Light As the Breeze

Leonard Cohen needs no introduction, nor explanation. He’s just a dirty old man with a golden voice, a lazy bastard living in a suit. Or so he would say.

“Light As The Breeze”

She stands before you naked
you can see it, you can taste it,
and she comes to you light as the breeze.
Now you can drink it or you can nurse it,
it don’t matter how you worship
as long as you’re
down on your knees.
So I knelt there at the delta,
at the alpha and the omega,
at the cradle of the river and the seas.
And like a blessing come from heaven
for something like a second
I was healed and my heart
was at ease.

O baby I waited
so long for your kiss
for something to happen,
oh something like this.

And you’re weak and you’re harmless
and you’re sleeping in your harness
and the wind going wild
in the trees,
and it ain’t exactly prison
but you’ll never be forgiven
for whatever you’ve done
with the keys.

O baby I waited …

It’s dark now and it’s snowing
O my love I must be going,
The river has started to freeze.
And I’m sick of pretending
I’m broken from bending
I’ve lived too long on my knees.

Then she dances so graceful
and your heart’s hard and hateful
and she’s naked
but that’s just a tease.
And you turn in disgust
from your hatred and from your love
and comes to you
light as the breeze.

O baby I waited …

There’s blood on every bracelet
you can see it, you can taste it,
and it’s Please baby
please baby please.
And she says, Drink deeply, pilgrim
but don’t forget there’s still a woman
beneath this
resplendent chemise.

So I knelt there at the delta,
at the alpha and the omega,
I knelt there like one who believes.
And the blessings come from heaven
and for something like a second
I’m cured and my heart
is at ease

Letter To Hermione

Not much is known about Hermione Farthingale, but David Bowie wrote more songs in her honor than he did for his first wife. How many songs one writes for someone is not the most accurate thing to measure the quality of a relationship by; some people aren’t given to writing songs about personal specific things at all, while others will vomit out a song about each and every experience they’ve ever had. David Bowie falls somewhere in the middle. His songs are predominantly cryptic, but there are also many that are very clearly personal. This one, obviously, because it’s got her name right in the title.  And the fact remains that this Farthingale girl, whoever she was and wherever she may be, inspired some of his most heart-0n-sleeve love songs. First spouse Angela, however, hasn’t merited any confirmed poetic odes. Maybe because she dismissed the Hermione songs as mushy and pathetic? Maybe because she was, by many accounts, kind of an awful person. I think Bowie wrote more songs about Marc Bolan than he did her.

The hand that wrote this letter
Sweeps the pillow clean
So rest your head and read a treasured dream
I care for no one else but you
I tear my soul to cease the pain
I think maybe you feel the same
What can we do?
I’m not quite sure what we’re supposed to do
So I’ve been writing just for you

They say your life is going very well
They say you sparkle like a different girl
But something tells me that you hide
When all the world is warm and tired

You cry a little in the dark
Well so do I
I’m not quite sure what you’re supposed to say
But I can see it’s not okay

He makes you laugh
He brings you out in style
He treats you well
And makes you up real fine
And when he’s strong
He’s strong for you
And when you kiss
It’s something new
But did you ever call my name
Just by mistake?
I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to do
So I’ll just write some love to you

Let the Bells Ring

I’ve always thought this was one of Nick Cave’s God songs. Sometimes he’s very critical of religion, and makes fun of godly people. On the other hand, he frequently explores matters of faith, and some of his songs are actually quite reverent. Biblical themes are often touched upon, which makes perfect sense for a songwriter who has such fascination with destiny, doom, sin, punishment, and redemption. This song fits in with the reverent side. There is a sense of inevitability, the feeling that, as another poet wrote, like it or not you will have to serve somebody. It seems to be both lamenting and glorifying the death of Christ, as the deity prepares to leave behind the human world. I’ve always taken it as an interpretation of Christ’s agony in the garden, when He grappled for the last time with His human fears and finally accepted His fate. According to Nick Cave himself, though, the song has slightly earthlier roots; it was written in tribute to Johnny Cash, who passed away a year before Abattoir Blues was released.

C’mon, kind Sir, let’s walk outside
And breathe the autumn air
See the many that have lived and died
See the unending golden stair
See all of us that have come behind
Clutching at your hem
All the way from Arkansas
To your sweet and last amen

Let the bells ring
He is the real thing
Let the bells ring
He is the real, real thing

Take this deafening thunder down
Take this bread and take this wine
Your passing is not what we mourn
But the world you left behind
Well, do not breathe, nor make a sound
And behold your mighty work
That towers over the uncaring ground
Of a lesser, darker world

Let the bells ring
He is the real thing
Let the bells ring
He is the real, real thing

There are those of us not fit to tie
The laces of your shoes
Must remain behind to testify
Through an elementary blues
So, let’s walk outside, the hour is late
Through your crumbs and scattered shells
Where the awed and the mediocre wait
Barely fit to ring the bells

Let the bells ring
He is the real thing
Let the bells ring
He is the real, real thing

Last Year’s Man

I’ve repeated many times how inspiring and spiritually edifying Leonard Cohen is. What I haven’t mentioned as much is how depressing he can be. Songs of Love and Hate is by far his most depressing album. The title itself is a dead giveaway. I don’t know if Cohen went through a rough breakup just prior, but this batch of songs doesn’t have his usual uplift or promise of redemption. It’s all lost love and suicide.

“Last Year’s Man”

The rain falls down on last year’s man,
that’s a Jew’s harp on the table,
that’s a crayon in his hand.
And the corners of the blueprint are ruined since they rolled
far past the stems of thumbtacks
that still throw shadows on the wood.
And the skylight is like skin for a drum I’ll never mend
and all the rain falls down amen
on the works of last year’s man.
I met a lady, she was playing with her soldiers in the dark
oh one by one she had to tell them
that her name was Joan of Arc.
I was in that army, yes I stayed a little while;
I want to thank you, Joan of Arc,
for treating me so well.
And though I wear a uniform I was not born to fight;
all these wounded boys you lie beside,
goodnight, my friends, goodnight.

I came upon a wedding that old families had contrived;
Bethlehem the bridegroom,
Babylon the bride.
Great Babylon was naked, oh she stood there trembling for me,
and Bethlehem inflamed us both
like the shy one at some orgy.
And when we fell together all our flesh was like a veil
that I had to draw aside to see
the serpent eat its tail.

Some women wait for Jesus, and some women wait for Cain
so I hang upon my altar
and I voice my acts again.
And I take the one who finds me back to where it all began
when Jesus was the honeymoon
and Cain was just the man.
And we read from pleasant Bibles that are bound in blood and skin
that the wilderness is gathering
all its children back again.

The rain falls down on last year’s man,
an hour has gone by
and he has not moved his hand.
But everything will happen if he only gives the word;
the lovers will rise up
and the mountains touch the ground.
But the skylight is like skin for a drum I’ll never mend
and all the rain falls down amen
on the works of last year’s man.


The Land of Plenty

More of Leonard Cohen’s musings about the spirit. Does it seems that on his last few albums his lyrics have gotten more inward-looking? Or is that something I’m projecting because I know that he’s really old? It truly does seem like he’s turned his focus more on his own soul in the last decade or so. It makes sense that a man of his age would take to reckoning with himself, and put less thought into the things he used to when he was young. The years of Buddhist study must have had an effect as well. Leonard Cohen has become more existential and less of a romantic.

Don’t really have the courage
To stand where I must stand
Don’t really have the temperament
To lend a helping hand

Don’t really know who sent me
To raise my voice and say
May the lights in ‘The Land of Plenty’
Shine on the truth some day

I don’t know why I’ve come here
Knowing as I do
What you really think of me
What I really think of you

For the millions in the prison
That wealth has set apart
For the Christ who has not risen
From the caverns of the heart

For the innermost decision
That we cannot but obey
For what’s left of our religion
I lift my voice and pray

May the lights in ‘The Land of Plenty’
May the lights in ‘The Land of Plenty’
May the lights in ‘The Land of Plenty’
Shine on the truth some day

I know I said I’d meet you
I’d meet you at the store
But I can’t buy it, baby
I can’t buy it anymore

And I don’t really know who sent me
To raise my voice and say
May the lights in ‘The Land of Plenty’
Shine on the truth some day

For the innermost decision
That we cannot buy obey
For what’s left of our religion
I lift my voice and pray

May the lights in ‘The Land of Plenty’
May the lights in ‘The Land of Plenty’
May the lights in ‘The Land of Plenty’
Shine on the truth some day

Lady Midnight

When Leonard Cohen is waxing poetic – which is always, that’s what he does – it’s easy to forget that he’s really an old pervert whose primary topic has always been sex. In fact, that was a thing I didn’t even notice for many years. I was just a kid and didn’t realize that for adults, any reference to nudity, touching, kisses, or even love itself denotes sex, sex, sex, sex and sexytimes. Cohen, being the masterful poet that he is, manages to disguise his filthy sexual references with vaguely religious or spiritual sounding metaphors, but make no mistake, he’s only got one thing on his mind. Nor am I complaining. At all. Sliding the erotic under the door disguised as something innocent is one of poetry’s given tasks. If there’s one thing that Leonard Cohen does that no one else can approach him in, it’s elevating the mundane human pursuit of physical pleasure to a place of reverence. Because we all have to admit that our sexual and romantic pursuits occupy a huge swath of our resources both material and emotional, but we are by and large made to feel ashamed and debased for it. Why shouldn’t love and desire be held as noble? Well, one half of that equation is, and that’s love, the pure spiritual stuff untainted by bodily associations. It’s lust, love’s evil twin that gets swept under the carpet, that the poet skillfully restores to sanctity. There’s nothing particularly smutty about these lyrics, but you can’t mistake how sexy they are. They let you know that there are currents flowing beneath each simple interaction.

I came by myself to a very crowded place;
I was looking for someone who had lines in her face.
I found her there but she was past all concern;
I asked her to hold me, I said, “lady, unfold me,”
But she scorned me and she told me
I was dead and I could never return.

Well, I argued all night like so many have before,
Saying, “whatever you give me, I seem to need so much more.”
Then she pointed at me where I kneeled on her floor,
She said, “don’t try to use me or slyly refuse me,
Just win me or lose me,
It is this that the darkness is for.”

I cried, “oh, lady midnight, I fear that you grow old,
The stars eat your body and the wind makes you cold.”
“if we cry now,” she said, “it will just be ignored.”
So I walked through the morning, sweet early morning,
I could hear my lady calling,
“you’ve won me, you’ve won me, my lord,
You’ve won me, you’ve won me, my lord,
Yes, you’ve won me, you’ve won me, my lord.

Just Like You

Credit for Bryan Ferry the lyricist. Beautiful words. I don’t often point that out – I get too distracted by his overall dreaminess.

Buttercup daisies
And most anything
They wither and fade
After blossom in spring
Time conquers innocence
Pride takes a fall
In knowledge lies wisdom
That´s all
Everything changes
Weather blows hot or cold
Through alchemy iron turns gold
Quicksilver baby
So hard to pin down
Oh when are you coming around?
Hopelessly grounded
I walk through the streets
Remembering how we spent time
Hopefully yearning that someday we´ll meet
But when will we, how could we – why? oh my!
Fashion houses ladies
Need plenty loose change
When the latest creation
Is last year´s fab-rave
Thought patterns hazy
This auto-style age
Will lady luck smile old and sage?
She knows that ……
Never again, no, will I give up my heart
To gamble with fate is my crime
Nevertheless love, it´s all here in my book
I´d write it but don´t have much time
You see, I know it sounds crazy
But what can I do?
I´ve fallen head over heels, over you
Chameleon colour
All phases of moon
The shifting of planets
And leopard spots too
As destiny wills it
So seasons will change
Just like you