Book of Mercy #29-40

Debate on Leonard Cohen's poetry (and novels), both published and unpublished. Song lyrics may also be discussed here.
lazariuk
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by lazariuk »

I find that every single time, with no exceptions, that I project some "they" out there who is doing something that I am not also in my own way doing as well it is like I am leaving my angel unwrestled with.

He begins with the use of "all"
then he changes it to "they"
logic would lead one to conclude that all are they
May E crash into your temple
And look out thru' your eyes
And make you fall in love
With everybody you despise
Everything being said to you is true; Imagine of what it is true.
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blonde madonna
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by blonde madonna »

:D As usual your posts are so enlightening Jack.

The verse does start referring to 'all', then it brings in the Bride and Bridegroom who I see as sort of mythic and representative, and then it talks of ‘they’ and ‘they’ seems to move and grow as the verse progresses to encompass not just the original couple (who could perhaps be Adam and Eve) but all people. That's my thinking.

love
BM
the art of longing’s over and it’s never coming back

1980 -- Comedy Theatre, Melbourne
1985 -- State Theatre, Melbourne
2008 -- Hamilton, Toronto, Cardiff
2009 -- Rochford Winery, Yarra Valley
2010 -- Melbourne
2013 -- Melbourne, The Hill Winery, Geelong, Auckland
lazariuk
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by lazariuk »

DBCohen wrote:One sentence is taken from the Prayer Book: “… Blessed be He, who varies the appearance of creatures”; it is one of the many blessings uttered on different occasions by pious Jews, this one on seeing a really strange-looking person.
That sure is an interesting one DBC. It is really making me wonder a lot.
Why do you think Leonard mentioned that particular blessing ? I hear there are hundreds and hundreds to choose from.
I also am really curious about how strange someone needs to look before one would utter that blessing. Does it get said aloud so that others hear? Does the strange looking person hear it?
Is the blessing still said if someone varies their own appearance? If clothes are part of the appearance? Make-up?
Is there a blessing that is said upon hearing really strange sounding blessings? Are there blessings for the non-pious Jews to say upon meeting pious ones?
Everything being said to you is true; Imagine of what it is true.
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by mat james »

Reading between the lines
This verse is about attitude, the attitude that one needs to have to give meaning to life. Leonard is saying (to me) that ones actions and very “breath” should be experienced with the sacred in mind.
The perspective is one which recognises the divine in everything, and, he argues, I believe, that without the individual realising this fact, life and even the grass itself is just plain ugly, just “a machine”.

“Here”: is one frame of mind, the sacred frame of mind.
“There” is the other frame of mind, the frame of mind that is lost (from the sacred)

“The seed bursts without a blessing” is an example of a spiritually unappreciative attitude (a lost soul) who sees just the seed and the potential food but not the divine plan in the process.
The divine plan includes pain and death also, so “They hear bad tidings, as though they were the judge.”


“The bride and the bridegroom sink down to combine, and flesh is brought forth as if it were child.”
The bride is the human soul, the bridegroom is god.
“They sink down to combine” means that soul and Spirit combine and enter time/space,( the world of the opposites, life, existence) When bride and groom are One, there is no world as we know it; so it is integral that when we separate (god and soul) from oneness, creation with all its beauty and squalor, comes into being.
We see the painful and meaninglessness of existence from the perspective ignorance of the divine:
And we see beauty and meaning in both joy and sorrow when we allow the sacred to permeate our view of things; and hence:
“There is no world without the blessing.”

The “fence” Blonde M.:: “there is no fence in their heart, nor knowledge of the one”.
The fence, to me, is that which keeps us “gathered in”, is again that perspective that acknowledges god has a plan and we are not always privy to it, but we can accept that things are unfolding as they should (respectful faith I suppose)

If you read the verse through several times with these perspectives in mind, you may see/understand my interpretation.
Of course, it is only my opinion and you can take it or leave it.

Matj
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
lazariuk
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by lazariuk »

mat james wrote: The perspective is one which recognises the divine in everything, and, he argues, I believe, that without the individual realising this fact, life and even the grass itself is just plain ugly, just “a machine”.
What have you got against machines?
Is the engine ugly too?
Everything being said to you is true; Imagine of what it is true.
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by mat james »

go back to sleep Jack
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
lazariuk
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by lazariuk »

mat james wrote:go back to sleep Jack
Would that make things easier?
Everything being said to you is true; Imagine of what it is true.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by Manna »

lazariuk wrote:
mat james wrote:go back to sleep Jack
Would that make things easier?
yes.
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blonde madonna
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by blonde madonna »

mat james wrote: “The bride and the bridegroom sink down to combine, and flesh is brought forth as if it were child.”
The bride is the human soul, the bridegroom is god.
“They sink down to combine” means that soul and Spirit combine and enter time/space,( the world of the opposites, life, existence) When bride and groom are One, there is no world as we know it; so it is integral that when we separate (god and soul) from oneness, creation with all its beauty and squalor, comes into being.
We see the painful and meaninglessness of existence from the perspective ignorance of the divine:
And we see beauty and meaning in both joy and sorrow when we allow the sacred to permeate our view of things; and hence:
“There is no world without the blessing.”
:D This is very interesting way of looking at it Matj. I am struggling to understand the bit I have underlined. Why must god and soul be separate?
The fence, to me, is that which keeps us “gathered in”, is again that perspective that acknowledges god has a plan and we are not always privy to it, but we can accept that things are unfolding as they should (respectful faith I suppose)
So are you then saying that the fence marks a border between the known and the unknown?

Sorry if this sounds dumb but I am saddled with barely understood (at the time) Sunday school teachings. :?
the art of longing’s over and it’s never coming back

1980 -- Comedy Theatre, Melbourne
1985 -- State Theatre, Melbourne
2008 -- Hamilton, Toronto, Cardiff
2009 -- Rochford Winery, Yarra Valley
2010 -- Melbourne
2013 -- Melbourne, The Hill Winery, Geelong, Auckland
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by mat james »

So are you then saying that the fence marks a border between the known and the unknown?
Blonde M.

No.Not really.
I am trying to interpret Leonard's words.
It is not me "saying". It is me "interpreting". (perhaps poorly, perhaps accurately?)

Leonard uses the word "fence" in this verse and I had a go at trying to work out what it means in the context of that verse.
The fence seems to represent something that stops us from going wildly out of control.
The fence therefore is probably "Law"
"There is a law,... there is a hand" type of recognition that Leonard sings about.
When bride and groom are One, there is no world as we know it;
It is a bit like the "big bang" theory:
...there was "something/no-thing" that went "bang!",
then out of that, we came, in time, a few billion years later.

Before the big bang
"something" was pregnant with possibilities
but until "separation", of that Unity/god/tao, causal bang, etc, we could not come into being.
until the birth of space/time
we could not exist in space
or time.

Interestingly enough, it is somehow all about perspective.
How you look at things
perceive things.

In the end it comes down (for each of us), to this:

Once a God
bang!
always a god.

once a Unity
now multiplicity

once a God always a god 8)
Where there's a will, there's a Tao :D


Matj
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
Manna
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by Manna »

mat james wrote: It is not me "saying". It is me "interpreting". (perhaps poorly, perhaps accurately?)
but you were saying what your interpretation was, weren't you? ;-)


morality is inside you - each person makes his own decisions about what it means to behave morally
law is outside you - the collective people trying to decide what it means to behave morally for everyone

I think Leonard's fence is inside us, collectively maybe, so there's a conundrum.
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by mat james »

I’ll just introduce the text and make do with a very short comment.
DB Cohen.
So that's it D B?
Where for art thou Coheno ?
morality is inside you - each person makes his own decisions about what it means to behave morally
law is outside you - the collective people trying to decide what it means to behave morally for everyone

I think Leonard's fence is inside us, collectively maybe, so there's a conundrum.
Manna

I'm not too sure about this Manna.
Law/Morality. Very related.
I suspect when these two interact we have a form of osmosis happening
but that semi-permeable membrane ????
Does it watch?
Does it influence?
Does it just let it all happen?

Beyond the world of the opposites, I suppose it just ......
Last edited by mat james on Wed Mar 19, 2008 9:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by DBCohen »

Hi Mat (or should I say JulieMat?),

I was frantically busy this past week and more, and whenever I had a moment to take a peek at the Forum it seemed everyone was taken up by the huge excitement of the expected tour to be interested in anything else. But I see now that you and a few others have been keeping the discussion alive, and that means I must get back in the saddle too. I hope to introduce the next verse in the coming days. Meanwhile, just a few brief responses.

BM,
I appreciate what you wrote on p. 2 above, in response to my introduction of #30, but I tend to agree with others that the picture he paints here has to do with the present rather than with an apocalyptic future. What he says here is typical of what he said in some earlier songs (see more below).

Mat,
I appreciate very much what you said about the bride and the groom (which can be found in Jewish mysticism, as mentioned before), and also about the fence being an expression for the law, which is what I was saying all along. I will not repeat it here, but there were several references to this in earlier parts of the discussion. So it looks like sometimes we do think along the same way after all. 8)

In my short introduction I said that the imagery in #30 reminds me of several songs on the first three albums. Since no one else has taken this up, let me give just one example (I’m sure more can be found). Compare the following part of #30:
The bride and the bridegroom sink down to combine, and flesh is brought forth as if it were child. They bring their unclean hands to secret doctors, amazed at their pain, as if they had washed their hands, as if they had lifted up their hands. They write and they weep, as though evil were the miracle. They hear bad tidings, as though they were the judge.
with the following lines from “Stories of the Street” (and the whole song for that matter):
The age of lust is giving birth, and both the parents ask
the nurse to tell them fairy tales on both sides of the glass.
And now the infant with his cord is hauled in like a kite,
and one eye filled with blueprints, one eye filled with night.
Here, too, (coming back to you, Blond Madonna), it might be tempting to say that he is painting an apocalyptic picture, but when you look deep into it, you see that he is speaking very seriously about the present, which in its mundane ways can be as bad as any apocalyptic disaster. The difference, perhaps, is that in “Stories of the Street” love is portrayed as a remedy, while here there seems to be no hope at all; that’s why I’ve said on introducing #30 that: “This is perhaps the bleakest section so far in this book, and it is written more-or-less in the prophetic key first encountered in #27, and with somewhat similar political issues in mind.” However, when we look at the BoM as a whole, we find that LC hasn’t really changed his view of life and the crucial place of love in it, only that, like the prophets, he lets himself now and then burst out in the language of doom, before turning around and offering consolation once again. This is not to say that his anger is not real, only that he is at his best on the other end of the spectrum, and he seems to know it too. Also, like a Talmudic scholar, he can always look at a point from both sides, and he is armed with a great deal of irony, so “the angry prophet” position is really not his natural place, or so I wish to believe.
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by DBCohen »

A few days ago I promised to introduce the next prayer soon, so here it is:
II.31
When I have not rage or sorrow, and you depart from me, then I am most afraid. When the belly is full, and the mind has its sayings, then I fear for my soul: I rush to you as a child at night breaks into its parents’ room. Do not forget me in my satisfaction. When the hear grins at itself, the world is destroyed. And I am found alone with the husks and the shells. Then the dangerous moment comes: I am too great to ask for help. I have other hopes. I legislate from the fortress of my disappointments, with a set jaw. Overthrow this even terror with a sweet remembrance: when I was with you, when my soul delighted you, when I was what you wanted. My heart sings of your longing for me, and my thoughts climb down to marvel at your mercy. I do not fear as you gather up my days. Your name is the sweetness of time, and you carry me close into the night, speaking consolations, drawing down lights from the sky, saying, See how the night has no terror for one who remembers the Name.
Like last time, I’ll limit myself to a few short remarks. The theme of this piece is, obviously, the danger of complacency. I’m afraid that I’m not greatly impressed by most of it, which seems relatively obvious and unoriginal, except for some unexpected images and phrases in the second half of the piece. The final verse is probably based on Psalm 91 (here in the KJV translation):
(1) He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. (2) I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. […] (5) Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; […]
(Later: corrected a typing error)
Last edited by DBCohen on Tue Mar 25, 2008 3:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by mat james »

complacency.
Good point DB.
Leonard worries about his own complacency when things are going ok, but;
I get the impression that Leonard is having a shot at god for being complacent about his (leonard's) quest.
I like this attitude!
Perhaps god needs to be reminded of his responsibilities every now and then.
You are not alone here in this game, Big Fella!

Go Leonard !
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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