The Window

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
holydove
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The Window

Postby holydove » Fri Aug 07, 2009 2:40 am

When I first heard this exquisite song, I thought it was probably a love song to a woman, and that still could be. . . but lately I've been wondering if perhaps it is about Noah standing at the window of the ark, waiting for a sign from the raven and then the dove; what causes me to surmise this is: first, the bibile story has Noah standing at the window for days and days, maybe even weeks, waiting painfully for the waters to recede; also the line about "the spear of the age in your side" because Noah is kind of shouldering the burden of this age of wickedness that prompted God to bring the flood; and the lines, "O chosen love. . . darling of angels. . . " because Noah was chosen by God to save the brood that he was saving, and he was beloved of God for being so noble and righteous. Also the lines about "lay your rose on the fire. . . in the arms of the high holy one. . " which could represent Noah's transcending the pain of the world and God's embracing of Noah because of his goodness. Of course, the song could be about a woman and about Noah.. . Anyone have any ideas about this?
Lilifyre
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Re: The Window

Postby Lilifyre » Fri Aug 07, 2009 6:19 pm

Holydove, I think you are probably right when you say: "Of course, the song could be about a woman and about Noah.." Like so many of Leonard's songs, this one seems to have mulitple layers. At first glance, you have a song of unrequited love between a man and a woman. Go a little deeper and you have the story of Noah, further you have something else all together. Finally, you get to the tiny kernal of universal truth at the center. As usual, Leonard uses imagery that will be understood by all, regardless of spiritual path. A Christian could get a very valid "Christ" message. A Jew might find the story of Noah and/or the Jewish ideal of Messiah. The concepts swirl and intertwine with each other.

This technique of layering is a common teaching tool of classical Jewish education...peeling away layers of meaning like you would peel the layers of an onion. Each as valid as the one before or the one after. Just another example of the genius of this man.

Thank you for pointing this one out to me. It's one I hadn't paid much attention to before.

Lili
Lili
"Well, that's my story
I admit it's broken and it's bleak
But all the twisted pieces fit
A 1000 kisses deep."
John Etherington
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Re: The Window

Postby John Etherington » Fri Aug 07, 2009 9:56 pm

I am almost certain "The Window" was written for a woman. I have a strong hunch who she might be, but it would not be appropriate for me to mention it.

Meanwhile, on the Noah theme: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-W7bC8FULgw

All good things, John E
Lilifyre
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Re: The Window

Postby Lilifyre » Fri Aug 07, 2009 10:23 pm

Oh John, I love that recitation. Leonard was so young then. I think I've posted in the comments on that video that he reminds me of a Bar Mitzvah boy giving his drosh (speech). That is another one of his poems that has many layers to it...Noah, sacrifice, Messiah, Christ...all interwoven and layer upon layer. He has such an innocence about him as he stands there reciting this beautiful "Prayer for Messiah".

Lili
Lili
"Well, that's my story
I admit it's broken and it's bleak
But all the twisted pieces fit
A 1000 kisses deep."
holydove
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Location: Connecticut

Re: The Window

Postby holydove » Sun Aug 09, 2009 12:36 am

John, thank you for the video; it's also on a DVD about Leonard, and I've been wanting to hear it again - it's gorgeous!
Too bad you can't say what woman The Window is about -I will respect the confidentiality, but if ever you decide it's okay to reveal, I'm all ears!
Lili, you make a good point about the kernel of universal truth; I suppose on some level we all have "the thorn of the night in our bosom" and "the spear of the age in our side"; also, about it turning into "something else altogether" - yes, especially if you contemplate how he is blessing the "continous stutter of the word being made into flesh" - not only Judaism but also every Eastern philosopy I know of teaches that the physical world emanates from a "word" or "sound vibration"; perhaps Christianity too; here we are getting into some truly "big" contemplations.

I didn't know that the "peeling of the layers" of meaning was a known tool of Jewish education, but it makes sense, thanks for pointing that out. . .

Alot more to say, but have to go now. . .
holydove
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Re: The Window

Postby holydove » Sun Aug 09, 2009 10:47 pm

I have another question: If The Window is about a woman, it occurred to me that the fact that she is standing by the window might be pertinent. So why is she standing by the window? Did he perhaps walk in on her as she was planning to jump?
Lilifyre
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Re: The Window

Postby Lilifyre » Mon Aug 10, 2009 1:13 am

holydove wrote:I have another question: If The Window is about a woman, it occurred to me that the fact that she is standing by the window might be pertinent. So why is she standing by the window? Did he perhaps walk in on her as she was planning to jump?
Holydove, "Why?" is exactly what the song asks. The next line says: "Abandoned to beauty and pride". To me that would indicate one who feels that love has flown "out the window" and left the person alone at the window with regrets for a lost love.

As for the concept of <<the physical world emanates from a "word">> , this is a universal metaphor for creation. It was refered to in Greek culture as "Logos". It is the beginning of one of the 4 Christian Gospels (sorry, I don't recall which one...Luke? maybe?..."and the Word was with God and the Word was God"...I think that's it.)

As to the "layers" and "peeling the onion", a similar explanation exists in moder phsychology known as the 4 Levels of Reality. This is a philosophy devised by Jean Houston, noted scholar, philosopher, and researcher in the field of human capability. The four levels of reality are: physical reality, psychological reality, mythic reality and essential reality. For a detailed explanation of these you can find it at the following site: http://sites.google.com/site/dianasgrov ... with-earth I studied at Dianna's Grove for several years and the owners, Patricia Storm and Cynthia Jones, use this philosophy. I just offer this as another example of ways of looking at things.

I offer another question about this song. The phrase "gentle this soul" is "gentle" a verb...as in "quiet this disturbed soul"...or an adjective...as in a poetic way of saying "this gentle soul"????????

Lili
Lili
"Well, that's my story
I admit it's broken and it's bleak
But all the twisted pieces fit
A 1000 kisses deep."
John Etherington
Posts: 2578
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2004 10:17 pm

Re: The Window

Postby John Etherington » Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:17 am

With Leonard's appreciation of country music, I wonder whether this song has some distant connection to "The Window"?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lngT2EMhdlo
Lilifyre
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Re: The Window

Postby Lilifyre » Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:30 am

John Etherington wrote:With Leonard's appreciation of country music, I wonder whether this song has some distant connection to "The Window"?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lngT2EMhdlo
I suppose it's possible, John. You know Leonard much better than most. The 2 songs have such a different tone to them, but who knows how or why Leonard would use the Jim Reeves song as inspiration. The more I learn about him, the less I think I really know. He certainly has written on many levels as I said in an earlier post. This may just be an additional layer.

Lili
Lili
"Well, that's my story
I admit it's broken and it's bleak
But all the twisted pieces fit
A 1000 kisses deep."
John Etherington
Posts: 2578
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2004 10:17 pm

Re: The Window

Postby John Etherington » Tue Aug 11, 2009 12:58 am

Hi Lilifyre,

I'm not suggesting that the two songs are in any way similar musically. However they both seem to suggest that the singer is seperated from his woman and longs to re-connect with her in some way. In each case, the woman appears to be out of reach (in Jim Reeve's case she stands by a window in her mansion). Interestingly, the Jim Reeves song includes the words "The Darkness", as does Leonard on "Recent Songs" in "The Gipsy's Wife" ("these are the final days, this is the darkness this is the flood").

As I've often said, I believe that "Recent Songs" is Leonard's masterpiece; not only musically, but for its lyrical greatness. This is the closest that Leonard got to writing metaphysical poetry. There is a remarkable shift from the graphic sexual imagery of "Ladies' Man" to the spiritual approach to women that we find on "Recent Songs". Throughout, there is a thematic sense of sadness and seperation. Yet, Leonard focuses on the intangible aspects of relationship, and the mystical union that may exist between him and his beloved. Take "Lady of Solitude" - "all summer long she touched me, she gathered in my soul".

Elsewhere, I have said that the use of the alchemical image of the "conjunctio spirituum" on the cover of "New Skin" suggests that Leonard was seeking the harmony of the masculine and feminine principles; not only outwardly, but also inwardly (i.e with his own anima). "Recent Songs" develops this notion. In the year prior to the release of "Recent Songs", Leonard's mother died, and it it seems that by returning to the type of music that his mother had known and loved, Leonard was also seeking an inner bonding with his mother.

All good things, John E
Parsifal
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Re: The Window

Postby Parsifal » Tue Aug 11, 2009 2:33 pm

I agree about R.S. being the masterpiece: you get the impression that a lot of detailed work and thought went into every aspect of it. A shame it seems to be one of his lesser-known albums.

Although I'd say it's his best album, I don't seem to listen to it that much: it demands a greater degree of concentration, even than most other Leonard Cohen albums. Maybe that's why it's not more appreciated? Not enough 'pop' music on there?
Lilifyre
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Location: Birmingham, AL, USA

Re: The Window

Postby Lilifyre » Tue Aug 11, 2009 3:43 pm

For a number of reasons, I don't view and/or evaluate Leonard's music either album by album or chronologically. Even tho I've listened to this type of music most of my life, I had no idea who Leonard Cohen was until the past year. Yes, I was familiar with Suzanne and Marianne since the 60s/70s, but only as songs done by other artists. I was a big fan of Joan Baez, PP&M, James Taylor, Judy Collins, Simon and Garfunkle, and of course, Dylan. It is only with the advent of modern technology...i.e. computers...that I have discovered the wisdom and magic of Leonard Cohen. The chronology of his body of work is non-existant for me. The stuff he wrote/performed in the 60s/70s is as new to me as his most recent works. I'm not looking at an evolution of ideas and styles.

Another result of embracing his work for the first time thru the current technology is I don't buy or even listen to albums. I purchase and listen to the songs, not as a part of a whole, but individually. When you relate one song to another based on which album they were originally part of, it is meaningless to me. That is neither good nor bad...just the way the music has come to me personally.

I definitely see Leonard's philosophy...his spirituality and religion, his morality...expressed in his songs in multiple ways. This is what I have referred to as the "layering" of meanings. The Window is a prime example of this "layering". At first glace, it is the story of a lost love, a woman searching from her window for a man who is no longer there, dwelling on her own regrets. But as you peel away the layers, it becomes so much more. At times it is a prayer. At other times it describes life in general. Still other times it is an examination of a spiritual quest.

The following verse describes the Kabbalistic Tree of Life:


Then lay your rose on the fire
The fire give up to the sun
The sun give over to splendour
In the arms of the high holy one
For the holy one dreams of a letter
Dreams of a letter's death
Oh bless thee continuous stutter
Of the word being made into flesh

At least that's how I see it. Perhaps you see other layers. All are correct.

Lili
Lili
"Well, that's my story
I admit it's broken and it's bleak
But all the twisted pieces fit
A 1000 kisses deep."
John Etherington
Posts: 2578
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2004 10:17 pm

Re: The Window

Postby John Etherington » Tue Aug 11, 2009 7:31 pm

Hi Llilfyre,

Many thanks for your response. I tend to be pretty much in agreement with your interpretation, here. I always sensed there was something Kaballistic going on in "The Window". I only know the Kabbalah through Warren Kenton (Z'ev Ben Shimon Halevi), but I think I can see what you mean. As I understand it, the four levels (in descending order) are Spirit, Intellect, Emotions, Body or (astrologically) Fire, Air Water, Earth. As Leonard desribes it, this would equate with Holy One, Word, ?, Flesh. Elaborate if you will, please! It's worth listening to Leonard's albums as whole works, as you get a different perspective. Right from the beginning, spiritual yearning is entwined with physical longing. This becomes noticeably apparent in "Recent Songs" and even more so in "Various Positions".

All good things, John E
imaginary friend
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Re: The Window

Postby imaginary friend » Tue Aug 11, 2009 11:09 pm

Hi John E. and others on this thread,

This is a very interesting and informative thread; it has inspired me to focus attention on Recent Songs again, since reading this and the posts on 'Use of Christian Symbolism...' threads.

Until I found this forum a couple of years ago, I was an avid Leonard-listener, but mostly self-taught. Most of the people I knew who enjoyed Leonard took him pretty much at 'face value' so discussion on layers of meaning seldom occurred. I appreciate the thoughtful posts and knowledge shared on these 'exploratory' threads. (I follow The Book of Mercy thread in the poetry section too, but I'm reluctant to post there – feel a bit out of my depth.)
John Etherington
Posts: 2578
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2004 10:17 pm

Re: The Window

Postby John Etherington » Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:16 am

Hi imaginary friend,

Many thanks for your post. I have to admit, that I don't fully understand much of Leonard's poetry, myself - even though I own all of his poetry books.

I don't know whether "Book of Mercy" really needs that much analysis. It's his personal book of psalms, and I found them relatively accessible. That's an essential purchase for Lilifyre, if she doesn't already own it!

All good things, John E

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