The Master Song

Debate on Leonard Cohen's poetry (and novels), both published and unpublished. Song lyrics may also be discussed here.
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mat james
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The Master Song

Postby mat james » Wed Nov 17, 2010 4:19 pm

Meaning:
Trinity may be experienced in its various positions; through the action of one's soul. The soul can move from this world to That (divine) world and can co-habit; as 'tumbled up matter and ghost' in person (in space/time); or unite with God in 'formless circumstance' in eternity (beyond space/time).
It is the soul that moves, not the mind.


The Master Song

I believe that you heard your master sing (In a dreamy reverie Leonard talks to his soul)
when I was sick in bed.
I suppose that he told you everything (Leonard’s soul has ventured out to God)
that I keep locked away in my head.
Your master took you traveling, (The soul is female in this tradition and though
well at least that's what you said.
And now do you come back to bring she is Leonard’s, she consorts with God!)
your prisoner wine and bread? (and now you talk of divinity and the word of god)

You met him at some temple, where (Hindu reference to the sacred seat of Brahma
they take your clothes at the door. which is represented as an “empty chair”?)
He was just a numberless man in a chair
who'd just come back from the war. (The Bhagavad Gita to Sermon on the Mount)
And you wrap up his tired face in your hair
and he hands you the apple core. (fight thou thy fight, Arjuna or Jesus or Adam)
Then he touches your lips now so suddenly bare
of all the kisses we put on some time before. (He begins to be jealous of his soul’s god-gig)

And he gave you a German Shepherd to walk (Martin Luther and Re-formation ?) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther
with a collar of leather and nails, ( It has been stated that Luther was anti-Semitic; and therefore the "nails".)
and he never once made you explain or talk
about all of the little details, (Luther moved towards personal interpretation
such as who had a word and who had a rock, of the “Word made flesh”, Christspeak)
and who had you through the mails.
Now your love is a secret all over the block, (the mystery of faith is beyond (the Catholic
and it never stops not even when your master fails. Church ) ownership; via Protest-antism)

And he took you up in his aeroplane, (The Holy Ghost/spirit)
which he flew without any hands,
and you cruised above the ribbons of rain (mankind’s mutterings/stammerings on god)
that drove the crowd from the stands. ( individualized the process beyond the pew)
Then he killed the lights in a lonely Lane (god took him through the “Dark Night of Soul”)
and, an ape with angel glands, (divinity in man)
erased the final wisps of pain (re-birth/Christ/god arising within; mercy cured his
with the music of rubber bands. sickness of longing)Rubber bands (om, harps, sacred
music/choirs/bands of harps)
And now I hear your master sing, (God is awakened in me)
you kneel for him to come. (Through my soul’s/ghost’s prayers)
His body is a golden string (“…the High Holy chord” connection to the Creator)
that your body is hanging from. (Soul’s connection to god in space/time)
His body is a golden string,
my body has grown numb. (When soul escapes the body, the body is paralyzed)


Oh now you hear your master sing, (Leo’s soul woos god like a sacred Hindu “apsaras”)
your shirt is all undone. (Leonard loses his “gypsy wife” to his god. God wins.)

And will you kneel beside this bed (will you now remain mine too?)
that we polished so long ago,
before your master chose instead
to make my bed of snow? (Leonard’s lonely journey, “cold as ice”; The Dark Night)
Your eyes are wild and your knuckles are red
and you're speaking far too low. (his soul is Christ-like now it has been deeply re-borne)
No I can't make out what your master said (Consciousness cannot comprehend God)
before he made you go. (Babbling, you return with the language of Babel)

Then I think you're playing far too rough (my flirtatious gypsy wife tortures me)
for a lady who's been to the moon;
I've lain by this window long enough (the soul is the window through which god enters
to get used to an empty room. the individual consciousness/being)
And your love is some dust in an old man's cough (song: “Love Itself is Gone”)
who is tapping his foot to a tune,
and your thighs are a ruin, you want too much, (both god and (me), you desire both of us)
let's say you came back some time too soon.

I loved your master perfectly (Leonard is now god, talking about Leonard), or;
I taught him all that he knew. ( like Jung, Leonard argues that god learns through man?)
He was starving in some deep mystery (Leonard/god longed for “union” and soul has it)
like a man who is sure what is true. Jesus/Christ-esque
And I sent you to him with my guarantee(Who is god and who is Leonard?)reciprocation)
I could teach him something new, (Moses’ first commandment)
and I taught him how you would long for me (Leo’s soul is lost to god in “longing”)
no matter what he said no matter what you'd do. (“The Book of Longing”)

I believe that you heard your master sing ( Leonard’s soul detaches in illness)
while I was sick in bed,
I'm sure that he told you everything (the experience ineffable, unfolded)
I must keep locked away in my head. (but; it is so hard to comprehend or explain)
Your master took you traveling, (the soul flew to god)
well at least that's what you said,
And now do you come back to bring (Leonard is a prisoner to his soul’s
your prisoner wine and bread? “wine and bread” Holy Communion.)
(Leonard experiences “Trinity”
…writes of “Various Positions that one can
hold among Trinity.)


Mat.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
beatingthelilies
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Re: The Master Song

Postby beatingthelilies » Sat Nov 27, 2010 8:05 am

very interesting analysis! thank you for sharing it on here. I view this song as being about a love triangle. namely, I've been seeing a girl with a boyfriend, so this song is very easy for me to relate to in all of its levels. with that being said, I find 'Take This Longing' to be a sort of little brother to this song and 'Famous Blue Raincoat' a distant relative.
imaginary friend
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Re: The Master Song

Postby imaginary friend » Sat Nov 27, 2010 9:48 am

Noooooooooo Mat,

Gotta disagree with you on this one. IMHO, this one is about the Flesh, not the Spirit.

XO
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mat james
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Re: The Master Song

Postby mat james » Sat Nov 27, 2010 10:56 am

Ha! Ha! (Noooooooooo Mat,...this one is about the Flesh, not the Spirit.)
I like the fleshy bits too, imaginaryfriend; don't worry!!!

Hi "beatingthelilies",
I view this song as being about a love triangle.

Thanks for commenting and I am sure you are right about the "love triangle"; I just have this sad disposition to look for things spiritual in Leonard's work.
But don't be misled...I am a sinner! ;-) :razz: 8)

"beating the lilies"; what an interesting name you have.
Now if I was to "imaginaryfriend" a meaning to your cybername on a mystical level, I would say that you are slapping around with the "gods", Trinity (lilies) as in "Dark night of the Soul" and the last line "Lost among the Lilies" . So it goes to show you how wrong my analysis of a line can be ;-)
Check out the last line of the poem anyway. But read the poem too; they are something beautiful, even in translation. I have linked to 3 different translations as they each bring something new to the poem. The first link includes the poet's explanation of the meaning of the words/lines. (Cruz is mystic genius)
When I read Leonard's poetry and songs I read it as though I am reading St. John of the Cross's poetry as they both use the metaphor of the soul being a woman, in a "love triangle"; hence my comments on "Master Song" above.

http://www.ocd.or.at/ics/john/dn.html
(http://floscarmelivitisflorigera.blogsp ... -love.html)
http://frimmin.com/poetry/darknight.php

Regards, Mat.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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mat james
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Re: The Master Song

Postby mat james » Sat Dec 04, 2010 5:11 pm

Who is the Master and who is the song?
...and who is the songbird?


Morning after note: (I had a few beers last night...it made sense to me then; I think? :roll: )
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
beatingthelilies
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Re: The Master Song

Postby beatingthelilies » Sun Dec 05, 2010 6:08 am

mat james, I loved your interpretation of the song! one's interpretation is as right or as wrong as they perceive it to be, do not let others feelings on words sway your own. I remembered when I started getting into the written word and how I had always tried to figure out what the writer had meant/ intended when they wrote something such as a poem, song, etc. I have since learned to give up that quest for literal knowledge and enjoy words on my own terms.

I also enjoyed your interpretation of my name! It's from a poem I wrote a few years ago and I've never really thought about where that particular phrase came from, but it stuck and I named my first book after it.

btw, perhaps the Master is F, the song is Edith and Leonard is the songbird! As you can tell, I have been reading, "The Beautiful Losers." Hope you guys have a blessed weekend!
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mat james
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Re: The Master Song

Postby mat james » Mon Dec 06, 2010 3:43 pm

Good luck with your book of poems, "M".
http://poetrypoem.com/cgi-bin/index.pl? ... oetry=true

I see by the comment under your photo that you can move into the future (2011).
Must be another mystic voyager ;-)

Mat.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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mat james
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Re: The Master Song

Postby mat james » Sun Dec 19, 2010 1:05 pm

(My original post included too much detail so I deleted most of it. I am bringing some of it back, edited.)

I notice this quote of Leonard’s below (see link) where he states clearly the idea that this song is about the “Trinity”. That makes my commentary above seem a little more plausible, perhaps.
"I like to sing a song which is called the 'Master Song' and it's about the Trinity. Leave that for the scholars: It's about three people."
Leonard Cohen, The BBC Sessions, 1968 (http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/jfmaster.html)
(Judith Fitzgerald’s article linked above is well worth a read if this song fascinates you.)

Of course, my comments are only my guesswork and perhaps my folly; so, as always, hang onto your own interpretation/ideas and read mine with reservation.
I always look at Leonard’s work assuming that there is a deeper meaning than that which is first apparent. So we could all be right; and I could be way off.
The term “Various Positions” may be Leonard’s term for defining one's place among Trinity. And when his gypsy soul takes flight; he changes "position" in the Trinity and ventures beyond the limits of Leonard the human being to somewhere which is Leonard-esque-eternal.
Words and concepts, in my opinion, if used by poets of the divine, are tools and keys to the mysteries and in this case, to the mystery of Leonard's writings; and I would like to attempt to untangle this “tangled up matter and ghost” by offering a few suggestions on how to interpret his work; on a different level than is usually accepted or understood.

Argument: Perhaps the individual's soul is a fragment of that Holy Ghost; and that Ghost and your little ghost is the mind of God.
But these Ghosts are only two of the sacred three. The remaining one is God who is the totality of all that is and is not; the unified combination of “tangled up matter and ghost”. This totality some call "god/trinity" can not be experienced in the space/time "position" but can be experienced in one of the other "positions", namely in the personal soul (Kristos=of the Creator). I think this way of looking at Trinity permeates this song; and this for me is the main theme of the song.

I will add more comments later,
Mat.
Last edited by mat james on Sun Dec 26, 2010 4:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
lonndubh
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Re: The Master Song

Postby lonndubh » Mon Dec 20, 2010 1:05 am

Hi Mat .
Am enjoying all the posts here .So many questions :?: :?:

Cant resist acting the clown a bit here with your comment and how wrong one might be
mat james wrote: I would say that you are slapping around with the "gods", Trinity (lilies) as in "Dark night of the Soul" and the last line "Lost among the Lilies" . So it goes to show you how wrong my analysis of a line can be
As you drove over to Stradbally (The home of the lilie beaters) and got stuck in traffic in Athy -remember .Well Athy is the home town of some of the Lilies .Lost among the lilies indeed :lol: :lol: Well maybe not lost -just delayed :!:
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mat james
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Re: The Master Song

Postby mat james » Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:23 am

Hi Lonndubh,
seasons greetings;
and
Well maybe not lost -just delayed :!:
"delayed" among the lilies is good enough for me ;-)

and thanks for giving us our best day in Ireland. xxx

Mat and mob.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: The Master Song

Postby lonndubh » Sat Dec 25, 2010 12:47 am

Happy Christmas Matt.
You would never make it over the Wicklow Gap these days as its snowbound,
Its great reading all your posts here , Hope you and'mob'are having a wonderful christmastime. As I write our four children from 16 to 26 are laughing and giggling playing on a dance mat in the next room . That is what makes Christmas for me .
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mat james
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Re: The Master Song

Postby mat james » Sun Dec 26, 2010 4:18 pm

“keys” to this song; The Master Song:

I have made notes alongside the poem above and these words below were the “keys” to my take on a possible meaning of the song/poem, “The Master Song”.
Some of these ‘key words” infiltrate many of Leonard’s poetry and songs and if you are keen to interpret his work on a level beyond the mundane then (in my opinion) understanding his symbolic language is essential. I offer some alternative meanings (dare I say esoteric?) to some of the words:

* Wine (divine mind),
• bread (divine word/form),
• window (god’s light enters through one’s soul),
• temple, (one’s own body (Greek) or any temple; particularly Eastern (Hindu/Buddhist)
• clothes,
• chair, (Brahma is symbolized as an “empty chair” in the Hindu temples. The chair is ‘empty’ because God/Brahma is indescribable.
• war, (any conflict, usually internal and personal striving for an understanding of one’s place in the scheme of things; like Arjuna’s dilemma in the Hindu text, “The Bhagavad Gita” or perhaps Job’s in the Book of Job.
• wrap, (like a prayer shawl)
• hair, (symbolic of Leonard’s (feminine) soul’s caring attitude like that of Mary of Magdalene’s for Jesus.)
• apple core, (the fruit of knowledge of good and evil……reason)
• lips,
• kisses,
• German Sheppard, (Martin Luther who initiated the age of enlightenment; the Reformation; and hence the re-birth of Democracy, women’s rights and so on; hence he is termed a “Sheppard”, like Jesus; “The Good Sheppard”. It was Luther who encouraged us to think for ourselves again and not just kow-tow to the Pope
• nails, (he and we all suffer; like the Buddha so often says and as the "cross" suggests.) "Luther taught that salvation is not earned by good deeds but received only as a free gift of God's grace through faith in Jesus as redeemer from sin. ...His theology challenged the authority of the pope of the Roman Catholic Church by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge[2] and opposed sacerdotalism by considering all baptized Christians to be a holy priesthood. (Wiki)
...In his later years, Luther became strongly Antisemitic which made Luther a controversial figure among many historians and religious scholars."(Wikipedia) (so he was a “good Sheppard” on the one hand; yet on the other hand perhaps a strong influence on the holocaust and hence maybe, the "collar of nails"; and the "German Sheppard").
• word, (Luther encouraged Germans to interpret scripture in their own way. Unfortunately that brought more "nails" for the innocent)
• rock, (The church of St. Peter: Leonard’s Luther suggests that the squabble over who owns the correct interpretation of the bible is a silly squabble. Interpretation is up to "you".
• secret love, (Unified Heart Tour) even today Leonard’s “Lover” is a secret unto himself.
• aeroplane (holy ghost?)
• ribbons of rain (human ideas): Water represents “ideas”; and Jesus could change “water into wine”; he could find the divine in the mundane; a bit like our friend Leonard.
• light, (Light/knowledge of divinity “comes from god above”. Listen to the song “Love itself” which I suggest was inspired by the writings of San Juan de la Cruz’s “Dark Night of the Soul” commentaries.)
• lonely Lane (mystic journey through that ‘Dark Night’),
• moon (Christ/moon the only son of the Sun/Father),
• empty room (soulless Leonard when “she” is absent, so to speak, and has swapped him (Leonard) for God/”The Nameless”, temporarily),
• dust “flecks” in “tumbled circumstance” (space/time), us/incarnated Being.
• old man (god),
• tune (songlines of god), (Leonard and Sharon Robinson’s music almost takes us there; to the sonoras songs of God. That is why we love that music they create.
• prisoner (of his longing soul/ghost). (Book of Longing)

...oh well; enough of my prattle for now ;-)
Mat.
Last edited by mat james on Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: The Master Song

Postby Dolmakalem » Sat Jan 15, 2011 8:41 pm

There is an old belief in Islamic mysticism. God gives mankind's soul a little of him. So, a mans soul was simply a part of god, then god sent it to world. God and man and soul always love each other. And soul longs for god, wants to unite again. Only handicap of this unition is the material. And you should give up all materials in the world. You shouldn't even think about love, which is "mortal love" or happiness or heaven. If you can do that you reach some kind of nirvana and when you die, you unite with god again. People who believe that had written poetries too. This song reminds me that. Those lines especially:

I loved your master perfectly
I taught him all that he knew.
He was starving in some deep mystery
like a man who is sure what is true.
And I sent you to him with my guarantee
I could teach him something new,
and I taught him how you would long for me
no matter what he said no matter what you'd do.

I think there should be a love triangle between god, soul and body. God sends soul to Leonard, Leonard seduces the soul with his German Sheppard and his aeroplane which is miraculous too. But soul always loves god perfectly and longs.
Last edited by Dolmakalem on Wed Mar 09, 2011 11:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Master Song

Postby imaginary friend » Sun Jan 16, 2011 10:31 pm

Thanks for posting an interesting and different interpretation of the Master Song, Dolmakalem. I've been drawn back to this thread to read/consider your suggestion several times. Even though interpretations of Leonard's work differ (driven by individual experience/beliefs, I guess), we all search for – and find – depth and relevance within the ribbons and layers of L's words.
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mat james
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Re: The Master Song

Postby mat james » Wed Jan 19, 2011 1:48 am

I think there should be a love triangle between god, soul and body. (Dlomakalem)
That is the message that I find in this song of Cohen's as well. Actually I find that message tucked away in most of his work.
God gives mankind's soul a little of him. So, a mans soul was simply a part of god,
nicely put, D. You have a way of making things sound simple and clear.

Mat.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.

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