THE BUTCHER (song)

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby ~greg » Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:53 am

intermission:

I GO ROUND AND ROUND

Well. There is this that can be said about that:
The line has nothing whatsoever to do with reincarnation!

More than that, I can not say. Not because I've been sworn to secrecy.
But because there is nothing more to say about it. The fact is,
Leonard Cohen does belongs to a secret religious cult. And in it
they never refer to God by name. But only because none of them
has come up with a name for Him yet. In fact, they never refer
to anything to do with their religion by name. But only because
there is nothing to do with their religion. To put it in as simple
terms as is appropriate for it: they worship a gerbil.

Sometimes they don't even think of Him as God.
And yet still He does His thing. On His little Ferris-like wheel.
All day long. Day in, and day out.

Some find it rather soothing to watch.
And others find it amusing. And still others find it infuriating.

It takes all kinds to find a religion.
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby ~greg » Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:57 am

Leonard's "BALLAD" reminds me of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of The Christ".
In neither of them are there any scenes (except possibly at the very end)
that can only be interpreted as supernatural.
Which is, after all, the whole point of Mel Gibson's movie:
--- to make the story feel real.

Likewise,
The people knew something
like a god had spoken
- BALLAD
is, at most, noncommittal.

And
I came upon a butcher,
he was slaughtering a lamb,
- The Butcher
is as realistic a picture of the Pentateuch
as is "The Passion of the Christ" of the New Testament.

They are realistic. Or better, hyperreal.
Like "Naked Lunch".
The title was suggested by Jack Kerouac.
I did not understand what the title meant until my recent recovery.
The title means exactly what the words say:
NAKED Lunch - a frozen moment when everyone sees
what is on the end of every fork.
- William Burroughs
http://www.interpc.fr/mapage/westernlan ... intro.html
With "The Passion of the Christ", and the "Story of Isaac/The Butcher",
Mel Gibson and Leonard Cohen are rubbing their father's faces
in the naked lunches of their respective religions.

~~

When Mel Gibson was arrested a few years ago on a DUI,
and then made some anti-Semitic remarks to the arresting officer,
I, like many other people, felt a need to try to find out for myself
where his head was really at. And I may have pursued it
a little further than most people did.

In any case, I think that the Hutton-Mel Gibson father-son relationship
is fascinating. Particularly in comparison with Nathan-Leonard Cohen.

~~~

Consider the scene in Mel Gibson's movie "Apocalypto"
where (shortly after a mass human sacrifice) the Holcane
warrior Zero Wolf (the one with many animal and human
jaws on his arm and head) eases his dying son to death
by telling him to just go to sleep because then it won't
hurt so much. There isn't an ounce of sorrow in Zero Wolf's
response to his son's death. His response consists only
of rage against the one who insulted him by killing his son,
his property.

Likewise Leonard Cohen's "Story of Isaac".

And what's hysterically funny is the implicit lie in "The Butcher".

The father's response when he's asked why he's slaughtering the lamb is
Listen to me, child,
I am what I am
and you, you are my only son.
Which is supposed to be taken by the son to mean
that the father is slaughtering the lamb because he
is what he is, and therefore could never, ever ever,
sacrifice his only son!


As if the-lamb scapegoat was his idea, his decision!
As if he'd made this choice himself!

Which, we happen to know, was an utter lie.
It was God's whim that saved Isaac. Not his father's love.
Last edited by ~greg on Thu Apr 02, 2009 8:54 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby ~greg » Thu Apr 02, 2009 8:06 am

A RAUCOUS MAULING

"The Butcher" deserves more attention and respect than it usually gets.

It is not one of Zorba's women who will give you all she's got
if you just put your hands on her "I am what I am" breasts.
And it's not a child who will give you all its candy if you tickle it
into unconsciousness with the feather of Biblical reference chasing.

Above all I refuse to let the song die in the gutter
as just another jurassic 1960's drug song!

Just an hallucination?
Just a dream after all, Dinah?
'The Butcher' is Leonard's first song about drugs *,
but far from hyping the hypodermic, the whole lyric seems to be
a self-engendered hallucination, at times confused, at others pitiful.

"I think that drugs without a sacrament, without a ritual, without a really great understanding
of their power are dangerous," Leonard told Zig-Zag's Robin Pike in Septermeber 1974.

The voice sounds tortured, tired, troubled, struggling to get to the heart of some notes.
Marked "very slow" in the songbook, Leonard beings at about 80 beats per minute
but by the end he has accelerated into the mid-90s, perhaps to keep apace with
his desperate last verse. Aplty too, it's just Leonard and his guitar - "broken down".

In live performances during the mid-Seventies tours, this song was subjected
to a raucous mauling quite unlike any other Cohen song before or since.

- In Every Style of Passion, pg 38, Jim Devlin .
* - my emphasis.
The bit about beats is good. At least it brings me to the 3rd distinct thing
that the title, "The Butcher", refers to. Namely "Hasapiko" - "Butcher's Dance"
- aka "Zorba's Dance".
http://www.rso.cornell.edu/hellenic/gre ... ances.html

Starts slow. Then increases in tempo. ("Accelerando".
For tempo terms see eg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempo )

Devlin said that the tempo goes from about 80 bmp up into the mid-90s.
But using Adobe Audition I found that the range is actually 37 to 49.
And, in fact, 40-60 is what's called "very slow" (Largo or Lento),
whereas 70-80 is only "rather slow" (Adagietto).
But in any case the important point is not that Devlin lied (or guessed),
but that the tempo does, in fact, increase. By about 30%.

Here is a quick a|b comparison of 37 : 49 bmp:
http://relay.twoshakesofalambstail.com/ ... -tempo.mp3


Which should be compared to Zorba's Dance
(Movie Scene - High Quality)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXNApZ2ALiQ

The "songbook" that Devlin was referring to is the anthology
"Songs of Leonard Cohen, Herewith: Music, Words, and Photographs",
which came out in 1969 and contains tabs for all the songs on Leonard's
first two albums (plus "Priests").

And among the photographs in it is one of Leonard on
Hydra wearing a fisherman's sweater, pants, and boots,
and dancing what is obviously the Zorba dance, with a girl
who is wearing what seems to be a 1950s prom dress.

~~~
lc-zorba.jpg
lc-zorba.jpg (43.78 KiB) Viewed 6652 times

It is impossible that Leonard didn't identified with
Alan Bates in the movie "Zorba the Greek", 1964.
(As he may have identified with
Dirk Bogarde in "The Servant", 1963,
James Mason in "Lolita", 1962,
Jerry Lewis (perhaps) in "The Ladies Man", 1961,
and Marcello Mastroiani in "La Dolce Vita", 1960.
But those are other songs.)


It's also true, I think, that Rembetika and Hasapiko and Syrtaki ---
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sirtaki
a popular dance of Greek origin, created in 1964 for the movie Zorba the Greek.
It is not a traditional Greek folkdance, but a mixture of slow and fast versions
of the hasapiko dance.

--- enjoyed a revival in the early 1970s, when "Songs from a Room" came out.
(In any case I can remember spending many enchanted hours in a certain Greek
pizza place back then, as much for its authentic (not touristy) all-Greek
juke-box, as for its waitress, the owner's daughter, with her black leather
thigh high high heel boots.)

I really think that the title, and the 30% accelerando, are sufficient reasons
to say that "The Butcher" was probably conceived as, if not actually intended
to be heard as, a gesture in the direction of Syrtaki dance. But the fact that
Zorba was life-affirming, whereas The Butcher is more, like, anger-affirming,
still has to be accounted for.

So here's what I think. I think that, for Leonard, composing songs was often
a form of prayer. That is, he wasn't so much writing lyrics, as he was trying
to receive them, and write them down, as they came down from some place
above (or up from some place below.) But what I also mean is that in his songs
he often seems to me to be trying to break out of some kind of funk,
or spell, or downer. And composing songs is his way of working
on himself, his prayer discipline for personal transformation upwards.

And in the case of "The Butcher" Leonard was trying to work, or pray, his soul
up to where he could take over from his father, and carry out his last instructions
--"lead on, my son, it is your world" (now).
The day of the funeral was also his sister's birthday, but no one mentioned it.
Only later that night, when the two children tearfully confided to one another that they
had glimpsed their father in the open coffin at the funeral service, was it noted.
Cohen asked his sister not to cry because it was to be a day of celebration, *
but neither could escape the dominating image of the day: the face of their father,
as stern in death as it had been in life.
His father's death in January 1944 was the central event of Cohen's youth
and it provided a rational for his art. ...
"What was it like to have no father? It made you more grown up.
You carved the chicken, you sat where he sat,"
the narrator answers in The Favorite Game {-pg 6}
...
In the funeral scene in The Favorite Game, Cohen recounts his anger
at the loss of his father who died at the age of 52, *
the solemnity of his uncles,
the horror of an open coffin, and his mother's inability to face the tragedy.
For his part, Cohen later recalled that "there was repression...I did not discover
my feelings until my later thirties. I had to adopt the aspect of receptivity.
I was very receptive to the Bible, authority...*
Having no father I tried to
capitalize {on his absence}, resolve the Oedipal struggle, {create} good feelings." {-pg 17}
...
Various Positions - Ira Nadel
* - my emphasis
So Leonard was in fact trying to acquire the life-affirming spirit of Zorba The Greek,
Zorba (Anthony Quinn) > Why do the young die? Why does anybody die?
Basil (Alan Bates) > I don't know.
Zorba > What's the use of all your damn books? If they don't tell you that, what the hell do they tell you?!!
Basil > They tell me of the agony of men who can't answer questions like yours.
Zorba > I spit on your agony!
=================================

Other than the bit about beats, I think that the above quote
from Jim Devlin is a very lame excuse for an interpretation of "The Butcher".

Apparently Jim thought that Leonard had such a bad opinion about
the recreational use of drugs (vs their ritual sacramental use,
whatever that means) that Leonard wrote "The Butcher"
as his public service announcement along the lines of
the old "a mind is a terrible thing to waste" anti-drug campaign.

And its lyrics, and the "raucous mauling" that Leonard
gave it in live performances, apparently were, in Jim's
view, Leonard sacrificing himself as an good example
of a "self-engendered" "this is your mind on acid"
anti-drug ad spot!

(Although to be fair, it really isn't clear what, if anything,
Jim Devlin made of the mauling. He simply mentioned it.)

But I think not.
Although the song does mention an hypodermic needle,
and although "The Butcher" would be as good, or better, a title
than, say, "The Dealer", if that's what the song was really about,
-- I really do not think that that is what the song is about!

And while it may (or may not) be true that "the voice sounds tortured,"
(like the lamb's, evidently), "tired, troubled, struggling to get to the heart of some notes",
that wasn't because Leonard was high. He may have been high, but then he simply
would have used a different take if he didn't think that the vocal delivery had turned
out to be appropriate for the song. But he obviously didn't think it was appropriate
because it turned out to be a good example of the evils of getting high!
Rather he considered it appropriate because it sounds like what he wanted it
to sound like. Like he was trying to get to the heart of some matter.
And not just "to the heart of some notes"!

In the "Story of Isaac" and in "The Butcher" I am quite certain that
Leonard was trying to get to the heart his relationship with his father.
And with his Jewish heritage. And with his priestly obligations after
his father died. And with war. And with who "Leonard Cohen' is.
And with who he ought to be. And with everything else.
Oh come with me my little one, we will find that farm
and grow us grass and apples there and keep all the animals warm.
And if by chance I wake at night and I ask you who I am,
Oh take me to the slaughterhouse, I will wait there with the lamb.
- Stories Of The Street
Last edited by ~greg on Thu Apr 02, 2009 8:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby ~greg » Thu Apr 02, 2009 8:14 am

The door it opened slowly.
My father, he came in.
I was nine years old.
Leonard's father died when Leonard was 9.

And, in fact, Leonard's voice on "The Butcher" does not sound
"tortured, tired, troubled," or drugged. Nor does it sound like he's
just trying to get to heart of some notes, "like a drunk in a midnight choir".

What it does sound like is exactly what Leonard wanted it to sound like:
Like an angry, petulant, 9 year old boy.
And if you listen to it this way then every nuance falls in place.

Leonard's subtle imitation adolescent tremolo is interesting.
I don't think that Leonard had 100% control over it, but I do think that in this
song at least he was intentionally trying to use it for this expressive purpose.
It's strongest in a couple of places where the boy is quoting his father,
like a child imitating an old man. And it falls off when the child's anger
and self righteousness increases, as if he was growing up, and his
voice was changing, over the course of just a vew lines. Leonard did,
after all, have to grow up rather quickly when his father died.
(But I may be imagining this tremolo thing. All that I'm really
sure of is that Leonard tried to sound at least somewhat like a child.)

Certainly the live, raucously mauled version
http://www.twoshakesofalambstail.com/st ... utcher.mp3
makes it perfectly clear that the heart of the song isn't the silver needle.
It's the lines
Do not leave me now, do not leave me now,
I'm broken down from a recent fall.
Blood upon my body and ice upon my soul,
The fact that his father only left him because he died,
-- just isn't good enough reason for a child.
A child will get just as angry about it.

Which is why the live version gets that raucous mauling.
That mauling is the best proof imaginable that this is so
- that the song touches some extremely painful emotions
in Leonard that are way beyond anything possible to do with drugs.

He's not searching for notes. He's searching for "closure".
Zorba (Anthony Quinn) > Why do the young die? Tell me, why does anyone die?
Basil (Alan Bates) > I don't know.
Zorba > What's the use of all your damn books? If they don't tell you that, what the hell do they tell you?
Basil > They tell me about the agony of men who can't answer questions like yours.
Zorba > I spit on your agony!
Leonard could only guess at what his father's real responses would
have been like, based on what little he could remember of him.
But he isn't trying to guess about them in the song. The song may
start out as an accusation. But it doesn't proceed that way.
It does not become a realistic argument or confrontation.

The father gets only these 3 lines:
1) "Listen to me, child, I am what I am, and you, you are my only son."
2) "Listen, listen to me now, I go round and round, and you, you are my only child."
3) "Lead on, my son, it is your world."

And the way I imagine it, ---
Leonard (in his "later thirties") is visting home,
("to renew his neurotic affiliations.")

And he comes across an old photo of his father.
And the song is his thoughts as he's looking at it.

And the only response that the photo can give him
is to remind him that he is this man's son.
In an unpublished poem that celebrates his father, written on the Greek island
of Hydra, Cohen writes:
--No one looks like my father
--but me
--In the world I alone
--wear his face
--And here I am in places
--he never would have travelled
--among men
--who think I am myself ...
- Various Positions, pg 18.
Which is why the responses the father gives the boy
in "The Butcher" are so thin and stereotypic, almost cartoonist,
adding up to no more than: "you are my son".

And if it isn't realized that these are the responses of a ghost
(or photograph) to a 9 year old child, (which was when
Leonard's relationship with his father was frozen in time,)
then they might easily be mistaken as being cold and
patronizing and dismissive. They are not even lame attempts
to answer the boy's questions. It's as if the father existed
in a parallel universe.

And the questions are the questions of a child.
"How come the night is long" is not the kind of question
that a father can answer, or defend against!
It is much worse than "how come the sky is blue".

When I first heard this song many years ago I associated it
with Kierkegaard's father cursing God, and with Alan Arkin's
silent tantrum rant, in sign language, in an empty field in the movie
"The Heart is a Lonely Hunter". The song starts out as an
accusation against the father, (or against the father's generation
in so far as "The Butcher' is an epilogue to "Story of Isaac". )
But then it becomes a pure unfocused rage, like Brando's
in "The Wild One":
(Mildred > What're you rebelling against, Johnny?
Johnny > Whaddya got? )

...
The key element to children's questions is that they are a communication vehicle,"
explains Mary Mindess, professor of educations at Lesley University in Cambridge,
Massachusetts and founder and coordinator of the New England Kindergarten Conference.

"It's simply a way of trying to engage the parent in conversation."

Because of this, she explains, the answers you give aren't as important
as simply responding in a positive way. Sometimes it's easiest just to say,
"That's a good question."

When it comes to the interesting questions—it's tempting to launch
into a detailed explanation. But kids—like most people—enjoy short
answers and get bored if you lecture. From about ages 2 to 7,
kids are preoperational thinkers, which means they can't easily understand
abstractions or a perspective other than their own. So answering their questions
with a hypothetical, fact-filled scenario confuses them. Short answers are good.
But it's even better to answer a question through illustration.

Giving a brief - even if it's incomplete - answer to a question
is also a good way to start a dialogue. ... I try to keep my answers
to one short sentence and wait for more questions. This way,
I've learned a great deal about what Cole knows already and
(often hilariously) how a 4-year old reasons.
...
"There are a lot of questions that children ask that are about permission,"
explains Mindess. "Very often those questions have more to them than that.

At about 7 or 8, kids are concerned with 'everybody else goes,'
'everybody does this or that.' Answering these questions becomes
about sharing your values. If you permit no discussion on these issues
- by just saying no - the child doesn't have any values to share
with his friends when he explains why he can't go, do, or have."

I know what happens at all night parties and the urge to protect
Cole from the temptations - by screaming "Absolutely not!" and
locking him in his room till it's over - will be enormous, I'm sure.

Hopefully, I'll know by then that this question is an excellent opportunity
for me to engage him in discourse on the topic of teen substance abuse - ...

http://www.babyzone.com/toddler_prescho ... e-sky-blue
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby ~greg » Thu Apr 02, 2009 8:15 am

These lines in "The Butcher" addressed to his dead father,
and his father's one line response,
Do not leave me now, do not leave me now,
I'm broken down from a recent fall.
Blood upon my body and ice upon my soul,

Lead on, my son, it is your world.
must be compared to the following lines in "Night Comes On",
which Leonard addresses to his dead mother,
and her lengthy response,
I went down to the place
Where I knew she lay waiting
Under the marble and the snow
I said, Mother I'm frightened
The thunder and the lightning
I'll never come through this alone

She said, I'll be with you
My shawl wrapped around you
My hand on your head when you go

And the night came on
It was very calm
I wanted the night to go on and on

But she said, Go back, go back to the World
========================================================

The initial conceit in "The Butcher" is that Isaac
does not appreciate being spared if it means that
someone else will be slaughtered in his place.

In the context of war, this suggests deferment.
Although I don't think that "only son" is a common deferment.
(In "Saving Private Ryan" the deferment was "only surviving son".)
But as a Cohen, Leonard could possibly have gotten a deferment
from the Israeli army.

In any case, I'm pretty sure that the 1st stanza is about
the injustice of privilege, although I don't know how to
be more specific about it than that.

I am much more sure of the sense in which the 2nd stanza follows the first,
although at first blush it appears to be a pure non sequitur.
Well, I found a silver needle,
I put it into my arm.
It did some good,
did some harm.
The boy is speaking in that disarmingly matter-of-fact and
knowledgeable way that kids always speak about drugs
to their parents when they want to guarantee freaking them out.

He is being entirely honest and sensible about it.
"It did some good. / Ok, it did some harm." (- live version)

Well, his father was slaughtering a lamb.
And making lame excuses about it that were not
real responses to the boy's accusation.

So the boy simply tried to get a rise out of him. A simple tit for tat.
It may not have stopped the father from slaughtering the lamb,
but it was guaranteed to get some kind of strong reaction.

Moreover, If the boy sacrificed himself to drugs,
then the father's sacrificing the lamb in his place,
would become completely pointless.


The first two stanzas of "The Butcher" always reminded me
of the way my parents sometimes acted at parties. My mother
wanted my father to "nurse" just one drink the whole evening.
Whereas he had a tendency to nurse several dozen in a row.
And when he did, she would start smoking. Not that she wanted to.
But it made him furious. And that's why she did it. And I don't know
if it ever had the effect on him that she thought she wanted it have.

And likewise I don't know if Isaac sticking a needle in his arm
could have possibly have had the effect on his father that he wanted.
Most likely it would have just made him angry. But anger, at least,
is a more substantial response than Isaac had been getting.
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby imaginary friend » Fri Apr 03, 2009 5:43 am

Greg,

PHEW! Just finished this marathon. As usual, you make a compelling case (except for that time re. the Acapulco Gold/Lonesome Heroes thread). I'm going to read this at least one more time and delve into the links, maybe I'll respond then, but meantime, I am in awe of your research abilities!

You began with the news of your father not doing too well (at 93, he's already done pretty well), and ended with that wonderful anecdote about your partying parents. Thus you set your interpretation of The Butcher in a fitting frame.

Glad to see you here again.
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby mat james » Wed Apr 08, 2009 5:19 am

I can make a few suggestions, but that is all they can be, of course.
...Perhaps this will help a little or at least get the ball/soul rolling “round and round”.
Mat (Mephistopheles)
I have a problem. I really like Mat James.
But I really really really really really hate his approach to this song!
~greg

Hi ~greg, thanks for the compliment and the fire.
Well, the ball may have got rolling but it appears that I missed the goal posts!
Your sequence of responses make a lot of sense. Much of that which (references) you pointed out; your argument, I was unaware of. Thanks for the info and I am certain Chelsea will enjoy your efforts.

I re-read my Mephistophelian poison, and still find aspects mildly alluring. Ignorance can be bliss, as they say. ;-)
I really really really really really hate his approach to this song!
~greg
'hate'...? I would probably use a less emotional word like disagree......and yet that 'hate' burns sweetly in my shadow life.
8)
Mat bbgMephJ
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby ~greg » Sat Apr 11, 2009 11:41 pm

imaginary friend wrote:Greg,

PHEW! Just finished this marathon. As usual, you make a compelling case (except for that time re. the Acapulco Gold/Lonesome Heroes thread). I'm going to read this at least one more time and delve into the links, maybe I'll respond then, but meantime, I am in awe of your research abilities!

You began with the news of your father not doing too well (at 93, he's already done pretty well), and ended with that wonderful anecdote about your partying parents. Thus you set your interpretation of The Butcher in a fitting frame.

Glad to see you here again.
Thank you very much!

But I really don't want to leave the wrong impression about something.

My dad worked for the foreign affairs branch of the state department.
And excessive drinking, at diplomatic parties, was simply one of his official duties.

Other than that, although not himself Italian, he had a great love of all things Italian;
-- its history, opera, food. And of course wine. So he may have drunk a little too much
sometimes. But always purely out of an Italian love of life. And never just to drown
sorrows or anything like that.
~~~

I didn't try to frame my response in any way on purpose.
It's just that my father has been on my mind a lot lately,
which was why I started the way I did, and why that anecdote
came so easily. And it's also why I responded to this thread
in the first place. Which was because I have no doubt at all
that my father would have reacted in exactly the same way I did
to the attempted Christian interpretation of the Leonard Cohen
song that was going on here.

And why that bothered me so much, I may try to explain later to Mat.
He deserves that much. But for now I'll just say that it had nothing whatever
to do with it simply being an incorrect interpretation of a song.
~~

In my interpretation of "The Butcher" there was no projection
of anything of my own relationship with my own father. In fact
I can't think of any way to do that, if I wanted to.

But there may be an interesting parallel between
my father, and Leonard Cohen, in that they were
both 9 years old when their fathers died.

And on the night that my father's father died,
my father got to the hospital too late to visit with him.
Visiting hours were over. And so my father, 9 years old,
climbed up the fire escape, several floors, until the fire escape
ran out. And then he climbed up another couple of floors on the
facade of the building. And then he went half way around the
building on the ledge, until he came to the open window of his
father's room, and went through it.

I don't know if he was discovered there before his father died, or not.
But just a few years later he wrote this poem, which he kept -
MY FATHER

My father could not stay to watch me grow;
And so the universe collapsed for me.
Not all at once; for that enormity,
Too crushing for a little child to know

Its full import, grew in me down the years.
At first, I sobbed because it seemed I ought.
Not quite aware his gentle warmth would not
- Not ever more, assuage my childish tears.

All through my youth, I probed the memories
Of those who knew him for whatever scraps
Might flesh his image in my mind. Perhaps
My need was to complete myself - to seize
And hold some portion of his goodness and
His steadfastness as once I held his hand.

- Walter Wells
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby imaginary friend » Sun Apr 12, 2009 2:56 am

What a brave and determined person your Dad must be Greg.

The story about him climbing all over the outside of the hospital to visit his dying father when he was 9 is amazing! Then – while in his early teens I'd guess – he writes a poem about losing his father that is so simple and direct, so well-worded... so mature. As for his love for things Italian, hey – he surely chose a a culture that had its priorities straight.

Back to The Butcher for a sec. I did go to the links you provided, and everything feels right EXCEPT... for the Greek dancing. I've a sneaky feeling that it's mere coincidence that Zorba's dance is named 'The Butcher Dance'. And although the photo of Leonard with the (very intense) prom queen is exceedingly cool, I think it was just a snapshot of a young guy in Greece, doin' what the Greeks did. Where did you find it anyway? It's a wonderful photo!

I wish you and your Dad the best. When someone has been large in life, it's especially difficult to see them fading...
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~greg
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby ~greg » Mon Apr 13, 2009 4:01 am

imaginary friend wrote:
I've a sneaky feeling that it's mere coincidence that Zorba's dance is named 'The Butcher Dance'. And although the photo of Leonard with the (very intense) prom queen is exceedingly cool, I think it was just a snapshot of a young guy in Greece, doin' what the Greeks did. Where did you find it anyway? It's a wonderful photo!
It does temper somewhat that initial ecstatic pleasure I derived
from your kind words to know now that you either simply didn't
actually read what I wrote, or else you regard me as a common mountebank!

As I said: it is Leonard Cohen!

And I wasn't lying!

The photo is from "the herewith anthology" (as I call it)
which was mentioned last year, here:
viewtopic.php?f=5&t=12573&p=140179

It's listed on Jarkko's song books page here:
http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/songbooks.html
Songs of Leonard Cohen, Herewith: Music, Words, and Photographs

Lyrics and music to twenty early classic Leonard Cohen titles arranged for vocal and guitar/tablature almost identical to the guitar Cohen plays on the records; all songs of his first two albums (except The Partisan) and The Priests (never released). 30 pages of b & w photos (many of taken during the Hydra period) and two pages of information: Leonard Cohen written by William Kloman. 96 pages. Price 14,95 US$.

AMSCO Music Publishing Company, USA, 1969 and Music Sales Company, England. Recent printings available. ISBN 0-8256-2654-4.
My copy is from 1969, and it's the oldest thing I still have
(--since the atoms in my body are less than a year old,
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/stor ... d=11893583 )

Here's more from the same pages
(with minimal photoshop "healing"
of the page crossing, just to the right of the bottle)
lc-hydra.jpg
lc-hydra.jpg (123.4 KiB) Viewed 6222 times

~~~~~~~
I don't know when my father wrote that poem.
He was still writing at 93.

Here's a much later one of his,
-- about the saint you may or may not be named after --
OWED TO SAINT CECILIA

Chaste Cecilia, who will ever be
revered for melos and for sanctity,
deposed Apollo, honcho of the muses,
whose myth is simpler, while her own confuses.

But doubt, in dogma, need not lead to schism.
The organ bit is just - anachronism.
Her story goes (depending on the source)
That Caesar's hit men did their worst to force
her to embrace their false faith and eschew
the true. They even tried to barbecue
Cecilia in a real humungous fire.
It didn't even make the saint perspire!

The fuzz, dismayed at coming such a cropper,
decided to call in a proper chopper,
who laid his blade with potency unmatched.
Her semi-severed head remained attached!

Invoking Mars, the teed-off headsman then
against that stubborn neck swung once again.
The stroke, more powerfully struck than ever,
won no cigar. That head refused to sever!

Whack three! Head clinging still through life-blood's gush,
(a prototype of Whitman's hermit thrush?)
she sang, and preached, converting pagan neighbors:
the headsman first of all, whose future labors
(whatever they included) would, for starters,
exclude decapitating Christian martyrs.




- Walter Wells
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~greg
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby ~greg » Mon Apr 13, 2009 1:45 pm

I have to read more carefully too!

I.F., you didn't actually say you didn't think it was LC!
In fact, you actually said "the photo of Leonard ...is exceedingly cool"!

But then you said "I think it was just a snapshot of a young guy in Greece",
which was what I picked up on, especially when you went on to say
"Where did you find it anyway?", since I'd already said where I'd found it!

Anyway, "just a snapshot of a young guy in Greece, doin' what the Greeks did,"
is a worthy alternative.

It's just that I put a lot of stock in that tempo change.
Which was apparently Theodorakis' contribution.
As I quoted, from here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sirtaki
"Sirtaki or syrtaki (συρτάκι) is a popular dance of Greek origin,
created in 1964 for the movie Zorba the Greek. It is not a traditional
Greek folkdance, but a mixture of slow and fast versions of the hasapiko dance."

And now, from here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zorba%27s_dance
Zorbas ("Zorba's dance") is a song by Mikis Theodorakis, a Greek composer. ...
The song appeared in the film Zorba the Greek, for which Theodorakis wrote the soundtrack,
and became internationally famous and popular. It is now commonly played and danced to
in Greek tavernas in Greece and worldwide and exists as a kind of music trademark of Greece.

It is also known as "Syrtaki" which is a version of the traditional Greek hasapiko ("butcher's") dance .
Leonard landed on Hydra in 1960. And he stayed there, that time, for 7 years.
And Alexis Zorbas came out in 1964.

So, in the photo, it is possible he's doing the slow+fast version called "Syrtaki".
But in any case he's certainly doing some version of hasapiko ("butcher's") dance.
And so I've been looking, without success, for any musical-cultural anthropological
essay about the circumstances in which hasapiko was performed to see if it
already contained "the spirit of Zorba" that I've based my argument on.
Which is where I'll have to leave my argument in favor of an influence
of "Zorba" on "The Butcher" song.
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~greg
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby ~greg » Mon Apr 13, 2009 2:42 pm

Mat,
I remember once you said that
Some are comfortable sitting on the pew inside the church.
I am more comfortable under a tree, a few blocks away
where I can still hear the distant music, but in the sunlight and fresh air.

I remember that because when I was a kid and had to go to Sunday school,
I, too, would skip out, and get only as far as the top of the belfry, where I could be
alone, and read, and yet still hear the music. I believe this was the shepherding
instinct in us, Mat, and while I could never personally derive much consolation
from the sheep's religious constructs (such as the one about the hidden valley
in New Zealand where man has never stepped in it, nor slept with sheep,
nor slain, nor shorn ) nevertheless, if the sheep were praying instead for say
a killing on wall street, then I'm sure I'd feel a whole lot less inclined to want
to protect them.

It's important to me that you try to recover that equilibrium you once had, Mat,
because from just these few blocks away -- where I am -- out here in the sunlight
and fresh air -- your thesis that "Leonard is attempting to interpret Jesus/Christ
in the context of the Jewish mythic vision" is the most outrageously absurd
proposition I have ever heard in connection with Leonard Cohen. Not that it's
at all uncommon. And it's the general principle that bothers me, not your
particular implicit complicity in it. It does seems that many people really think
that inside every Jew is a Christian trying to get out. (How very sad of them
not to have Christmas and Easter and a saint's day every day of the year
to celebrate!)

But I know I have a hair-trigger reaction to certain phrases
which may not have been intended in the way I hear them.

Cohen has a Jewish heritage. And he has referred to Jesus.
And such elements occur frequently in his poetry. And if that's all
you meant, then it's simply true.

But then you got carried away with it. Far far way. And you led
the whole flock over the cliff with you.

Cohen writes poetry. Not theology.
He doesn't "try to interpret" one theological element
in terms of another. He doesn't construct systems.

But the misinterpretation wouldn't bother me if it didn't seem
to me to be part of something much larger. Namely, the idea
of "religious tolerance". Which has never struck me as a positive thing.
If somebody says they tolerate me, about whatever, I definitely
take it as an insult.

But I don't know what I'd prefer them to say.
That they fully, without qualification, literally rejoice in
(not "tolerate") the total diversity of their fellow humanity,
is too precious. I will just have to try to think of a better way
to say what I mean.

Maybe more later.
Cate
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby Cate » Mon Apr 13, 2009 2:51 pm

My copy is from 1969, and it's the oldest thing I still have
(--since the atoms in my body are less than a year old,
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/stor ... d=11893583 )

To me there's something very cool about this. When we share a room, little flakes of atoms fall from your skin, you breath out atoms from your mouth and I in return breath them in and then incorporate them into my own body. Some of you becomes some of me and some of me becomes some of you literally. You go outside and atoms that were once in birds, squirrels, rainclouds and egyptian pharaohs enter you and for a while become part of you. It's possible Greg that the glass of water I had this morning contained an atom in it, that once made up part of your spleen.
I also like the fact that we don't 'own' the basic pieces that make up our bodies - we just borrow/share them----

----

just coming back to the silver needle - for a second - I think I mentioned before that it made me think of quilting (although I might have taken that out) sewing together parts to make a whole - but maybe it refers to his fathers trade... (Mr. Layton once wrote about Leonard giving up poetry to become something to do with tailoring)

there are so many ways to see this...

the whole Christ, god, crucifixion thing - I'm not sure what Leonard's religious take would be on this but it's certainly a very famous father son story with a father demanding a great deal for his son and his son willing (even though he may not have wholeheartedly wanted to) to sacrifice himself for his fathers wishes.
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Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby mat james » Sun Apr 19, 2009 4:44 pm

“your thesis that "Leonard is attempting to interpret Jesus/Christ
in the context of the Jewish mythic vision" is the most outrageously absurd
proposition I have ever heard in connection with Leonard Cohen.”
~greg

The Guests
...And all go stumbling through that house
in lonely secrecy
Saying "Do reveal yourself"
or "Why has thou forsaken me?"

And no one knows where the night is going ...

Leonard Cohen
I love 'absurd' ~greg (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxj5fvHpCpc)
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyoWy-Ue ... re=related)

Regards, MatbbgmephistoJ
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Location: Australia

Re: THE BUTCHER (song)

Postby mat james » Sun May 17, 2009 5:03 pm

Chelsea/~greg,
I noticed that the butcher ("butchery") enters Leonard's work once more in
Book of Mercy # 41
“...Bind me, ease of my heart, bind me to your love. Gentle things you return to me, and duties that are sweet. And you say, I am in this heart, I and my name are here. Everywhere the blades turn, in every thought the butchery, and it is raw where I wander;”

"And in the case of "The Butcher" Leonard was trying to work, or pray, his soul
up to where he could take over from his father, and carry out his last instructions
--"lead on, my son, it is your world" (now).” ~greg

Cate suggests (on the BOM thread above quoted) that the "you" could be Leonard himself. But If I read your thoughts correctly, then I think that you would suggest that "you" is his father, again.
Am I accurate here?

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

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