If it be your will

Debate on Leonard Cohen's poetry (and novels), both published and unpublished. Song lyrics may also be discussed here.
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If it be your will

Postby joe » Wed Nov 25, 2009 9:09 pm

Can anyone explain the lyrics of this song please
I always feel that an element of it refers to children being gassed during Ww2

And draw us near and bind us tight.............
All your children here in their rags of light
Dressed to kill...........
End this night If it be your will
I always find a huge sadness surrounds this song
Am I crazy as I have heard Cohen speak of it as uplifting
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Re: If it be your will

Postby tomsakic » Thu Nov 26, 2009 12:56 pm

This is the article by the leading Cohen scholar Stephen Scobie. I always thought this article explained me some things about this particular song and "late" Cohen work. ("Late" - as this was written in 1993 - seen as 1988-1993)

The Counterfeiter Begs Forgiveness: Leonard Cohen and Leonard Cohen
by Stephen Scobie

(Complete conference proceedings: http://www.canadianpoetry.ca/cpjrn/vol33/Vol33index.htm)
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Re: If it be your will

Postby joe » Thu Nov 26, 2009 9:13 pm

Thanks Tom
I didnt realise that this song was written so long ago
The article is thought provoking but I'm not sure that Cohen is self absorbed to this level
I will keep listening but still see the imagery of children.
My dad spent three weeks in a coma before he died and this song always connects me to his memory
Thanks again
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Re: If it be your will

Postby GinaDCG » Fri Nov 27, 2009 2:16 am

I must defer to others who know more then I do on this subject: but aren't there traditions in Jewish thought about vessels of light which were broken at the dawn of creation? and these vestiges of holy light are scattered and hidden on our earthly plain? Using this image, we are all dressed in holy garments -- but incomplete ("rags;") but we reject even the potential of these "rags of light" by using them to be "all dressed to kill."

I am no Jewish scholar, so I would welcome clarification.
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Re: If it be your will

Postby joe » Fri Nov 27, 2009 12:58 pm

Thanks Gina
It proves to me how little we know about other faiths
Interesting concept
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Re: If it be your will

Postby imaginary friend » Sat Nov 28, 2009 5:13 am

Interesting comments and interpretations, I've enjoyed them all, and throw my thoughts into the conversation...

I think 'rags of light' refers to our best intentions, our best efforts. In the way that, when we try our utmost to transcend beyond our meagre abilities (rags), we can become luminous.

I also like the community implied in 'draw us near and bind us tight', and 'all your children'.
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Re: If it be your will

Postby ejts » Sun Nov 29, 2009 4:12 am

This is one of my favourite songs, and a perfect example of LC's unique ability to blend Eastern and Western mystical traditions.

The first half of the song a recognition that a person can only speak (or have free will) if God wills it. If the singer is given a free ("true") voice, it will be used to praise God.

The couplet "From this broken hill, your praises they shall ring" is reminiscent of a verse in another song from Various Positions: "There's a blaze of light in every word, [...] the holy or the broken, Hallelujah". Both talk about an imperfect ("broken") singer praising God (the word "Hallelujah" translates to "Praise the Lord"). Children in "rags of light" is a similar concept: imperfect mortals "dressed" in torn pieces of the divine (I agree with Gina's identification of this as an allusion to the Kabalistic concept of lights and vessels). Another instance of LC using the word in this way is in Waiting For A Miracle: "Most of you was naked, but some of you was light".

The second half of the song is more interesting: it expresses the desire ("if there is a choice") for God to have mercy on his children, dressed in rags of the divine but living in a corrupt physical world ("hell", "night"). The singer is asking God to bring an end to the world, and reunite with his children.

You can make an interesting comparison between this song and The Faith, which voices a similar desire for the end of the world, but in a very different tone. In The Faith, it seems that the end is inevitable ("where still the sun must set"), and the singer constantly repeats the words "Love, aren't you tired yet?" (Hasn't this lasted long enough?). Moreover, the language used to describe reunion with the Creator is much more personal in If It Be Your Will: contrast "Let the rivers fill, let the hills rejoice [...] Draw us near, and bind us tight" with "The sea so deep and blind, where still the sun must set, and time itself unwind".

Just my take on it. ;-)
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Re: If it be your will

Postby mat james » Thu Dec 03, 2009 2:23 pm

“…And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will

If it be your will.”
Another guy said it like this:

“Blessed are the Poor
in spirit,
for theirs is…..
the kingdom of heaven.”

The rich (rich in the Holy Spirit) who don the rags of light (gnosis/understanding) may take this waltz of awakening from the dark night of ignorance (hell), if it be the will of merciful Allah .

And the door will be opened;
If the boss opens the door.

"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: If it be your will

Postby seadove » Tue Dec 08, 2009 9:55 pm

The song was composed together with Sharon Robinson in the mid 80's. So they took a bit of poetry that Cohen wrote ages ago and gave it life in the 80's.

Altogether this is one of my 21 best Cohen songs ever.

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