The Faith

Leonard Cohen's recent albums - share your views with others!
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Joe Way
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The Faith

Postby Joe Way » Tue Dec 07, 2004 6:18 am

I've been thinking about this beautiful song and the line "so many graves to fill." It occured to me that it fit in rather neatly with the line from "Dance Me to the End of Love"-'Dance me to the children who are asking to be born.'

I've been thinking of mentioning it, then tonight, I read an article that Marie posted. In it, the quote from Mark Finkelstein, talking of "Who By Fire," helps illuminate this:

"Another indicator is that one of his most beautiful songs, "Who by Fire," plays off the structure and content of the famous text, "How many shall leave this world and how many shall be born into it..."

Heart mysteries here. I don't have much else to say.

Joe
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
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tomsakic
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Postby tomsakic » Tue Dec 07, 2004 12:13 pm

That song talks to me because I cannot see it different as talk about the 90s, time of "the future". I see it as great song about wars passing on while generations live and die, indeed "there's a war". Namely, my association - as I grew up thru the Balkan wars of 1990s: I think about Croatia and Bosnia and Kosovo, and particularly Sarajevo. There are famous sightview of that town, there is the moss (Bosniam Muslims), and Catholic chatedral (Croatian), and Ortodox Churc (Serbian), and the Jewish sinagogue. (I don't know do you know this, but Jews are very prominent in Sarajevo, or at least they used to be, they're forth constituent nation in that city). The picture of Sarajevo which will be with me until I die (although I didn't leave there) are their graves. They needed do much space for grave that city stadium (the very one they used for the Olympic games in 1984) was turned into the graveyard. There are pictures of lines and lines of crosses and Muslim's grave-tables, and Jewish stars. Of course, my first association on the word "star" is the Communist party. You can add the stars from the top of Moscow buildings to this picture. Anyway, there were stars anywhere also in former Yugoslavia.
So,

The cross on every hill
the star, the minaret
so many graves to fill (oh, the dozens of lines of crosses on that stadions)
love, aren't you tired yet.

That's what I see. The wars will go on, and somebody asks "oh love, aren't you tired yet"? But it seems it cannot never be tired.
Because I thought: this is the last one. After Vukovar and Bosnia, who could go further. But then came Chechenia, Iraq, ..................
Midnight
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Postby Midnight » Tue Dec 07, 2004 4:24 pm

I've changed my mind about this song. At first I liked it. But then I really started listening to the words and it's pantheism jumped out at me. The blind sea, the wild regret, the graves...this song has no hope, offers no prospects for anything other than a never-ending circle of death. Why did he call it The Faith? Faith in what? The Serpent Eating His Tail? I'm not pollyannish about the state of the world or the future of mankind (on the contrary I'm pretty pessimistic) but I now find this song very disturbing in its hopelessness.
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Postby tomsakic » Tue Dec 07, 2004 4:47 pm

Midnight wrote:...this song has no hope, offers no prospects for anything other than a never-ending circle of death
Yes, I agree, and that feeling I was trying to describe above. But I do feel a little hope somewhere deep in it (maybe onlyin title:), maybe that's because I'm still young. I believe the hope is in the line "oh love, aren't you tired yet?" and in the (great and pathetic melancholic) melody. The simple callimg out maybe means the (little) hope somewhere beyond poetical cataloging of permanent circle of death.
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Postby lechehombre » Wed Dec 08, 2004 2:31 am

I find this song to be tremendously hopeful. When I listen to the words as they wear against the melody (and I do have a sense that they are in tension with each other) I hear the refain 'Oh Love aren't you tired yet' crying out that in some strange way things still work out right. Love never does tire of each of us asking that question in our own life situation. The blood, the soil, the faith, the cross, the star, the sea itself - so endless before us from which we both begin and to which we yearn. I have so often stood upon the seashore in my home state of Oregon and just dwelled in its presence. It seems to overwhelm and it seems to heal at the same time. I always feel hopeful in its presence. It is not at all pantheistic to me but rather awesome presence that speaks of the always transcendent and powerful love of my Creator. The one line that absolutley brings me to tears in this song is: 'So many graves to fill'. I have had to bury my own 22 year old son who died of a heroin overdose. It is a pain that will be with me and in me forever. And yet my love for him will never die or ever grow tired. I will love him for all eternity. I am always hopeful that I will see him again in Resurrection, and I am convinced over and over again that love will never grow tired and cold. This song sings to me of that love and I can only thank Leonard for the gift of that hopefulness though this song.
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Postby lizzytysh » Wed Dec 08, 2004 6:10 am

Dear Lechehombre ~

I'm sorry to hear of your dear and beloved son's tragic death. It's a loss I'm certain you'll never really come to terms with. I'm sorry.

There's something I can't dismiss about the juxtaposition of "so many graves to fill" [a line that goes straight to my core] and "oh love, aren't you tired yet" that speaks to me of religious wars ~ the cross, the star, the minaret . . . so many graves to fill. Then, the somewhat sardonic, "oh love, aren't you tired yet," which in this context seems [regardless of other things it also speaks to] to suggest that in the name of 'love' for their own, particular, religious beliefs, people have throughout history killed each other, and will continue to do so. Wars seem to be one of the historical havocs of 'love.' Perhaps, if 'love' such as this would finally tire, we might find ourselves with fewer graves to fill.

I like what was said about the tension between the music and the lyrics. So true.

~ Lizzy
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Postby lechehombre » Wed Dec 08, 2004 9:51 pm

Lizzy,

I do agree with you that a primary meaning of those words must include the awful tragedy of war and killing in the name of God, religion and self righteous government. What the US government is doing in Iraq is exercising our own self righteousness without regard to real justice. We have had to fill over a thousand graves of US soldiers. It is just as great a tragedy that the Iraqis have had to fill tens of thousands of their own graves. I am reminded of that old folk song - 'Where have all the Flowers Gone?'. 'When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?' Still - Leonard has titled his song 'The Faith', and I do still believe that we humans can be different. We do not have to settle for everlasting hate. We are called to something so much higher. Remember the line from 'Song of Isaac'. 'You who build these altars now to sacrifice our children - you must not do it any more!' We must keep on working for real peace and real justice! Real love will never grow tired of doing that.
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Postby lizzytysh » Thu Dec 09, 2004 12:15 am

Hi Lechehombre ~

I would need to see the original folk song on which "The Faith" is based to make a better comparison on the point I've raised, along with making a direct comparison of that verse with the other ones in Leonard's rendition. I agree on the "Where Have All The Flowers Gone" and its sentiments in comparison to this song. With some feeling 'brought down' by this one's content, I'm wondering if [in light of the contrast between the beautiful, lush melody and the title, with all of that content] the song isn't an affirmation of 'Faith,' as well as the true meaning of love vs. that which is called love and results in jealousy, possessiveness, wars, passion crimes, and the like. The 'Faith" being that, despite how all things may appear, faith prevails that love will prevail.

Having said all that, I need to return to the text, to review it in light of all I've just said. There may well be some glaring errors in what even I mean, much less how others may interpret it. However, that verse on a stand-alone basis does seem to me to encompass what you have said in the first portion of your posting.

~ Lizzy
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Postby lechehombre » Thu Dec 09, 2004 2:22 am

"despite how all things may appear, faith prevails that love will prevail."

Well said Lizzy! Believng in a creator, it is clear to me that we are not created for mistrust, despair and hate, but rather for faith, hope and love. We are our most our true selves when we believe and respond to all the garbage in the world with love. We may be tired on our journey through life but our love must not grow tired.
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Postby lizzytysh » Thu Dec 09, 2004 4:16 am

Dear Lechehombre ~

I'm relieved and glad that you understood what I meant in my posting. It was written hurriedly at work [where this new computer 'program'? has turned the way we do things upside down ~ now far more labor- and time-intensive.......it's like trying to make it across a desert, one drop of water at a time :shock: :( ], where I have to catch as catch-can to do anything other than try to get at least part of a day's work done. Previously, I was able to get all of a day's work done, even early, including time to visit here. Everyone in the office [well, the whole district, in fact] is trying to grapple with this new beast ~ and no one, I mean no one, is happy with it. Anyway, enough of that. It would've meant a long night for me here trying to re-explain. I agree that, "We are our most our true selves when we believe and respond to all the garbage in the world with love." That, along with "We may be tired on our journey through life but our love must not grow tired," continues to bring us back to Leonard's own words that "Love is the only engine of survival." It's funny to use his words when speaking of his other words. In school, we weren't allowed to use the word itself in the definition of a word.....something like that :? ......every night I come home exhausted from that new program, so putting one word after another is almost as difficult as putting one foot in front of the other. Time for bed :wink: .

I'm glad you got the meaning of what I meant. [There I go again ~ redundancy. Goodnite :D .]

~ Lizzy
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tom.d.stiller
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Location: ... between the lines ...

Postby tom.d.stiller » Thu Dec 09, 2004 8:26 am

Dear all ~

unfortunately I don't have the time right now to even attempt a real analysis of "The Faith". So I'll have to restrict myself to some random remarks.

"The Faith" - the title indicates the song deals with religious issues. As has been pointed out in some other threads ( Have you heard Dear Heather? ) there is a close relationship between a mystic's Faith and "romantic love".

So the "love" the song is talking to might be G-d. Maybe we should reconsider "The Faith" in the context of theodicy?

Then there is the gnostic dicussion about whether this world hasn't been created by G-d but by a demon of evil intent. Addressing the "creator" as "love" might seem a bit far-fetched, but i don't consider it impossible. (Just remember the line from "The story of Isaac": "you never have been tempted by a demon or a god")

So maybe the recurring question is "Aren't you tired of this evil world you created, my demon or my god?" This indeed - looking at the history of the theodicy discussion - is the recurring question. (Form corresponding to intent?)

There is a statement hawked by Sony, I think, that the folk song is "Un Canadien errant". A first comparison didn't help me much. I detect some similarity when listening to both... Using the old term "le juif errant" from the Jewish tradition as a bridge maybe someone with more insight into this tradition can shed some more light on this presumed connection. (Maybe Sony simply was wrong?!)

I'd love to look at all this a bit closer someday soon. Hopefully I can find the time to do so. For now, my fellow interpreters, I'm at the end of what I can say without some serious research.

Cheers (and sorry for these "scrambled ramblings")

Tom
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Postby tomsakic » Thu Dec 09, 2004 11:29 am

The connection between Un Canadien Errant and The Faith is only in the melody, not in the lyrics.

Un Canadien Errant (The Lost Canadian)
by Antoine Gerin-Lajoie, 1842

Un Canadien Errant
Banni de ses foyers,
Parcourait en pleurant
Des pays etrangers.
Parcourait en pleurant
Des pays etrangers.

Un jour, triste et pensif,
Assis au bord des flots,
Au courant fugitif
Il adressa ces mots:
Au courant fugitif
Il adressa ces mots:

“Si tu vois mon pays,
Mon pays malheureux,
Va dire a mes amis
Que je me souviens d’eux.
Va dire a mes amis
Que je me souviens d’eux.

O jours si pleins d’appas,
Vous etes disparus...
Et ma patrie, helas!
Je ne la verrai plus.
Et ma patrie, helas!
Je ne la verrai plus.

[A wandering Canadian,
banned from his hearths,
travelled while crying
in foreign lands.
travelled while crying
in foreign lands.

One day, sad and pensive,
sitting by the flowing waters,
to the fleeing current
he addressed these words:
to the fleeing current
he addressed these words:

If you see my country,
my unhappy country,
go tell my friends
that I remember them.
go tell my friends
that I remember them.

O days so full of charms,
you have vanished...
And my native land, alas!
I will see it no more.
And my native land, alas!
I will see it no more.]
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Postby Karri » Thu Dec 09, 2004 3:55 pm

Tom, thank you very much for the translation of "Un Canadien Errant". I only have a rudimentary knowledge of French, so those lyrics have always baffled me. Of all the songs on "Recent Songs", "Un Canadien Errant" used to be the one I´d always skip but it was interesting to learn that the melody of "The Faith" is based on it.


Karri
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Postby tomsakic » Thu Dec 09, 2004 4:08 pm

This translation is printed under the lyrics of Un Canadien Errant in Recent Songs booklet. There's also a note: "In 1837, for the old reasons of blood and freedom, there were armed uprisings, in both Upper and Lower Canada, against the “ruling cliques” of William Lyon Mackenzie and Louis Papineau. After “order had been restored”, many who taken part in the fighting fled the country to avoid punishment. Five years later M. A. Gerin-Lajoie wrote a song about one of these young men, setting it to a familiar folk tune. This translation is by Edith Fulton Fowke in Chansons de Québec, and it’s re-printed by kind permission of the Waterloo Music Company Ltd., Waterloo, Ontario."

Note that "against" is unbelievable mistake - the fight was led by Mackenzie.

Interesting observation is that the translation of song as The Lost Canadian isn't very accurate, as I read. It actually means "The wandering Canadian", and Leonard translate the song by himself in Rasky's movie The Song of Leonard Cohen. Many people said it's much better than this official Fulton-Fowke's version.
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Postby tomsakic » Thu Dec 09, 2004 4:18 pm

Now I wonder is the translation I copied above the Fowke's version from Recent Songs booklet. Namely, this translation I took from The Files, but it is correct, it says "wandering" not "lost". This is Fowke's version I found on web:

Once a Canadian lad, exiled from hearth and home
Wandered, alone and sad, through alien lands unknown
Down by a rushing stream, thoughtful and sad one day
He watched the water pass, and to it he did say:

If you should reach my land, my most unhappy land
Please speak to all my friends, so they will understand
Tell them how much I wish that I could be once more
In that beloved land that I will see no more

My own beloved land I'll not forget 'til death
And I will speak of her with my last dying breath
My own beloved land I'll not forget 'til death
And I will speak of her with my last dying breath.

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