An Interpretation of "The Faith"

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
Adam la Terre
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Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 7:18 pm
Location: Stratford Upon Avon, UK

An Interpretation of "The Faith"

Postby Adam la Terre » Sat Feb 13, 2010 10:24 pm

The subject of the poem, who it is addressed to is G-d himself in the emanation of Hesed, or love, this same emanation also encapsulates Abraham, who is acknowledged as the progenitor of Jews, Christians and Muslims, those who fight for every hill, who is also referred to in Issiah as "Abraham my lover", because of his love of reighteousness.

The first verse

The Sea so deep and blind
the sun, the wild regret,
the club, the wheel, the mind,
o love aren't you tired yet
the club, the wheel, the mind
o love aren't you tired yet

The sea which is referenced is the primoridal ocean which Genesis tells us was beneath darkness, hence blind, and the spirit of G-d moved over the face of the waters, blind can also be interpreted to mean without foresight, without foreknowledge.

The sun, as in "let there be light" the first thing that G-d created through to the wild regret, the final thing G-d created, ie humanity. G-d regrets this creation as mentioned in the flood narrative. How the vow HE made to Noah after the deluge constrains G-d.

The club, the wheel, the mind, three of the most important things that man has created to subjugate and kill his fellow man, these are the three physical creations that enforce differences between the nations, the final mention, the mind, leads into next verse and the three conceptual methods of difference and control.

o love aren't you tired yet, a refrain throughout the song and a call to G-d to destroy the word, to reunite all creation with the calm and prinmordial ocean, aren't you tired yet, ie wearied by the continuous barrage of human endeauver.


Second Verse

The blood the soil, the faith
these words you can’t forget
your vow, your holy place
o love aren’t you tired yet
the blood, the soil, the faith
o love aren’t you tired yet

The blood, the soil, the faith, these do, as a previous thread has noted, conjure up Hitler’s blood and soil rhetoric but also brings to mind the story of Cain and Abel, whose blood called up for justice from the ground, they are also taken together the concepts that define a human being, belonging to land, to family or to coreligionists.
It is important that it is these words that are repeated as the fifth line of the verse, a departure from the structure of the rest of the song which is a repeat of the third line as the fifth. This is to emphasise that it is these things that cause most suffering in the world, but that these things have become integral to the world, they cannot be altered without divine intervention, which the song continually calls for.
these words you can’t forget, because they are so often justified in G-d’s name he is so constantly reminded of them
your vow, perhaps, as mentioned the vow to Noah to not destroy the world, this is contrasted with your holy place, which is perhaps a reference to Jerusalem, or perhaps to Israel as a whole, either land or nation or state. Perhaps also a reference to the holy place that He holds, or should hold, within every human being. An invocation for G-d to consider the two together, almost in disbelief, your vow, yes fine, but what about your holy place, which is more important, o love aren’t you tired yet?
the verse concludes with the emphasis on the impossibility of change without divine intervention, we cannot make it on our own please intervene.

verse three

A cross on every hill
a star, a minaret
so many graves to fill
o love aren’t you tired yet
so many graves to fill
o love aren’t you tired yet.

A cross on every hill, a star, a minaret, clearly a reference to the three Abrahamic religions and also a logical extension of the third concept from the second verse, ie faith. But if there is to be a cross on every hill then there must also be a star or minaret on every hill and this is impossible, it would require a greater element of self control then humanity is possible off.
So many graves to fill, not just the living but all those who will ever live, a hint of disbelief at the vastness of the fields of death, o love aren’t you tired yet, how long can this continue for before you will intervene. A repeat, so many graves, but you can save these from being filled, are you as tired of this as we are?

Fourth Verse

The sea so deep and blind
Where still the sun must set
And time itself unwind
O love, aren't you tired yet?
And time itself unwind
O love, aren't you tired yet?

this verse returns to the beginning of creation and hints at the inevitable ending of creation, where still the sun must set, everything is returning to this position, this divine primordial calm, where time has been unwound, all the knots ironed out and everything will be straight again, everything will be equal and everyone will be the same. This is inevitable but when will it come, o love aren’t you tired yet? you can bring this to an end prematurely, help us o lord help us.

The whole song becomes a kind of prayer for redemption for restoration to innocence, a return to the garden perhaps, or even further before that, a return to the union of all principles.


That’s my take on the song anyway, I should be interested to hear what any of you cohenites think of it, or point me in other directions that I may have missed. I am thinking of studying the song, in greater detail of course, as one of my three critical analyses for my university entrance exam and would appreciate any other comments.
you never have to tell me what it is you really think of me, I'll just say I'mdoing fine, but do I have to dance all night. -Leonard Cohen

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