meaning of the night comes on?

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
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meaning of the night comes on?

Post by kyoung » Mon Jul 25, 2005 3:51 pm

Hi guys,
I was looking over the lyrics of the Night Comes On, and wanted to know the true meaning of it. The first thing I thought of was death, fear and comfort. I found the word to this song to be very powerful. Can someone shead some light for me please.
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Post by Rob » Tue Jul 26, 2005 1:40 pm

Hi and welcome Kyoung.
Here is some comments that Leonard made about the song.

Interview 1985 (french magazine "Paroles et Musique")
"...In men's life the mother represents an authentic sense of protection, the life that strengthtens. In the second verse, there is that fight and this idea, "I'd like to pretend that my father was wrong. But you don't want to lie, not to the young"...the father represents this idea of a war forever fought. Then there is the marriage, which develops from a romantic idea, which we can't make last forever, to a human responsibility towards children, an ineluctable responsibility, even if these very children will move away. Then the verse, "Now I look for her always…" is in fact, and concerning my case, about a songwriter's work. Here there is this vision of the woman, neither the mother nor the wife, but another feminine presence that touches all the others and is responsible for the songs. "I lie in her arms, she says, When I'm gone, I'll be yours, yours for a song." It's the feminine Muse. The last verse deals with the street, with "going back to the world," with friends. I like this passage, "Yes, and here's to the few who forgive what you do, and the fewer who don't even care!" But obviously this cannot protect us from the idea of what has been lost and will never be back. So the singer is trying to come back his way but the mother, by saying to him again and again, "Go back, go back to the world," keeps him alive."
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Post by tomsakic » Wed Jul 27, 2005 10:26 am

I like how this song progress thru all degrees of his life. It starts with mother, who died in 1978 and in next year her ab/pre-sence was very strong in Leonard's life - Recent Songs were made for her, and this is on the very next album, obviously the result of the period of early 80s when LC had to recollect pieces of his life and career (book of psalms is also the result). Then in second verse he mention Egypt, and he was in Sinai War in 1973 (Lover Lover Lover and some other songs were written there), and late father, who died of war injuries as Leonard was a kid; and his absence (or non-presence) was the main force which built LC's personality. Of course, everybody who read Leonard's biography heard that father left him books and gun. He said once that gun was only safety in his life; and it also was taken away: the thief stole it from his mother's house in Montreal after she died. That's the very gun to which Joni Mitchell refers to in her song about Leonard.

It was a rainy night
We took a taxi to your mother's home
She went to Florida and left you
With your father's gun, alone
Upon her small white bed
I fell into a dream
You sat up all the night and watched me
To see, who in the world I might be

I am from the Sunday school
I sing soprano in the upstairs choir
You are a holy man
On the F.M. radio
I sat up all the night and watched thee
To see, who in the world you might be.

You called me beautiful
You called your mother-she was very tanned
So you packed your tent and you went
To live out in the Arizona sand
You are a refugee
From a wealthy family
You gave up all the golden factories
To see, who in the world you might be

Then it goes to religion, wife and children. Next verse is about Hydra: we have Leonard's cat, and Bill's Bar in Hydra harbour and his old friends who used to gather there.
It is very dark and deeply existential song, one of the best ever written to touch some deeper, non understandable level of our lives. I don't think there's other such song in the whole world. Oh yes, I adore Hallelujah, and The law, and Ten New Songs, but this one is special. The narrator wan't to go home (to dead mother? dead father? lost friends? lost wife? lost gun?), but his life is here: his dead mother keep to tell him "go back to the world". That's the song about divine, profound, and the life we must accept.
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Post by Shane » Thu Jul 28, 2005 12:59 pm

It really is a beautiful song. I love the live version. Must be my favorite LC song, especially for the part:

My son and my daughter
Climbed out of the water
Crying, papa, you promised to play
And they lead me away
To the great surprise
It's papa, don't peek, papa, cover your eyes
And they hide, they hide in the world

But there are so many nice lines in it like:

Yes, and here's to the few
Who forgive what you do
And the fewer who don't even care


Remember, my son, how they lied

ah, but you all know it...
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Re: meaning of the night comes on?

Post by pdmcd » Wed May 08, 2013 1:45 am

What beautiful, thoughtful answers. To these I would only add that Cohen is a very fine poet indeed, and the best poetry skitters away from definition.
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