The analysis of "The Captain"

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
Mark B.
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Postby Mark B. » Wed Mar 03, 2004 7:39 pm

Jurica, My hat is off to you brother! The forbearance you showed in your reply to Dementia is remarkable. I don't think I could ever have responded to Dementia's condescending post the way you just did. You are a saint. 8)


Cheers,


Mark the not-so-saintly
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Zabka
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Postby Zabka » Thu Mar 04, 2004 1:31 am

Yes, lets get back to the topic, and indeed, nice short posts

As Winnie-the-Pooh said, "For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words Bother me"
ZZ

What we have learned is like a handful of earth. What we have yet to learn is like the whole world. (Avvaiyar)
jurica
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Postby jurica » Thu Mar 04, 2004 2:59 pm

Tchocolatl wrote:I was just annoyed because the thread was going to be lost into something else that was not the point here.
...and right you were!

i've opened lyrics from The Butcher and The Captain, and i have little to say. all was said when you noticed how similar they were... almost as if The Captain is longer and more detailed rewrite of The Butcher. they both include father/son, commander/soldier and God/man relation, which can be read as one symbolizing another, i think...

they both end virtualy the same, at least the way i read them:

'Now the Captain he was dying
But the Captain wasn't hurt
The silver bars were in my hand
I pinned them to my shirt. '

'Blood upon my body
and ice upon my soul,
lead on, my son, it is your world.'
Tchocolatl
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Postby Tchocolatl » Sat Mar 06, 2004 8:12 pm

Exact.

In my eyes, it could be a rewrite as well as another branch of the same theme from a different angle. I say this because I saw what happened with Closing Time. He started whith a certain idea and it ends to be this song but could have been 2 or 3 other songs as well, in my (humble) opinion.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
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Rob
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The captain

Postby Rob » Sun Mar 07, 2004 12:09 am

There are similar lines in "Night comes on".

We were fighting in Egypt
when they signed this agreement
that nobody else had to die
Ther was this terrible sound and my father went down
with a terrible wound in his side
he said, try to go on
take my books, take my gun
and remember my son son how they lied....

Again the father/military figure passes on authority.

Rob MacMillan
Tchocolatl
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Postby Tchocolatl » Sun Mar 07, 2004 2:40 am

Thank you Rob, I had never went into this one. I will do. :D
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
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dementia praecox
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Postby dementia praecox » Mon Mar 08, 2004 3:15 pm

You are right. Let us put aside this needless quarrel and work together. I’ll start by writing down some of my thoughts concerning the first stanza of “The Butcher”. There is a certain connection between “The Captain” and “The Butcher” that emerges at the first glance. Let us only take a look at the first stanza of “The Butcher”. It seems to me that these two songs open with the same theme of transition. Opening verses of “The Butcher” could be traced to early Christian symbolism of the lamb, to a period of creative incubation anticipating a new growth. This was manifested in the transition of the religious center from east to west and with it the transformation of “pagan” Roman Empire to a one “of God”. Such kind of power-shifting is represented in the opening verses of “The Captain” by transference of the “silver bars” - control. Killing states the end, but it also signifies a new beginning. There is no real beginning without a preceding death of something else. The same kind of wish about the relinquishing of guilt feelings also emerges here. We find the persona of a Butcher slaughtering a lamb. It would seem to me that it is a sacrifice we are dealing here with. A feeling of guilt is inevitably connected with it. In ancient rituals lamb was sacrificed as a sing of repentance, in order to please the gods, to diminish their anger or shift their will for revenge towards someone or something else. Their true meaning, of course, was to clear oneself from guilt, fear,...etc. Our storyteller goes on accusing the Butcher for doing such a rite; in “The Captain” the accusation for the deed of the Captain is also present. By itself, it is connected with the disappearance of innocence, if not by the “unknown” deeds done before, then at least by the very thing of a slaughter. The clearance of conscience is made complete by stating “I am who I am”. How can one accuse another for being nothing more or less than he really is? Was it not the “God” himself who said to “Moses” that he is who he is? The last verses of the first stanza show the very same path on which he must beset himself accepting this newfound knowledge. There is no real progress before acknowledging and accepting your true self. Of course, I could be wrong. Thus, before I go any further, I would be pleased to hear any suggestions or corrections?
George.Wright
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Postby George.Wright » Mon Mar 08, 2004 4:25 pm

Dementia, could the lamb symbolise the ego?
Georges
I am a right bad ass, dankish prince and I love my Violet to bits.
jurica
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Postby jurica » Mon Mar 08, 2004 6:16 pm

i think DP is very right about guilt... i think this first stanza can be related to Story of Isaac: we have Moses prepared to slaughter his son, but God istructs him to kill a lamb instead.
perhaps Isaac then feels guilt because the lamb will be killed.
perhaps he's relinquishing his own guilt (if it wasn't for me a lamb would live) to his father (the bastard was ready to kill me, and he killed a lamb) and his God (wasn't he the one who asked for the killing in the first place).
it's unclear here who's the butcher - father or God. he has some of them both.
since Story of Isaac is, as LC himself pointed out, about one generation being ready to sacrifice another, i think there's some politics here too.
the next stanza includes autodestructivness trough drugs abuse, which is very 'hippy' thing to do, so this part of the song can also be read as a description of war protests in 60s.
perhaps this guilt is also for innocent people killed in Vietnam.

if you go trough this whole album (Songs From A Room) there can be found traces of war protest nearly everywhere. i think it's safe to say that this dimension is also present here (both in The Butcher and The Captain AND Night Comes On which should, as Rob noticed, also be included in our consideration).
Tchocolatl
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Postby Tchocolatl » Tue Mar 09, 2004 4:15 am

Jung Dr. Freud, I think I get your drift. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but sometime, it is a big bad symbol, like when you are the president of United States and you treat yourself with cuban cigars and so on about the symbol of the cigar. It was less indecent than this video of a certain prisoner-bearded-dictator. But, I guess it is another of my very personal point of view.

OK, get back to the protest songs against the war, now. Baby boomers generation, they fought against the institutions as being the nest of the "evil" but they rarely look into themselves to see if they where not part of the game. Conclusion, now, many of them are old fat cats that do worst than what they had denounced. Sad. To say the less.

Cohen has this fascinating side to tell about the fact that if you want peace, you have to be peacefull not to shout "peace" and not not to yell "love" and be violent in the name of these concepts. (Very jungian idea, this side of Cohen, again). He never gave into the fashionable hippie idea "never trust somebody over 30" (or something like that, may some good Samaritan corrects me, if I was not accurate) It seems that he never was blind about this reality, like many singers of his generation.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
Young dr. Freud
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Postby Young dr. Freud » Tue Mar 09, 2004 3:33 pm

Notes on the Patient TC


Patient continues to exhibit passive-aggressive behavior

extremely hostile...unwittingly reveals deep-seated animosity towards others...pretends to offer "suggestions"...i.e. "writing biographies"...while twisting the knife.

Enraged at Baby Boomers...one in particular.

Still very devious.

A close affinity with DP...too close.

Increase sessions for both. Very convenient.


YDF
Tchocolatl
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Postby Tchocolatl » Tue Mar 09, 2004 3:36 pm

:)
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
Tchocolatl
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Postby Tchocolatl » Tue Mar 09, 2004 3:40 pm

Big nut, you, DF. :lol: Your playactings make me laugh, I'm sorry, for the ones who take you too seriously.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
George.Wright
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Postby George.Wright » Tue Mar 09, 2004 4:24 pm

I think that Old Doctor Fraud would spend some time better, doing an analysis of himself. Like all internet people, we do not know his qualifications or expertise. He might have achieved his psychology degree in a lucky bag or from Sing Buy university. Analyse yourself, Fraud!!!!!
Georges
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jurica
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Postby jurica » Tue Mar 09, 2004 4:24 pm

Tchocolatl wrote:He never gave into the fashionable hippie idea "never trust somebody over 30"
that's probably because HE was over 30 back then :)

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