And Jesus was a sailor...

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
VELOVERMONT
Posts: 113
Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2008 7:24 pm
Location: montreal

And Jesus was a sailor...

Postby VELOVERMONT » Wed Mar 09, 2011 7:07 am

And Jesus was a sailor
when he walked upon the water
and he spent a long time watching
from his lonely wooden tower
and when he knew for certain
only drowning men could see him
he said All men will be sailors then
until the sea shall free them
but he himself was broken
long before the sky would open
forsaken, almost human
he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

I am tryin to make some sense of these lines.Anyone's input would be welcome ( or a reference to already published material on this site)
montreal 2008; montreal 2012x2
User avatar
drsing
Posts: 281
Joined: Wed Mar 05, 2008 9:29 pm
Location: Netherlands

Re: And Jesus was a sailor...

Postby drsing » Fri Mar 11, 2011 11:51 pm

I found this on the internet, maybe it helps :roll:

http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/ ... F0002649BC

Reviewer: Steve Borrow


This is a song about sailors, those of us set loose on the seas of chance and seeking to find meaning and love from all of the confusion. It is Leonard Cohen’s masterpiece, apparently inspired by a real woman.

Suzanne is presented as a mysterious woman who, at one level is a mystic who holds up a mirror to the narrator, the looking glass self that enables him to find truth. At another level she is a siren, a mythical being, half woman and half fish, thought to have drawn sailors to their death by the irresistible allure of their beauty and exquisite singing.

She draws our narrator to the edge of his journey, down to the harbour, a transit point where sailors pull into port to find emotional sustenance from time to time when on their life’s journey.

He finds her oddly irresistible, not withstanding her apparent imperfections and, when the rational begins to intrude, is overwhelmed by her exotic sexuality and aroma (“tea and oranges that come all the way from china”, orange pekoe perhaps?). He succumbs to that temporary madness only true romantics know about: the fusion of two selves into one. Or, perhaps, he succumbs to the power of a truth she reveals.

Jesus is also a sailor, a seeker of divine meaning who announces that: “all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them”. The allusion to Jesus is a commentary on the soul of man confined to its physical manifestation until death. Here, the metaphor of the sailor awash upon the seas of experience until the waters claim him or her at last (“Sea shall freed them”) is extended, and the soul – the pure manifestation of self – is freed at the time of death. Jesus was aware of his sacrifice and waited until “drowning men” or those in need of salvation could feel his love.

Then we return to Suzanne and perhaps the most beautiful verse the great man has written:-

“Now Suzanne takes your hand and she leads you to the river. She is wearing rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters, and the sun pours down like honey on our lady of the harbour, and she shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers; there are heroes in the seaweed; there are children in the morning; they are leaning out for love; and they will lean that way forever; While Suzanne holds the mirror; and you want to travel with her; and you want to travel blind; and you know that you can trust her, for she's touched your perfect body with her mind”.

In her passion and the affect she is having on the narrator, Suzanne has made the mundane seem surreal and magical. Again, at one level she has a saintly quality, our Lady of The Harbour. She is able to find beauty and truth among the physical corruption thrown up and rejected on the shores of the harbour. In the context of the metaphor of the sailor, these have been overlooked by the narrator as he has journeyed through life. There are heroic deeds and the promise of procreation and rebirth in the discarded remnants of his path ("garbage" and "seaweed").

On the other level, Sirens were known to hold up mirrors and admire their own beauty, but here Leonard Cohen’s Siren is perhaps projecting a narcissistic vision of her own dreaming, and for the moment the narrator is seduced by it. He is temporarily blinded to the decadence of her clothing and physical surrounds. He has reached the place only drowning men have been: a place that can only be reached by surrender to profound sensibility and repudiation of reason. He wants to follow her because his being has merged with hers and he is no longer able to check his decent.
1985 Rotterdam
1988 Amsterdam
1993 The Hague
2008 Manchester, Brussels (2x), Rotterdam
2009 Lisboa
2010 Dortmund
2012 Ghent 2012 (2x), Amsterdam 2012 (2x)
2013 Antwerp, Oberhausen, Brussels, Rotterdam, Amsterdam
User avatar
hydriot
Posts: 877
Joined: Sun May 21, 2006 3:07 am
Location: back in the UK

Re: And Jesus was a sailor...

Postby hydriot » Fri Mar 11, 2011 11:55 pm

VELOVERMONT wrote:And Jesus was a sailor
when he walked upon the water
and he spent a long time watching
from his lonely wooden tower
and when he knew for certain
only drowning men could see him
he said All men will be sailors then
until the sea shall free them
but he himself was broken
long before the sky would open
forsaken, almost human
he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

I am tryin to make some sense of these lines.Anyone's input would be welcome ( or a reference to already published material on this site)
I suggest:

First two lines refer to Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee: http://christianity.about.com/od/bibles ... nwater.htm

"lonely wooden tower" = the Cross

"only drowning men could see him" = perhaps a reference to Peter sinking when he looks away, and then (from the link above) "Peter cries out to the Lord and Jesus immediately reaches out his hand and catches Peter. As they climb into the boat together, the storm ceases."

"until the sea shall free them" = free them from the burdens of life, i.e.drown them.

"the sky would open" and "forsaken" = references to the Passion. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passion_(Christianity) specificallY: "the sky became dark at midday and the darkness lasted for three hours, until the ninth hour when Jesus cried out Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? (My God, why have you forsaken me?)"
“If you do have love it's a kind of wound, and if you don't have it it's worse.” - Leonard, July 1988
User avatar
lizzytysh
Posts: 25339
Joined: Thu Jun 27, 2002 8:57 pm
Location: Florida, U.S.A.

Re: And Jesus was a sailor...

Postby lizzytysh » Sun Mar 27, 2011 10:10 pm

Happy Birthday, Hydriot!!!

Hoping your day goes well :D !
"Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
~ Oscar Wilde
Vicomte
Posts: 829
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 1:49 am
Location: Saint Malo Bretagne

Re: And Jesus was a sailor...

Postby Vicomte » Tue Mar 29, 2011 1:02 am

I think it might be best if you read the following article from Suzanne and get the facts from someone who sort of knew it quite well. :D

Pete Townsend of the WHO claims he has no idea where the lyrics of the many famous songs he wrote came from because he cannot remember writing them at the time they were produced simply due to him being totally drunk on Brandy and/or under the influence of drugs :D ;-)

http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/verdal.html
I guess it all started for me sometime around Christmas 1967 and now, goodness me, it's.........2017 and fifty years later.
No one ever listens to me. I might as well be a Leonard Cohen record.
Neil from The Young Ones
MaryB
Posts: 3945
Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2008 5:40 am
Location: Columbus, Ohio USA

Re: And Jesus was a sailor...

Postby MaryB » Tue Mar 29, 2011 8:41 am

Vicomte,

This was the most enlightening piece I have read about this song to date http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/verdal.html
Thank you for bringing it to my attention and to Marie Mazur for posting it on the files and Lizzie Mader for providing the tape. It was sad to read that Suzanne was homeless at the time the other article was published. I tried to research further through the CBC website on the bottom of the article, but came up with nothing current. Does anyone know of Suzanne's current status?

Best regards,
Mary
1993 Detroit 2008 Kitchener June 2-Hamilton June 3 & 4-Vienna Sept 24 & 25-London RAH Nov 17 2009 NYC Feb 19-Grand Prairie Apr 3-Phoenix Apr 5-Columbia May 11-Red Rocks Jun 4-Barcelona Sept 21-Columbus Oct 27-Las Vegas Nov 12-San Jose Nov 13 2010 Sligo Jul 31 & Aug 1-LV Dec 10 & 11 2012 Paris Sept 30-London Dec 11-Boston Dec 16 2013 Louisville Mar 30-Amsterdam Sept 20
Vicomte
Posts: 829
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 1:49 am
Location: Saint Malo Bretagne

Re: And Jesus was a sailor...

Postby Vicomte » Tue Mar 29, 2011 4:23 pm

More here but you may have read this?

This is about all I know of her whereabouts etc as I post.

viewtopic.php?t=9243

http://www.laweekly.com/content/printVersion/840435/

http://cambridgecitizen.ca/?p=2004

The last link reports that Suzanne lives in Venice Beach, California.
I guess it all started for me sometime around Christmas 1967 and now, goodness me, it's.........2017 and fifty years later.
No one ever listens to me. I might as well be a Leonard Cohen record.
Neil from The Young Ones
zaidagal
Posts: 8
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 7:13 pm

Re: And Jesus was a sailor...

Postby zaidagal » Sat Aug 13, 2011 8:20 pm

"And when he knew for certain only drowining men could see him, he said, All men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them" - ah those might be my all time favourite lines of any song, ever!

I see it as the realization that we all must suffer to eventually choose God, love, goodnes.....it was only drowining men - people at the very end of their tether, people desperate - who reached for Jesus or God - so, we are all sailors, struggling on, until finally we are drowining, and reach for the divine....such is human nature....

jeez does that sound dismal of me? anyway, thats the way Ive always interpreted that line!
blueporch
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 11:42 am

Re: And Jesus was a sailor...

Postby blueporch » Sat Oct 01, 2011 10:36 am

The song was written about the harbor in Montreal -- that's where Suzanne's "place by the river" is. Overlooking the harbor there's a "Sailors' Church," Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, and the church makes clear that Jesus is also considered a sailor because he walked upon the water. I have this from a friend who used to live near the Sailors' Church. Here's the Wikipedia article on the church:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notre-Dame ... urs_Chapel
mtwjo
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue May 17, 2016 3:44 am

Re: And Jesus was a sailor...

Postby mtwjo » Tue May 17, 2016 5:00 am

Here is how I understand (or feel my way through) this part of the song:

It begins:
Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water...
...(And when he knew for certain only drowning men could hear him...)

And then Jesus says to the drowning men:
All men shall be sailors then, until the sea shall free them.


Jesus is, I believe, often felt as a pure representation of the spirit of love. And here perhaps Jesus is offering a blessing (perhaps even a promise?):

That all men shall be, (like him), sailors, able to sail upon the water,
Until they are finally freed.

If you grew up Christian, you may remember all the paintings of Jesus with his arms open, welcoming those in need to take refuge in his spirit.

All men shall be, with me, Jesus, able to sail upon the water -- while alive -- and not be drowned in our despair....
Until their final salvation -- until the sea shall set them free from despair forever.

So maybe, from his lonely wooden tower, the spirit of love (of Jesus) offers a blessing, a message of compassion, of mercy -- and even refuge? (The music gives me this feeling, too, at this point in the song.)

But then there is an immediate transition in the song, to what happens next to Jesus.

"But he (Jesus) himself was broken, long before the sky would open,
Forsaken, almost human, he sank beneath your wisdom, like a stone."

In "your wisdom," it seems like "your" has to be essentially God the Father. Or some spiritual power that precedes and perhaps is even greater than Jesus. Even Jesus is torn apart. (Such a severe existence we inhabit, and there is nothing to be done of it.)

Jesus sinks beneath this wisdom of the larger God, this inevitability of suffering. The compassion of Jesus (of love?) cannot seem to free us from suffering. (All men shall be sailors then... but still they must sink beneath your wisdom, like a stone...? Apparently this loss -- the death of what is precious to us -- must precede the sky's opening. (Even if you have the compassion of Jesus on your side!?) (This is not an easy proposition we have before us.)

God the Father, the Origin, does, after all, require the crucifixion and the death of Jesus. His only begotten Son. At least that is the traditional story. That even the spirit of love and compassion, of Jesus, is to be broken, forsaken: Before the sky shall open, before the time that all is made heavenly and free.

So just now I thought of another L Cohen song, "Hallelujah." For me there is a related feeling or meaning to this song. That to all human life, there is something forever broken and painful. And still there is something so holy that we cannot deny it. Perhaps the human spirit can only reach "a broken 'hallelujah'"?... "But love is not a victory march, it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah."

For me, "Suzanne" seems to be a way to reach the feeling that here, somewhere, there will always be a hallelujah, too.... "And she shows you where to look among the flowers and the garbage. There are heroes in the seaweed. There are children in the morning. They are leaning out for love. They will lean that way forever."

They will lean that way forever. And they will always need someone to love them. I guess that always touches me.

Return to “Leonard Cohen's music”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests