who lurks, Shilo-like, among my Void.

"Just One Of Those Things"

It was just one of those things (death and transience)
Just one of those crazy flings (we are all a bit nuts in this forum)
One of those bells that now and then rings (mystic experience)
Just one of those things (que sera sera)

It was just one of those nights (Dark night of the soul)
Just one of those fabulous flights (Plotinus)
A trip to the moon on gossamer wings (Basho)
Just one of those things (death and transience, again, re-incarnation)

If we'd thought a bit, of the end of it (karmic awareness)
When we started painting the town (Milton's Paradise Lost, Rumi's feasts)
We'd have been aware that our love affair (Cohen)
Was too hot, not to cool down (Satan and Dante)

So goodbye, dear, and Amen (Religious practice of seeing off the departed)
Here's hoping we meet now and then (Buddha)
It was great fun (Zorba)
But it was just one of those things (Cohen's "Boogie Street")



This response from Cole Porter, regarding Leonard Cohen’s song “The Guests” and sung by Frank Sinatra, suggests that this "dark night" can be a flippant and common experience that requires no great consideration in the scheme of things; be it either re-incarnation, Unity , or an atheistic/communistic “Darkness at Noon” Koestler type mystic experience.
And since it is all conjecture anyway, Franky sings Cole’s response with a bravado and complete abandonment of care that inspires this time-traveling bellybuttongazer to think again, relax and just enjoy the Moment.

There was no deeper meaning;....there is no purpose or meaning...

It was just “one of those things”.

Go Franky!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAb_TBfuC8Q



“And no one knows where the night is going ...
And here they take their sweet repast
While house and grounds dissolve
And one by one the guests are cast
Beyond the garden wall”

But "It was just one of those things".
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.

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