Came so far for beauty

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
camesofar
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Came so far for beauty

Postby camesofar » Sat May 01, 2010 11:56 am

To me that song and the record it's on (Recent Songs) is the centre of Cohen's writing.

It is Cohen's John 3:16.

Henrik
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Inna
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Re: Came so far for beauty

Postby Inna » Sat May 01, 2010 3:05 pm

Hello Henrik

Welcome to the forum!

What do you mean?
"climb on your tears and be silent, like the rose on its ladder of thorn."
Paris 07/07/09, Tel-Aviv 24/09/09, Salzburg 27/07/10
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surrender
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Re: Came so far for beauty

Postby surrender » Sat May 01, 2010 11:20 pm

Wiki wrote:
John 3:16 (chapter 3, verse 16 of the Gospel of John) is one of the most widely quoted verses from the Christian Bible,[1] and has been called the most famous Bible verse.[2] It has also been called the "Gospel in a nutshell"[3] because it is considered a summary of the most central doctrine of traditional Christianity:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

– John 3:16 (New American Bible)
1988: Amsterdam 1993: Nijmegen 2008: Amsterdam|Oberhausen 2009: Cologne|Antwerp|Barcelona 2010: Ghent (8/20-21-22)|Lille
2012: Ghent (8/12)|Amsterdam (8/21-22)|Verona|Lisboa 2013: Antwerp|Brussels|Rotterdam|Amsterdam


After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music...
(Aldous L. Huxley)
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Inna
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Re: Came so far for beauty

Postby Inna » Sun May 02, 2010 11:11 am

Hello Surrender

I have certainly consulted Wikipedia before posting here. Thank you. I still do not see the connection though.
"climb on your tears and be silent, like the rose on its ladder of thorn."
Paris 07/07/09, Tel-Aviv 24/09/09, Salzburg 27/07/10
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surrender
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Re: Came so far for beauty

Postby surrender » Sun May 02, 2010 12:34 pm

Hi Inna,
I don't know much about Christianity but maybe is the comparison to John 3.16 (for a Christian) an expression of the highest appreciation...
Actually it's up to Henrik to give an answer.

Sincerely,
Jarmila
1988: Amsterdam 1993: Nijmegen 2008: Amsterdam|Oberhausen 2009: Cologne|Antwerp|Barcelona 2010: Ghent (8/20-21-22)|Lille
2012: Ghent (8/12)|Amsterdam (8/21-22)|Verona|Lisboa 2013: Antwerp|Brussels|Rotterdam|Amsterdam


After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music...
(Aldous L. Huxley)
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Inna
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Re: Came so far for beauty

Postby Inna » Sun May 02, 2010 1:32 pm

Hello Jarmila

We'll wait for his answer then :)
"climb on your tears and be silent, like the rose on its ladder of thorn."
Paris 07/07/09, Tel-Aviv 24/09/09, Salzburg 27/07/10
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TipperaryAnn
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Re: Came so far for beauty

Postby TipperaryAnn » Sun Jul 11, 2010 6:44 am

Henrik says : To me that song and the record it's on (Recent Songs) is the centre of Cohen's writing.
I have been listening to this underated song a lot lately and just came across this post. Yes, it does seem central to leonard's life, to sum it up, to be his manifesto. He has spent his life in pursuit of Beauty - in prose, in poetry, in song lyrics, in a quest for some ideal woman. He has "come so far" and achieved so much, yet he is acutely aware of having "left so much behind", his patience, his family , his "masterpiece unsigned"; (does this refer to the great novel he might have written had he not entered the music business? )
The tone seems to be one of regret, as if what he has achieved does not compensate for what he has lost, as if he could have lived a quieter, simpler life with more stable relationships if his pursuit of Beauty had not driven him. But then we would not have all these wonderful songs...
Forget your perfect offering -
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Inna
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Re: Came so far for beauty

Postby Inna » Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:13 am

So the the allusion to John 3:16 is that Leonard gave "his only Son", i.e., he sacrificed all these things he mentions in the song, and his "masterpiece unsigned" for Beauty, i.e., for the world? Is that what you mean Ann? It makes sense to me.
"climb on your tears and be silent, like the rose on its ladder of thorn."
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TipperaryAnn
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Re: Came so far for beauty

Postby TipperaryAnn » Wed Jul 14, 2010 9:58 pm

For the John quotation I'm depending on what others have posted here, but the idea of sacrifice seems strong; I have a feeling that Leonard, despite his success as a singer/songwriter, especially recently, would still prefer to be acclaimed as a great writer. In fact, he probably thinks all this fan adulation is too late, maybe even ridiculous, and would prefer if lots of people had bought his novels and enabled him to make his living as a writer !
Forget your perfect offering -
There is a crack in everything...
holydove
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Re: Came so far for beauty

Postby holydove » Thu Jul 15, 2010 4:27 pm

I can't say what Leonard would prefer, but I'm pretty sure this much is true: Leonard Cohen has been acclaimed as a great writer (for his poetry & for his songs). The adulation began decades ago (only the numbers have changed). The world would have been deprived of a magnificent phenomenon if Leonard Cohen never sang in public (he has said that he always sang, since childhood). And it's never too late for love. And I don't think Leonard Cohen would ever see love & appreciation of his Art, as "ridiculous".
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TipperaryAnn
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Re: Came so far for beauty

Postby TipperaryAnn » Fri Jul 16, 2010 4:07 pm

holydove wrote: The world would have been deprived of a magnificent phenomenon if Leonard Cohen never sang in public.
Agreed, holydove. Since he wrote "Came so far for beauty" Leonard may have come to terms with success in a different field from the one he started out in. And however he feels about it, we have certainly gained from his venture into the music business !
Forget your perfect offering -
There is a crack in everything...
holydove
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Re: Came so far for beauty

Postby holydove » Fri Jul 16, 2010 5:39 pm

I think that this song is more about a spiritual journey, than about success (or lack of it) in the world, or maybe it's about both.

I think the term "beauty" might refer, probably simultaneously, to several things: it might refer to the narrator's longing to create beautiful works of art to express what is in his heart; & I think that Leonard's art is totally interwined with his spiritual quest, which brings me to the following:

"Beauty", in the teachings of Kabbalah, is one of the ten Sefirot (which, to put simply & briefly, are a sequence of energy fields, representing qualities one needs to absorb & master, if one wishes to connect with the Light - the ultimate source of creation). The sixth & central Sefirah is called Tiferet/Beauty, & is also called Rahamim/Compassion. Tiferet/Beauty is born from the union of the 2 previous (meaning above them on the Tree of Life) Sefirot - Hesed/Love & Gevurah/Power (also known as Din/Judgment). Hesed/Love & Gevurah/Power - also referred to as Mercy & Judgment - are considered two poles of the divine energy, & for the world to function properly, both are needed - they balance each other, which is why Tiferet/Beauty is also considered the trunk of the sefirotic body - a central channel or balancing force. Tiferet/Beauty is also a descendant (or, shall we say, grandchild!) of Hokhmah/Wisdom & Binah/Understanding (because those two gave birth to Love & Power). Also, through the Sefirah Tiferet/Beauty, the Light of the Creator is channeled downward & the spiritual aspirations of human beings are channeled upward; Tiferet/Beauty is considered the HEART of the Tree of Life (which is composed of the 10 Sefirot) in Kabbalistic teachings.

So, I think the key aspects here, in terms of what "Beauty" may represent in LC's lyrics, would be: a balance between Love & Power, or between Mercy & Judgment; the channel through which the Light of the Creator & humankind unite with each other; the very heart of the Tree of Life; & the union of wisdom & understanding; also, interesting to note is that the other name for Tiferet/Beauty is Rahamin/Compassion.

My sense of it is that Leonard's Art is both a means of seeking & an expression of, his search for, among other things "Beauty" . . .& I think the lyrics of Came So Far express, that, as well as all that he has left/sacrificed/etc. I think "masterpiece" might refer simply to his "life" - meaning his life in "this world"; his domestic/family life; his life in the physical/earthly realm; & his spiritual life - all of it, as they are all interwined. That "masterpiece" being "unsigned" might signify that there is much that is unfinished/unresolved in his "worldly" life, because he kept "leaving" it, in order to pursue "Beauty", in all of its multiple facets (art, love, spiritual balance, etc.); it could also mean that his spiritual quest (which is not really separate from his "worldly" life) is still unfinished.

It's also interesting that Came So Far comes right after The Window, which also seems to have significant Kabbalistic references.
chocaholly
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Re: Came so far for beauty

Postby chocaholly » Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:32 am

Has there been any siting for a possible Emily Dickinson reference?
Her poetry is especially renowned in the world of literature, and Cohen being a poet before his musical career would have heard of her, possibly studied or read her work.
The poem I think it makes reference to is "I died for beauty"
in which she details a relationship between truth and beauty.
In the same respects as Dickinson's poem, Cohen is possibly talking about his art, his creation, and how he has sacrificed in order to devote his life to creating art, or being apart of the world of art and the praise he would gain from his creations.
"Masterpiece" is defiantly a direct link to this.
Then he battles between his affections, whether to be gentle, and virtuous as to belong within that realm of art, through religion or goodness, and when this fails he resorts to his darker side "i changed my clothes to black", and he spurns, possibly with his words, other people, as to put himself on top. He plays god to himself, trying to find a stance, or connection, or even to try and intimidate "beauty", and rule over it.
But it doesn't work like this, as Beauty can be created, but never tamed. And so the concept remains "virgin" and untouched. It's an unachievable quality to posses.
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david birkett
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Re: Came so far for beauty

Postby david birkett » Wed Apr 03, 2013 1:35 am

Note that the 'masterpiece' is 'unsigned', not unfinished. Discuss.
The Ogre does what ogres can,
Deeds quite impossible for Man,
But one prize is beyond his reach:
The Ogre cannot master speech.
holydove
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Re: Came so far for beauty

Postby holydove » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:07 pm

I think this song's lyrics are mainly concerned with Leonard's relationship with his muse. He describes the extreme strategies with which he has attempted to summon her, but she seems unwilling to cooperate. Perhaps it is the muse who refuses to grant her signature to the masterpiece; and/or perhaps the muse refuses to grant him permission to sign it himself.

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