Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Leonard Cohen: The Window (1979)

Leonard Cohen performs “The Window”; it is the third track of Recent Songs (1979). The other male shown in the video is Irving Layton, the great Canadian poet and one of Cohen’s mentors.

The Window
by Leonard Cohen

Why do you stand by the window
Abandoned to beauty and pride
The thorn of the night in your bosom
The spear of the age in your side
Lost in the rages of fragrance
Lost in the rags of remorse
Lost in the waves of a sickness
That loosens the high silver nerves
Oh chosen love, Oh frozen love
Oh tangle of matter and ghost
Oh darling of angels, demons and saints
And the whole broken-hearted host
Gentle this soul

And come forth from the cloud of unknowing
And kiss the cheek of the moon
The New Jerusalem glowing
Why tarry all night in the ruin
And leave no word of discomfort
And leave no observer to mourn
But climb on your tears and be silent
Like a rose on its ladder of thorns

Oh chosen love, Oh frozen love...

Then lay your rose on the fire
The fire give up to the sun
The sun give over to splendour
In the arms of the high holy one
For the holy one dreams of a letter
Dreams of a letter's death
Oh bless thee continuous stutter
Of the word being made into flesh

Oh chosen love, Oh frozen love...
Gentle this soul

The song contains multiple themes common to Cohen’s poetry and songs: spirituality, love and indecision. A window allows light to enter, yet too much light can be blinding. Spiritually, this foreshadows an awakening of the soul. The indecision will vanish, at least for a time, until it finds something else on which to latch itself.

A window allows one to look out & one to look in when at a point of seeking something essential. What does a soul require is the question of this song. In “Speaking Sweetly from ‘The Window’: Reading Leonard Cohen’s Song,” Doron B. Cohen’s poetic essay in Leonard Cohen Files gives some insightful analysis of this song. Here’s one:
The window in this poem is open to a reality beyond this world, beyond death, bringing light for those willing to see it. In the second stanza the poet criticizes those who pray dutifully but meaninglessly, afraid of an unexpected vision that might rattle their secure world. The light, when coming through the window to such people, rather than uplift them, turns them into stone, killing love, causing even the heart of God to freeze. But the unstated meaning of the poem is that there is another way: there is a thirst for vision, for another kind of love, and for a true communion with God.

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