Friday, December 30, 2016

Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker (2016)

The Flame


“Blessed is the match, 
consumed in kindling flame.
Blessed is the flame that burns 
in secret fastness of the heart.
Blessed is the heart with strength to stop
its beating for honor’s sake
Blessed is the match, 
consumed in kindling flame.”

Hannah Senesh [July 17, 1921–November 7, 1944], “Blessed is the Match,” 
Hannah Senesh: Her Life and Diary, The First Complete Edition (2004)
Composed in Sardice, Yugoslavia, May 2, 1944
Translated from Hebrew by Marie Syrkin [1899–1989]




Leonard Cohen [1934–2016] sings “You Want It Darker,” the title track of the album, You Want It Darker, released by Columbia Records on October 21, 2016. The songs were recorded (April 2015 to July 2016) at a home studio set up in Cohen’s living room at his house in the Wilshire neighborhood of Los Angeles.

The song, like the eight others on the album, are stripped of all that is unnecessary, which shows a man who has worked hard all of his adult life to not only find le mot juste, but to apprehend the essence of life. This took Cohen on a journey looking to spirituality, religion, mysticism and the ancient Tradition and Text to answer questions of why Man and God do what They (must) do.

It might be that we have less free will than we think we do or that we fail to exercise it in the best possible manner. We, who are imperfect beings, fail often and fail easily. That is, we fail to understand; we fail to appreciate; we fail to judge wisely; we fail to forgive; we fail to love; we fail to have grace; we fail to let go. We fail to acknowledge our failures, fearing the consequences from those we love and from those that we don’t.

Regardless, what we apprehend here is Cohen, an ordinary man blessed with extraordinary insight, at the peak of his poetic powers. Leonard Cohen died a couple weeks after the release of the album, on November 7, 2016; he was 82. You want it darker/We kill the flame/Hineni Hineni/I’m ready, my Lord. 

You Want It Darker
by Leonard Cohen

If you are the dealer
I’m out of the game
If you are the healer
I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory
Then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Magnified and sanctified
Be Thy Holy Name
Vilified and crucified
In the human frame
A million candles burning
For the help that never came
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Hineni Hineni
I’m ready, my Lord

There’s a lover in the story
But the story is still the same
There’s an lullaby for suffering
And a paradox to blame
But it’s written in the scriptures
And it’s not some idle claim
You want it darker
We kill the flame

They’re lining up the prisoners now
The guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle-class and tame
Didn’t know I had permission
To murder and to maim
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Hineni Hineni
I’m ready, my Lord

Magnified and sanctified
Be Thy Holy Name
Vilified and crucified
In the human frame
A million candles burning
For the love that never came
You want it darker
We kill the flame

If you are the dealer
I’m out of the game
If you are the healer
I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory
Then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Hineni Hineni
I’m ready, my Lord


*********************
For an interesting rabbinical interpretation of this song, based on the parsha of “Vayera” by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, go [here].

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