The Traitor

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Paz
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The Traitor

Postby Paz » Tue Dec 04, 2007 1:09 am

i was just wondering wether anyone knows the meaning behind The Traitor?
its such a beautiful song, but i just cant work it out!!
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tomsakic
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Re: The Traitor

Postby tomsakic » Thu Dec 06, 2007 11:59 pm

He betrayed the mundane matters and the world so he could serve to the lady (and her beauty). That's why he's called "the traitor" to his face. And he is choosing that way although he himself calls it "my idle duty". ... My first idea of what's going on in the song:-) I'm wondering about other opinions and ideas? - Tom
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ForYourSmile
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Re: The Traitor

Postby ForYourSmile » Fri Dec 07, 2007 1:54 am

Paz, welcome to the forum.

I don't know if we can dare to give our opinion about "the meaning behind" of a poem as this one. Especially everyone of Leonard Cohen encloses deep mysteries. Anyway to discuss in his forum of meanings can be funny and insolent.

I believe that Tom, from his authority of Cohen expert, proposes a personage who has lost his purity. Somehow I agree.

Just I will say what I felt when I listened for the first time, and what now I continue feeling, though I don't know tomorrow.

Without understanding the lyrics, it captivated me the elegance, the beauty and a sorrow. I would say the nostalgia. (But someone who knows Cohen has said to me that he is not nostalgic.)

With the translation read, I thought that The Traitor speaks about loyalty :shock: . There is a war between the Dreamers and the Men of Action (two necessary poles). Someone love freely, are loyal to this principle, like a bird on the wire, or better, as a hummingbird that without lingering goes from flower to flower. But, if in a fatal moment, he (or she *) detains, he remains paralyzed. Then he (she) sees as the love leaves: the routine stays.

I understood it in 1979, at the time I was a Man of Action (approximately :oops: I tried...) and I knew that one day would betray my principles, I would marry. I was sure about it.

Cohen is really a moralist; we cannot be in both armies at the same time. It is not correct.

(* I love the Martha Wainwright's cover.) 8)
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lizzytysh
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Re: The Traitor

Postby lizzytysh » Fri Dec 07, 2007 2:10 am

How beautifully you speak as time goes on, ForYourSmile. I loved this post of yours, with all its speculations and reasonings.
as a hummingbird that without lingering goes from flower to flower
Have we already postulated this as a reason for its being a logo of Leonard's?


~ Lizzy
"Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
~ Oscar Wilde
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ForYourSmile
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Re: The Traitor

Postby ForYourSmile » Sun Dec 09, 2007 8:31 pm

Lizzy, the hummingbird fleeing of a broken handcuff has a clear meaning for me. 8)

Gossiping a bit, Martha married in September 2007, I wonder if she will be trying already to keep the beauty: "Run some wire through that Rose and wind the Swan" or working for a smile. Well, it is a joke, I wish the best to her. Really I think the marriage is advisable. For sure it is not correct to be in both armies at the same time, but I don't know if it is possible to change of army every two hours. :D
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Re: The Traitor

Postby lizzytysh » Sun Dec 09, 2007 10:03 pm

Haha... and then there's the blue heart the hummingbird leaves behind. His own and hers?

Very cute about changing camps every two hours. Did you ever hear the old song from here called "Love and Marriage"? "Love and marriage / love and marriage / go together like a horse and carriage / This I tell you, brother / You can't have one / without the other." Keep in mind that it was popular in the early 50s, as I recall... maybe sung by Doris Day? The rhymes could've made it Leonard's, but not the content ;-) .


~ Lizzy
"Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
~ Oscar Wilde
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ForYourSmile
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Re: The Traitor

Postby ForYourSmile » Mon Dec 10, 2007 1:34 am

Love and Marriage
Love and marriage,
Love and marriage
Go together
Like a horse and carriage
This I tell you brother
You can't have one without the other
Love and marriage, love and marriage
It's an institute you can't disparage
Ask the local gentry
And they will say it's elementary

Try, try, try to separate them
It's an illusion
Try, try, try, and you will only come
To this conclusion

Love and marriage, love and marriage
Go together like a horse and carriage
Dad was told by mother
You can't have one without the other
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: (Wild Horses)
Yes, Doris Day and Frank Sinatra sang this. Buff. I remember that in this Forum someone compared The Voice with Cohen, As you I believe that our Golden Voice could've made this content.

Image
lizzytysh wrote:Haha... and then there's the blue heart the hummingbird leaves behind. His own and hers?
Or both, I don't know, the blue heart will be THE LOVE always present, still like desire. The hummingbird doesn't leave the heart, is going to look for the love. ;-)
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lizzytysh
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Re: The Traitor

Postby lizzytysh » Mon Dec 10, 2007 5:21 am

Thanks for the research, FYS :D .

The last verse could've been by Leonard :) .


~ Lizzy
"Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
~ Oscar Wilde
Steven
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Re: The Traitor

Postby Steven » Thu Dec 13, 2007 6:54 am

Hi Paz,

I think that Leonard Cohen, in some interview footage included in the "I'm Your Man"
DVD speaks for a minute or so about "The Traitor." I don't own the DVD, though,
and can't, unfortunately, check to see what, if anything, he may have said about the
song.
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Joe Way
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Re: The Traitor

Postby Joe Way » Thu Dec 13, 2007 8:07 pm

Hi All,
I'm not sure of the "meaning" of The Traitor, but I think that we can heighten our enjoyment of it by understanding a little bit about Courtly Love. This is primarily a literary tradition enumerated mostly by some conventions noted by Andreas Capellanus. From what I gather, there is no basis in reality that Medieval knights actually behaved in this fashion. At the center of Courtly Love is the contradiction between spiritual attainment and erotic love.

There is also some resemblance to Lord Byron's "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage." In the first Canto, we find these lines:
Childe Harold had a mother -- not forgot,
Though parting from that mother he did shun;
A sister whom he loved, but saw her not
Before his weary pilgrimage begun:
The swan is certainly used as a metaphor for the male sexual organ with its neck bearing a physical resemblance. The rose, of course, corresponds to the female genitalia.

The stages of courtly love as detailed by Wikipedia are these: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Courtly_love
* Attraction to the lady, usually via eyes/glance
* Worship of the lady from afar
* Declaration of passionate devotion
* Virtuous rejection by the lady
* Renewed wooing with oaths of virtue and eternal fealty
* Moans of approaching death from unsatisfied desire (and other physical manifestations of lovesickness)
* Heroic deeds of valor which win the lady's heart
* Consummation of the secret love
* Endless adventures and subterfuges avoiding detection
The conventions would dictate that the woman would be "won" by the demonstration of the high level of spiritual attainment that her presence would generate in the man. But LC uses a reversal in that it is the nature of the level of sexual satisfaction achieved by the lady that dictates having "won." The narrator is clearly resigned to having failed in this task. I love the mechanical image of "run(ning) some wire through that rose and wind the swan."

Capellanus also references courts of love which were tribunals staffed by 10 to 70 women who would hear a case of love and rule on it based on its adherence to the "rules of love." This is certainly the reference to the judges who said, "you missed it by a fraction."

The action in Canto 1 of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage begins in England and moves to Spain. Here is a link to the text:

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/ ... pindex.htm

It was a very autobiographical poem by Byron and very popular with the ladies at the time it was written. So much so that Byron felt forced to live up to the reputation of a ladies man.

The song is one of my favorites on that album and I agree with For Your Smile, that Martha's rendition of it is excellent.

Joe
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
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lizzytysh
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Re: The Traitor

Postby lizzytysh » Thu Dec 13, 2007 8:14 pm

Hi Joe ~

Commentary like yours, Tom's, and ForYourSmile's always makes me glad someone asked 8) . I have a feeling Paz will be glad, too.


~ Lizzy
"Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
~ Oscar Wilde
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ForYourSmile
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Re: The Traitor

Postby ForYourSmile » Sat Dec 15, 2007 2:33 am

Lizzy, thanks.

Steven, yes, Leonard Cohen speaks about "The Traidor" in "I'm Your Man". I am the least right person to transcribe that he says and I would not excuse myself to change one Leonard's word. My comprehension of the listened English allows me more imagination than the written English. But somebody must to do it. :oops:

With a hard work than you cannot imagine, I understand than he says than it was called The Traitor it was about the feeling to be have betrayed some mission that you are mandate to fulfil and to be unable to fulfil it. But then you are coming understand that the real mandate was not to fulfilled that, the deepest courage was to be stand guiltless in that particular situation that you were yourself.

Well, in my opinion the explanation is more generic and more ambiguous than the song. Anyway they are nice words, compassionate and resigned.

If I could I would ask to Leonard Cohen if my interpretation of a lot of songs or poems were correct. I do not believe that he likes to answer to these things, I suppose that the correct meaning is the meaning felt for each reader or listener.

For many reasons I love "I'm Your Man", though I don't like the interruption of songs and I don't believe that we may ask to the poet about the meaning of his poems.
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ForYourSmile
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Re: The Traitor

Postby ForYourSmile » Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:11 am

This atmosphere of medieval knights is very beautiful, it makes us dream about scenes of the Courtly Love as Joe Way say us.

Before, in his fundamental song "Bird on the Wire", Cohen wrote something for me so beautiful as:
like a knight from some old fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee.
Image

A short time ago I read a novel ("La Reina Oculta" -The Hidden Queen- of Jordi Molist) that speaks, though it is not the principal topic, of the Courtly Love, so called "Fin' amor" in the current lands of south of France (near the battlefields of Barcelona). It is a topic of extraordinary interest for me now. The Church managed to value it like nearly heresy. The "joi" was considered like an attribute of the beauty of the woman, the love for the love, which was inspiring the men for the liking for the poetry, the courtly and the heroic actions. (The "joi" must be translated as jewel, I understand that in English it sounds as "joy", for me the relation is perfect). In this world of troubadours and minstrels of the "Fin' amor", they tried to hold this gallant spirit to do the society as agreeable as possible and it placed the woman in the best position of respect that we can imagine in that epoch.
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Manna
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Re: The Traitor

Postby Manna » Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:26 am

I have begun my post four times now, each saying something different. I thought it would be helpful to have the text in the thread. I've been reading it over and enjoying it, getting to know this one a little better. I don't know what the troops are doing in there. I spoke here somewhere once (or maybe on the ng?) about having my own studio audience. I wonder if Leonard has an akin army.
Leonard wrote: Now the Swan it floated on the English river
Ah the Rose of High Romance it opened wide
A sun tanned woman yearned me through the summer
and the judges watched us from the other side

I told my mother Mother I must leave you
preserve my room but do not shed a tear
Should rumour of a shabby ending reach you
it was half my fault and half the atmosphere


But the Rose I sickened with a scarlet fever
and the Swan I tempted with a sense of shame
She said at last I was her finest lover
and if she withered I would be to blame

The judges said you missed it by a fraction
rise up and brace your troops for the attack
Ah the dreamers ride against the men of action
Oh see the men of action falling back

But I lingered on her thighs a fatal moment
I kissed her lips as though I thirsted still
My falsity had stung me like a hornet
The poison sank and it paralysed my will

I could not move to warn all the younger soldiers
that they had been deserted from above
So on battlefields from here to Barcelona
I'm listed with the enemies of love

And long ago she said I must be leaving,
Ah but keep my body here to lie upon
You can move it up and down and when I'm sleeping
Run some wire through that Rose and wind the Swan


So daily I renew my idle duty
I touch her here and there -- I know my place
I kiss her open mouth and I praise her beauty
and people call me traitor to my face
Steven
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Re: The Traitor

Postby Steven » Sat Dec 15, 2007 6:53 am

ForYourSmile,

Thanks for the confirmation and the sharing of your understanding. I tried to make
sense out of his words when I heard them on the DVD, but don't think that I was
entirely successful. But, now that Manna posted the lyrics here, I may try again.
And if he used the word "guiltless," specifically, I wonder if in the face of a betrayal,
there is some kind of letting himself off the hook by virtue of being human,
overwhelmed or otherwise incapable of rising to the situation. People do the
best that they can in any circumstance, otherwise, they'd do better. But, "guiltless?" --
Guiltless would seem to cut against personal responsibility, when there is a matter
of personal choice. Was "guiltless" a word that Leonard used?

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