Book of Mercy #29-40

Debate on Leonard Cohen's poetry (and novels), both published and unpublished. Song lyrics may also be discussed here.
DBCohen
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby DBCohen » Sun Jun 08, 2008 5:05 pm

Illuminate his child’s belief in mightiness.
While typing this line earlier my thought on it was: children tend to believe in power; they see the adults, big and strong, and want to be like them; a child’s mind can easily be twisted to admire the wrong kind of power, the abusive kind, and wish to imitate it; the poet’s wish is for the child’s mind to be illuminated so as to grasp the worthy kind of greatness, not the wrong kind. He should be directed to the proper place of learning, a task the poet himself regrets to have failed in, and therefore turns to the power to which he directs this prayer to do it in his place.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby DBCohen » Sat Jul 05, 2008 7:11 am

It seems no more comments on #33 are forthcoming, so here’s the next installment:
II.34
You are with me still. Even though I have been removed, and my place does not recognize me. Even though I have filled my heart with stones. And my beloved says, I will wait a little while behind this curtain – no, I have waited too long. You are with me still. Though I scorched away the tears of return in the forced light of victory, your rebuke still comforts me, you signify yourself among the dangers. Saying, Use this fear to know me, fix this exile towards my return. Though I am unwept, it is your judgment parches me. Though my praises for you are under ban, it is the balance of your mercy. And you are with me still. Saying, Clear me in your troubled heart. Saying, I will come to you. Saying, I am here. Though I add membrane to membrane against your light, and heap up cities on the husk of your rebuke, when the sun and the moon are shining in the other pan, and you advance me through the solitude by such a kind degree, and you create the world before my eyes, and the one who hides in self-disgrace cannon say Amen, O slow to anger, you are with me, you are with me still.
In this very beautiful piece we find once again many of themes and images encountered earlier in the book: the wish for repentance, the existential anxiety, being distant and close, exile, mercy and so on. Here are just a few comments, leaving out much more that can be said about it.

and my place does not recognize me – this is one part of a verse which appears twice in the Bible; Psalm 103:16 (quote starts from v. 15): “Man, his days are like those of grass; he blooms like a flower of the field; a wind passes by and it is no more, its own place no longer knows it.”; and Job 7:10 (quoting a few more verses): “(1) Truly man has a term of service on earth; His days are like those of a hireling – (2) Like a slave who longs for evening's shadows, Like a hireling who waits for his wage. (9) As a cloud fades away, So whoever goes down to Sheol does not come up; (10) He returns no more to his home; His place does not know him.” How about that for existential anxiety? It is like something out of a nightmare, not being recognized in your own place. And by the way, the fact that LC uses the verb “recognize” here, seems to show that he is familiar with the original Hebrew; it is the closest translation of the Hebrew verb, although none of the English translations I checked uses it.

And my beloved says, I will wait a little while behind this curtain – Here we go back once again to #3, and the Torah as the hidden princess calling her lover from behind the curtain (also #12, 14). We had curtains, veils, walls, fences, and now we also have membrane, all things that block the poet’s view, coming between him and his goal.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby DBCohen » Wed Jul 09, 2008 6:39 am

So, no takers? Hmmm… Has everybody lost interest? Or is everyone distracted by the summer heat and the world tour? But what about the good people Down Under?
"Command of what, there's no one here
There's only you and me --
All the rest are dead or in retreat
Or with the enemy."
Well, perhaps that’s going a bit far, but those lines did come to mind.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby Cate » Wed Jul 09, 2008 4:17 pm

Hi Doron

I also think that this is a very beautiful piece - but there are parts of it that I get stuck on.
At this point I have more questions then concrete thoughts.
Though I scorched away the tears of return in the forced light of victory, your rebuke still comforts me, you signify yourself among the dangers.
Scorched - why scorched, it's significant but I don't know why. Forced light of victory - forced light - that god has imposed his will? The narrator has had no choice?
your rebuke still comforts me - why does being rebuked comfort him - does this give him some kind of false sense of free will?
I think I might actually get the last 6 words.

Right now when I read this sentence, this is the image in my head - A man standing there refusing to cry while god gives him trouble (like a child stands in front of his mother after almost falling off the banister - glad she's there even though he's getting hell and too prideful to cry and admit she was right )

Cate

oh p.s. I think Mat might still be in the bush.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby DBCohen » Wed Jul 09, 2008 5:42 pm

Cate,

Indeed, some of these verses can be somewhat obscure, but let me tell you how I see it. The theme of this piece – and one of the main themes of the whole book – is repentance. The narrator feels he was out of touch with the tradition, and wishes to embrace it once again, counting on God’s mercy to be absorbed back (that’s on the one level; then there is the deeper mystical level in which “mercy” is interpreted in Kabbalistic terms; and there’s more). The verse in question - Though I scorched away the tears of return in the forced light of victory, your rebuke still comforts me, - probably refers to the time when he was out of touch, and was even fighting against going back; that’s why those violent terms are used. Perhaps the image is borrowed from his life as a singer: standing on stage and being blinded by the floodlights. Still, he feels this light was forced, and it scorched the tears that might have led him on the path of return; his victory was a false one. That’s also why he feels the rebuke comforts him – because it leads him back where he belongs. The following verses eco this same notion, I believe.

And yes, Mat must be away from his keyboard, otherwise he would have posted. Thanks for pointing it out.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby Steven » Thu Jul 10, 2008 4:01 pm

Hi Cate and DB,

About "scorched away the tears of return," here's another thought. Sadness, for
Leonard, artistically was (is) an important deity in the pantheon of muses. Seems
that its position in the hierarchy of deities has declined. This, for an artist,
can be a difficult thing to have happen. People, generally, can find change
discomforting, especially when it can threaten an artistic means, or be close
to the heart of really important personal issues. So, there is the word "Though,"
indicating the tension of letting go of the tears, consistent with the tension
he may have felt. Sadness and "tears," are commonly thought to be things to
be avoided. Not necessarily so, though, for an artist who finds art in not
running from the "what is." Also, less so, generally, for those who truly
engage in meditation practice (as Leonard did) that puts one at a more
direct engagement with the present moment, including the experience of
sadness, whenever that is the "is" that is presenting itself. The "return"
would seem to be a fulfilment of both biblical promise (to an extent)
and the ripening of the fruit of meditative experience (in that the
letting go of the tears, albeit difficult though it is, is consistent with
a "not clinging" practice engendered through meditation). The forcing
can be seen as an expression of tough love, comforting in that the
recipient feels that he has not been abandoned (by a father figure,
G-d and/or meditative practice).
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby mat james » Tue Jul 15, 2008 2:37 pm

Yes, home today, replenished and pleased to be back from the bush and with you all again.
"I have so many stories to tell you" (Zorba)
But for now, on to our sweet task:

• your rebuke still comforts me, you signify yourself among the dangers. Saying, Use this fear to know me, fix this exile towards my return.
• Though my praises for you are under ban, it is the balance of your mercy. And you are with me still.
• Saying, Clear me in your troubled heart. Saying, I will come to you. Saying, I am here.
• and you advance me through the solitude
• O slow to anger, you are with me, you are with me still.
"Use this fear to know me, fix this exile towards my return."
It seems the narrator has gone through a period of being an apostate for awhile, an independent searcher beyond the comforts and frustrations of inherited ways. Not only has he moved away from the family myth but he is also experimenting with the concept of the non-existence of god. A self-imposed “exile”. An experiment and adventure into internal, objective dualistic debate. (Considering faithlessness).
“Saying, Clear me in your troubled heart. Saying, I will come to you. Saying, I am here.”
His faith (and his god) seems to think he can handle this perspective (of perhaps a form of) atheistic existentialism.
“and you advance me through the solitude”
This position of experimental faithfulness is a cleansing adventure into isolation; “solitude”. And he finds, at the end of the thought process that “you are with me still”. He has not been rejected or abandoned for being inquisitive and objective with regard to the various positions the mind can take on the god concept.

For me, this is a verse of affirmation. The narrator (Leonard) seems to be saying that it is OK by god to exercise free will of the mind and alternative perspectives on being and non-being. The mind is a beautiful instrument: so use it.

Matj
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby DBCohen » Fri Jul 18, 2008 8:53 am

Mat,

Welcome back from the wild.
mat james wrote: For me, this is a verse of affirmation. The narrator (Leonard) seems to be saying that it is OK by god to exercise free will of the mind and alternative perspectives on being and non-being. The mind is a beautiful instrument: so use it.
It's not that I disagree with your statement, but I'm not sure where do you find it in this specific piece.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby mat james » Fri Jul 18, 2008 11:28 am

Though my praises for you are under ban, it is the balance of your mercy. And you are with me still.
Hi DB,( Steven, Cate and all.)
I am reading between the lines, interpreting from a holistic perspective, which is to say that I am making a wild guess! :D
“Though my praises for you are under ban”
The “ban” I assume is self imposed.
“Even though I have been removed, and my place does not recognize me”
…again, I interpret this removal as self imposed.
“I scorched away the tears of return in the forced light of victory,”
Here he seems to be suggesting (to me) that he held his distant (atheistic/buddhistic) view of things even though it hurt to do so. I get the feeling that he is referring to the nihilistic tendencies of the ultimate Buddha moment, ie; that acceptance/view that there is no soul and all amounts/dissolves to dissipation, fading into an egoless nonentity of non-being and non-suffering.

In his “zen” encounter(s) he must have toiled with this principal of soul and god-annihilation.
“Though my praises for you are under ban, it is the balance of your mercy. And you are with me still. Saying, Clear me in your troubled heart. Saying, I will come to you. Saying, I am here. Though I add membrane to membrane against your light,
… and you advance me through the solitude…”
so, paradoxically, strangely, even in the darkest hours of buddha enlightenment,
"you are with me still".

In a way, via our own personal dhamma,the buddha within enlightens; then god moves in for the rescue!
(...and since Buddha was a Hindu to the core, I am sure he would be O.K. with this further transcendence into Brahma/God.) It is a leap from eternal non-being into Eternal Bieng ; probably a Hindu paradox.

My interpretation is a bit of a leap. But there you go.

Regards, Mat.
Last edited by mat james on Wed Jul 23, 2008 9:47 am, edited 2 times in total.
"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: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby mat james » Tue Jul 22, 2008 3:11 pm

More food for thought? (another "long shot")
“Though I am unwept, it is your judgment parches me.”
Perhaps a reference to the famous short line of the New Testament, “Jesus wept”.
It makes me wonder whether Leonard (the narrator) feels capable of the sort of empathetic/compassionate love that Jesus was capable of below (“See how He loved him!”).
<< John 11 >>
New American Standard Bible
(http://nasb.scripturetext.com/john/11.htm)

…Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”
28 When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him.
30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”
Leonard often refers to Jesus. He seems to identify with him in some songs;
“and Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water,
…and all men will be sailors then…”
another “black sheep” of the Jewish flock. But he struggles to love god and man to the same degree as Jesus appears to in this verse above.
Perhaps a good Buddhist as I assume at times Leonard tried to be, is not meant to get so emotionally involved; and this near autism may have burned and "scorched ” (Cate) his questing soul.?

Mat J
Last edited by mat james on Wed Jul 23, 2008 9:59 am, edited 4 times in total.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
DBCohen
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby DBCohen » Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:06 pm

Mat,

Thanks for all the fascinating material. Sorry I can’t answer properly, because I’m frantically preparing to go half way around the world to see LC live on stage. LuCca here I come! And since I’m planning to be away from the Net and the Forum for almost three weeks, I thought I’d leave you with another installment, and no comments (it’s so beautiful, it could make you weep).
II.35
I turned you to stone. You stepped outside the stone. I tuned you to desire. You saw me touch myself. I turned you into a tradition. The tradition devoured its children. I turned you to loneliness, and it corrupted into a vehicle of power. I turned you into a silence which became a roar of accusation. If it be your will, accept the longing truth beneath this wild activity. Open me, O heart of truth, hollow out the stone, let your Bride fulfill this loneliness. I have no other hope, no other moves. This is my offering of incense. This is what I wish to burn, my darkness with no blemish, my ignorance with no flaw. Bind me to your will, bind me with these threads of sorrow, and gather me out of the afternoon where I have torn my soul on twenty monstrous altars, offering all things but myself.
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby mat james » Mon Aug 18, 2008 9:38 am

:?: :?: :?:
I've run out of steam.
What about you people?
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Manna
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby Manna » Tue Aug 19, 2008 3:37 pm

yeah.
I couldn't tell if I'd run out of steam or if I just wasn't connecting with part II as well as I did with part I. But either way...
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby iris wigle-cutforth » Sat Aug 23, 2008 4:13 pm

Mercy is absolutely beautiful and inspiring. Duffy - Mercy is trash in comparison. Well, she is singing to the Devil trying to do a Pam Anderson imitation which seemed to be the best dress to use when one is trying to get one's knees to ask for release from being part of the Seventh World Power, that is, that Duffy playing Pam is Estelle Parsons with royal dna from the Houses of Tudor, Stuart, Windsor and Russia. She told a ghost to bugger off in Buckingham Palace once when she was five years old and it seemed life was all down hill after that with all sorts of bad luck. Duffy just seemed like so unconfrontational...not at all like Janis Joplin nor a thousand other faces.
But, Mr. Cohen's talent for seeking forgiveness is right up there with King David. We have something in common. I don't write poetry of the Psalms but I do seek forgiveness as a carrier option and have made music of the following Psalms 110, 42,47, 118, 137, 150. My goal is less worthy. I am pre writing a movie called, Deborah and Barak (Judges 4). It is a kinda Sinead O'Connor thing, a young woman rises up out of the ashes to seek justice and goes to all the gates of Israel and stones and hangs them high. No one seem to want the job and they didn't seem to qualify for the job. God blessed her and gave her the wisdom to become the only female judge. (Maybe no male wanted the job or were considered by God to evil and too bloodguilty to appoint by Holy Spirit). Another judge joins her and together they fight the Syrians to bring back the women from sex slavery. I haven't composed a song for Judges 4 as written in the Bible. I can do it...just not yet. I have a Deborah and Barak song in ancient flute but when I think of an accordian it switches to the Godfather sound...very Italian. Not THE Godfather song that one goes with LoveStory and Be Steadfast, Unmovable Song 10 JW songbook Sing Praises to Jehovah (Love (LoveStory) Punishment (The Godfather) and Mercy and Forgiveness (Song 10) 3 song package 1967). Deborah and Barak just sound Godfather like...Italian with accordian). I haven't written the script for Deborah and Barak...it is just sitting there somewhere in the back.
Back to you. I am inspired to pick pen up in hand and go back to the Mercy theme. Well, chasing off the Syrians isn't exactly mercy...for them...
Thank you for sharing. Deb and Barak have been shelved for almost 20 years. I should hang around your office more often.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Postby mat james » Tue Aug 26, 2008 11:46 am

bind me with these threads of sorrow
I can relate to that.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.

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