Monday, September 5, 2011

Leonard Cohen: Bird On The Wire

Leonard Cohen and band perform “Bird on the Wire” at a 1979 concert.

Written by: Leonard Cohen
Recorded: September 26, 1968: Nashville, Tennessee
Released: April 1969
Album: Songs From A Room
Label: Columbia Records


Today is Labour Day in Canada and the United States. I think this song fits the bill for many, and I present this song without commentary other than human relationships are fraught with tensions.
Songs From A Room: Album cover, 1969.
Source: Wikipedia

Bird On a Wire
By Leonard Cohen

Like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.

Like a worm on a hook,
like a knight from some old fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee.
If I, if I have been unkind,
I hope that you can just let it go by.
If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you.

Like a baby, stillborn,
like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me.
But I swear by this song
and by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee.

I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
he said to me, "You must not ask for so much."
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
she cried to me, "Hey, why not ask for more?"
Oh like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.


  1. I have recently discovered this blog by googling something about the "Prodigal Son" and finding one earlier post about this subject in here...about which I would like to say that it was very helpful for me.

    As a coincidence, I was thinking about another song of Mr. Leonard Cohen earlier today, the darker "Stranger". The songs of this artist will always be inextricably linked to my late adolescence, since it was then that a former love interest of mine recommended to me that I buy one of Mr. Cohen's albums !

    Being totally tone deaf myself, I have had a rather indifferent relationship with music, and being somewhat more of a concrete thinker than an abstract one, a rather uneasy, avoidance type, relationship with poetry...but one cannot help but get one's antennas raised when someone one is interested in (romantically or otherwise) recommends to you a specific musical & lyrical artist ! I think I was way too young and totally life + education inexperienced back then to actually appreciate Mr. Cohen, although I will not blame him for the subsequent failure of that sppecific romantic relationship in my life !

    Back on topic...I was a bit surprised about the choice of "A Bird on a Wire" for the American & Canadian Labor Day holiday...was it a political comment-message of sorts, something about the current temporary precarious state of the economy and its social implications perhaps ? I would actually be curious to hear more about it if it was so.

    I myself tend to be more romantic when I communicate with or about America, while Canada is a total unknown to me...sort of similar to the way I now feel, auto-exiled in utopian Scandinavia, where I have transplanted myself for purely selfish economic reasons for less than a year, and am actually living the cultural shock of my life !

    To me, this song of Mr. Cohen was always associated in my mind more with Mr. Jiri Menzel's movie, "Larks on a String" (also 1969).

    Yes ! You may not realize it, but I am now formulating the conclusion that reading more on your blog and also trying to learn more about Canadian society & politics may actually be quite helpful to me as I am trying to understand more about these new surroundings of mine found way above the 45th parallel of the Earth !

  2. I will make a confession to you...(Mr. Leonard Cohen does this to me every time !)...I have added your blog in my blogroll and nicknamed it "Commodore Perry" ! I hope you don't mind, I like to nickname some of the bloggers from my blogroll, and I thought about the real explorer Commodorre Perry that opened the way to understanding how to trade with Japan for the United States in the XIX-the century. Since Norway is a bit like Japan for me actually now, maybe trying to understand it through a Canadian made telescope, (IF I manage to learn to use one of those !), could help me better in my own personal transactions with it !

    This is as metaphorical as I can or will get, since I totally lack artistic creativity ! I promise not to do it very often, because, actually, whenever I communicate online, I am perpetually afraid I might inadvertently or unthoughfully offend most of the ambassadors of the various countries situated above the Tropic of Cancer, and I thus try to be very concrete and avoid metaphors as much as possible !

  3. Dear Rudolph,

    Thank you for your comments. Yes, we are living in precarious economic times, and for many, it's a balancing act. Of course, the song has a more romantic meaning, which is the way Leonard Cohen likes things. I have many readers from Scandinavian nations, but I am not sure if that has to do with geography or sharing similar sentiments about human dignity. I hope that you continue reading


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