Book of Mercy #29-40

Debate on Leonard Cohen's poetry (and novels), both published and unpublished.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

Post by Manna »

Lots of people probably have the same ideas, like King David and Leonard Cohen. Does not being first mean not being original? Yes, I suppose it does, by definition. Maybe more accurately, does not being the first to say it mean the thought isn't creative when it arrives?

The telephone was invented about in about 4 places, all at about the same time, but Bell got the patent, so Bell gets the credit.
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by mat james »

Lots of people probably have the same ideas, like King David and Leonard Cohen. Does not being first mean not being original?
Manna

Is the sunshine any less original for you than for "Eve"?

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

Post by DBCohen »

mat james wrote:
I get the impression that Leonard is having a shot at god for being complacent about his (leonard's) quest.
That too is a good point, Mat. I had the same thought reading some of his expressions here.
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by mat james »

This is a great verse. In a way I interpret that it completes/expounds Leonard's movement from the Monastry back to "Boogie Street".

Book of Mercy,31.
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.
“Then the dangerous moment comes:”
When I am doing well in every-day life and my focus is not You, but those other pleasures, then in that distraction I am in danger of undervaluing our spiritual relationship. I forget my life’s mission, which is to know and love You.
“I am too great to ask for help. I have other hopes.”
While distracted in those pleasures and activities of life, too often I forget my prayers, my spiritual longings.
“I legislate from the fortress of my disappointments, with a set jaw.”
But now, determined, I make my own laws to govern my own behavior. I remind myself what it is like to be miserable without you. And knowing this misery strengthens my resolve to keep you in mind at all times…So I “set” my jaw to keep you ever-present and fixed at the still point of my turning world.
“Overthrow this even terror with a sweet remembrance: when I was with you, when my soul delighted you, when I was what you wanted.”
Sure, I am terrified of losing you. I longed for you mercy and you gave it.
I knew You.
And I know you again through the process of remembering.
So I activate my memory, my sweet memories of our time together. And through this remembering I am again strengthened and spiritually renewed.
And I remember too; that this was a two-way love affair ! You wanted Me! And I love you all the more for that.
I delighted You while You delighted me.
“My heart sings of your longing for me, and my thoughts climb down to marvel at your mercy.”
I set this in stone; I will not forget this moment when you “dance(d) me to the end of Love”
I will reflect on this
I will meditate on this
I will contemplate among this
I will sing this, over and over and over..
And this will strengthen me.
“ 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.”
And as I grow old and in times of doubt and forgetfulness; as I head towards those twin journeys of doubt and death, I only have to think/speak your Name to conjure up your love and my salvation.
Blessed be Your Name.
Blessed be our Love.
I will remember you; I will whisper Your Name, and you will be with me always in that process of remembering, "on Boogie Street" (every-day life).

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

Post by DBCohen »

BM,

First, although I do tend to read texts in their historical context, I take your point on interpreting them also in an immediate context, so that they become useful or meaningful for your current concerns.

Second, is it my imagination, or did a part of your posting disappeared over the last hours? When I read it earlier it had an additional part, including a quote from “Last Year’s Man”, which was also on my mind when I said that “the imagery in #30 reminds me of several songs on the first three albums.” Thanks for that quote and why did you cut it out?
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blonde madonna
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by blonde madonna »

Sorry DB, I edited it a few times and still wasn’t happy with it so in a fit of pique I deleted it.

I will try again some time.
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
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by mat james »

DB,
at the rate you are commenting, this book review will take ten years, not two. :twisted: :twisted:
I get the feeling that most have gone back to sleep.
Come on guys !!!
:o :idea: :?: :cry: :cry:
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
DBCohen
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by DBCohen »

Mat,
Alright, alright, I get your drift… I was going to resume posting these days anyhow, becoming aware of the long time passing. So for you, and for the two or three others still interested in this thread (sic transit…), here is the next piece:
II.32
We cry out for what we have lost, and we remember you again. We look for each other, we cannot find us, and we remember you. From the ground of no purpose our children accuse us, and we remember, we recall a purpose. Could it be? We wonder. And here is death. Could it possibly be? And here is old age. And we never knew; we never stood up, and the good land was taken from us, and the sweet family was crushed. Maybe, we said, it could be, and we gave it a place among the possibilities. I’ll do it myself, we said, as shame thickened the faculties of the heart. And the first reports were of failure, and the second of mutilations, and the third of every abomination. We remember, we cry out to you to return our soul. Is it really upon us? Yes, it is upon us. Do we merit this? Yes, we merit this. We cry out for what we have lost, and we remember you. We remember the containing word, the holy channels of commandment, and goodness waiting forever on the Path. And here and there, among the seventy tongues and the hundred darknesses – something, something shining, men of courage strengthening themselves to kindle the light of repentance.
So what did we have so far in Part II of BoM?
#27 was written in what I called the “prophetic key” – angry, condemning, political.
#28 was a true prayer, a cry for mercy, on a par with the best pieces in Part I.
#29 was in the key of the Psalms, exalting the Lord.
#30 was again in the prophetic key, and perhaps the bleakest section so far in the book
#31 was again rather bleak, and spoke of the danger of complacency.
And now, #32, the third in a row of dark pieces, speaking openly of death, old age, failure and more, but it also ends on a note of hope, perhaps even rejuvenation.

I guess you may find some Christian imagery here, which I perhaps should leave for people with more Christian sensibilities than myself to spell out (but I would hazard an interpretation if no one else will). And perhaps I’m not the only one who would be reminded, by the final verse of this piece, of some lines from "The Old Revolution" (I quote a little more than the relevant lines):
I finally broke into the prison,
I found my place in the chain.
Even damnation is poisoned with rainbows,
all the brave young men
they're waiting now to see a signal
which some killer will be lighting for pay.
Into this furnace I ask you now to venture,
you whom I cannot betray.
Here the image is more positive: it is not the killer who will kindle the lights, but still, here too we find ourselves among the “hundred darknesses”, and there is much more to be said about that, but enough for this time.
DBCohen
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by DBCohen »

Well, I guess that when I wrote about “the two or three others still interested in this thread” I was over-optimistic…
And, Mat, judging from your last angry posting I thought you’d be on the edge of your seat, with your finger poised over the keyboard, all eager to respond to the next installment, but five days had gone by, and nothing from you. So why don’t you rattle your dags, as they say down under.
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by mat james »

judging from your last angry posting
DB

DB, It wasn't anger, it was enthusiasm !
And while I am keen to see the thread roll along, I feel it is better sometimes if I shut up and give others a chance to respond.
Hence my lack of input so far on this verse.
Thanks for posting this one. I will ponder it for awhile and in the meantime, perhaps some other people would like to join in the party?.

But I can't resist a few short comments. :)
we cry out to you to return our soul.
We (the people/jews?) forget God.
As we forget God; we err.
We become all the things that are despicable.

Leonard invites his God back into his life to give it meaning and direction again, because no matter how hard he tries, he suggests that he just can't make it without help from the Almighty; and hence:
we cry out to you to return our soul
and therefore it is time to "repent" (" Repent, repent,I wonder what they meant")
men of courage strengthening themselves to kindle the light of repentance.
In short, Leo just can't make the grade without direction from the big Fella
and without that direction he feels soul-less;that his soul is incapable of helping him without that "marriage". ("We cry out to you to return our soul")

Leonard seems to be suggesting that a man without divine direction, is like a body without a skelaton.
A man without divine direction is a man who's soul is divorced (no spiritual marriage/the wedding)from God.
Here the image is more positive: it is not the killer who will kindle the lights, but still, here too we find ourselves among the “hundred darknesses”, and there is much more to be said about that, but enough for this time.
DB Cohen
I think, in this verse and perhaps throughout the book, the hundred darknesses you mention above are the result of the loss or perhaps more to the point "abandonment" of that cultural/divinely inspired direction/skelaton.

Therefore, to resurrect this man;
resurrect that individual soul's marriage to her Lover, God.
(repent,repent
for astray we (me and my soul) went.)

All good things to you DB and other lovers of Leonard :D
Matj
Last edited by mat james on Wed Apr 30, 2008 10:06 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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Joe Way
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by Joe Way »

Hi DB & Mat,
Just a general apology for being somewhat out of touch-I've tried to keep up, but I hold myself to somewhat high standards and if I can't give a considered, thoughtful reply, I would rather be silent.

This last verse is a testament to those notions that side completely on the side of the objectivity of truth. I think that this is a complete rejection of subjectivism and all those from the Enlightenment on down who accept a sort of philosophical scepticism who can't be sure of anything. So on this level one only accepts it or rejects it.

As Chesterson said on his death bed, "The issue now is quite clear. It is between light and darkness and everyone must choose his side."

Death and old age seem to be the factors that finally bring these thoughts to fruition. It is a recounting of sins of omission that brings the narrator back to the pain that has occurred. This thread continues on through all of Leonard's current work. From TNS, "But I would die for the truth"
We look for each other, we cannot find us, and we remember you.
The frankness and candor that Leonard allows the narrator to have at this point is extraordinary. It becomes almost like a sermon containing art, virtue & insight. Shame, failure and mutilation are contrasted with" something, something shining, men of courage" and the rekindling of the light of repentance.

Joe
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
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blonde madonna
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by blonde madonna »

:D Thank you for posting this DB, I do enjoy reading this thread when I can give it the time it needs.
Joe Way wrote:This last verse is a testament to those notions that side completely on the side of the objectivity of truth. I think that this is a complete rejection of subjectivism and all those from the Enlightenment on down who accept a sort of philosophical scepticism who can't be sure of anything. So on this level one only accepts it or rejects it.
This is an interesting idea Joe and had me reading it again.

I find the repetitive use of 'we' in this verse off putting. I feel it distances the speaker from the subject matter, dampens the horror of it, takes away from the potential power of the images. I think why can’t he speak for himself, who does he think he is, what is he trying to hide? I can see that perhaps he is negating himself as an individual, saying in a way that "we are all in this together" but it doesn't engage me, I am not part of the 'we'.

There is also little I recognise in this verse. I don't understand how the lack of purpose leads to failure, mutilation and abomination and why death comes before old age. It really is a riddle for me.

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
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Joe Way
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by Joe Way »

Hi Blonde Madonna,
I find the repetitive use of 'we' in this verse off putting. I feel it distances the speaker from the subject matter, dampens the horror of it, takes away from the potential power of the images. I think why can’t he speak for himself, who does he think he is, what is he trying to hide? I can see that perhaps he is negating himself as an individual, saying in a way that "we are all in this together" but it doesn't engage me, I am not part of the 'we'.
Now, you've intrigued me by pointing this out. I've always thought of this book as a very personal account of Leonard coming to grips with the faith of his childhood. Perhaps I'm wrong, but as he was studying with Roshi, didn't Roshi urge him to explore his Jewish roots? I've often thought that the changes in mood and perspective of the narrator reflect the many other philosophies to whom one is introduced through a lifetime of study and experience. That was the reason why I felt so certain, that Leonard's narrator was attesting to the "truth" of the Jewish religious view.

So now your excellent question is to whom does the "we" refer...to Jews, to everyone?

Joe
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
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mat james
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by mat james »

Hi all,
Joe says,
So now your excellent question is to whom does the "we" refer...to Jews, to everyone?


Perhaps the collective "we" refered to in this verse is that apostate within each of us; that prodigal son/daughter who must go a roving, away from their roots and associated "laws" and rituals. And who often returns to pick up the pieces.
It is the way of adventurous youth. They swing the twin edged sword of discovery and disaster.

Matj
Last edited by mat james on Tue May 06, 2008 11:18 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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Joe Way
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Re: Book of Mercy #29-

Post by Joe Way »

Hi Mat,
Excellent observation-I think that you are right.
Perhaps the collective "we" refered to in this verse is that apostate within each of us; that prodigal son/daughter who must go a roving, away from their roots and associated "laws" and rituals. And who often returns to pick up the pieces.
It is the way of adventurous youth. They swing the twin edge sword of discovery and disaster.
I think that what is particularly interesting about Leonard's take on these issues, is that it is not presented as a battle-despite the clear indications of choice that are suggested-the matter is not colored in the "good" vs. "evil" characteristics that one generally sees in these things. But even saying this, it is still clear that Leonard has chosen one side. Compare, for example, Milton-or more recently Tolkien.

Joe
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
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