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reading of 'stranger song'

Posted: Wed Apr 23, 2003 4:55 pm
by peter danielsen
Im writing a paper on Leonard Cohen. Does anyone know where I can find a reading of 'stranger song'

Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2003 9:40 pm
by beatrice
I don't know where a scholarly analysis of that poem is, but I do love it. The line about reaching for the sky just to surrender reminded me of a man I once knew.


Posted: Tue Apr 29, 2003 8:27 pm
by peter danielsen
I will have completed my reading of "Stranger Song" soon. If Jarkko finds it suitable I shall be glad to donate it for the files


Stranger song

Posted: Wed Apr 30, 2003 4:12 am
by witty_owl
I always thought that the 'Stranger Song' is a metaphor for all young men who gamble for the stakes of 'love'. In the court of love we are all strangers to each other. :?:

To be a dealer

Posted: Wed Apr 30, 2003 1:37 pm
by peter danielsen
I might be that the word 'dealer' reflects another side than just gambling. The men described in the song seems to need control over their lives. Maybe even their feelings. They are dealers. A dealer is someone who does not participate in the game. He controls it. He overviews it. Why do these men have to do that? Maybe because the nearness and shelter brings chaos into their heart. They loose the control, they become dependent. And this dependence is on someone specific, not the name. The name which is the only true source of healing. As Cohen says in 'Book of Mercy' :

"Strenghten my loneliness that I may be healed in your name, which is beyond all consolations that are uttered on this earth. Only in your name can I stand in the rush of time, only when this loneliness is yours can I lift my sins toward your mercy."

Posted: Wed Apr 30, 2003 2:01 pm
by tom.d.stiller
An interesting idea, Peter. But the men described in the song say they are "through with dealing" everytime they're given shelter. They are looking for shelter (you may see this as a metaphor for searching God), they "are reaching for the sky just to surrender"...
Following the lines of your hint ("A dealer is someone who does not participate in the game."), I come to a conclusion different from yours. They do not need "control over their lives"; they are unable and/or unwilling to take over this control. They drift, following "old schedules of trains", "advertising one more shelter", they are "some Joseph looking for a manger".
Anyway, I'd be interested very much in your complete reading of this song, independent of Jarkko's decision. Is there a way?


Posted: Wed Apr 30, 2003 2:03 pm
by George.Wright
I think the Stranger song is more an allusion to drug taking as it was used in the film "McCabe and Mrs Millar". The dealer therefore is the supplier.

The shelter

Posted: Wed Apr 30, 2003 2:20 pm
by peter danielsen
Hi Tom,

I agree with you that the men want shelter. But I also feel that one of the many problems that the song touches on is the fact that the shelter provided by women causes the mens will to weaken. And it does so perhaps because they now cannot controle their lives anylonger. They become dependent on someone.
I think that the schedule of trains is a way of controling life. The schedule says in a specific way when to come and when to leave.

It seems that we may not differ that much in our readings. One of the main points in my paper will be that in the postmodern text, there is space and need for different interpretations of the same text. The quality of Cohens work is perhaps also that different views of reality can stand side by side in the same song. Making perception less static.

I shall be glad to mail you a copy of my paper as soon as it is done. I will translate it to english.

As to your interpretation Georges on a drug dealer I will take this understanding into consideration.
Best wishes

Posted: Wed Apr 30, 2003 2:42 pm
by tom.d.stiller
Hi Peter,

I fully agree: "there is space and need for different interpretations". So we probably don't differ very much in our readings.

The "different views views of reality in one song", I think, constitute the real base for deep poetic imagery as opposed to a mere conglomerate of one-to-one metaphors. Leonard is certainly a master in this, and many wars on interpretation could have been avoided, if this fact had been fully recognized.

One additional thought just enters my mind: The "dealers who were through with dealing" are perhaps torn, not only between different women, but between different approaches to Life/Love itself. They want control, yes, but at the same time they are possessed by a desire to give up control.

I'm looking forward for the translation (thanks in advance); which language is the original?


what do you make of the line "looking for a card that is so high and wild he'd never have to deal another" within the drug frame of interpretation?

To Tom

Posted: Wed Apr 30, 2003 3:32 pm
by George.Wright
Looking for the ultimate kill, like we all do in life. It may be power, riches or obtaining of nirvana or a drug induced death as the ultimate high.
We can then give up our shadey deals and not have to do the mundane.

Stranger Song

Posted: Wed Apr 30, 2003 4:36 pm
by witty_owl
This song gives us a classic example of the multiple meanings that can be found in poetic metaphor. This is the beauty of poetry that we can find so many differing interpretations and still the meaning is relevant. For my understanding I think George is accurate here but the other interpretations still stand. Surely the poet is trying to milk the language for all the allusions it can give. The card dealer is compelling, "giving up the holy game of poker"; but this also implies being a player. Then there is also the dealer who is a merchant or a pawnbroker. I think all these images drift in our subconscious as we listen to the music and grasp for the intended or cogent meaning. I have been singing this song for 30 years now and still I find the meanings shift according to one's experience with life. I find the best poetry or lyric for me is one that is not singularly definitive.

Posted: Thu May 01, 2003 1:47 am
by George.Wright
You are a wise old owl, witty
it must be by standing so long in the solitude of crags...........
no, i must say your understanding of nature and your affinity is giving you very great wisdom.
best and warm regards..................from Ireland

Posted: Thu May 01, 2003 3:37 am
by Andrew McGeever
I've never been convinced that "The Stranger Song" was a poem in the first place; yet it's infused with the kind of heady imagery that leaves you recalling phrases, words, after decades. I freely admit that I drew from this song when I wrote "Mythologies and Oranges". To be honest, that was THE song which helped me finish the poem.
Like me, you can pick out what you want/need from the song for your own purpose. Two years before I bought "The Songs of Leonard Cohen", I had the same "problem" with Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row", from his magnificent "Highway 61 Revisited".
With songs such as these, long live problems!

Re: reading of 'stranger song'

Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2019 11:17 pm
by SirJohn
Stranger's song.. I like the tone, and still trying to understand it.. Personally, I think he's talking about love and promiscuity.

Who else is still reading this in 2019.

Re: reading of 'stranger song'

Posted: Mon Aug 05, 2019 6:22 pm
by its4inthemorning
Because the song can never become outdated, neither can fans' thoughts and interpretations. Maybe some/many men seek the shelter of a relationship/marriage, but when they find it they feel tied down and gamble on finding a different/better manger. LC seems to admitted to such behavior himself. I like to think there are many out there still perusing these old threads!