Considering Leonard Cohen – Ravished By The Song: A Confession By David Peloquin

hall-lelujRavished By The Song: A Confession
A Guest Post By David Peloquin

The Sufis say that in the complete surrender to love, one receives a kiss felt on the inside of the heart. Those of us who loved Leonard Cohen knew the radical generosity of his spirit and of his art; we were ravished by his song. We could not help but love him. The truth and beauty of his poetry is written in black ink on the inner walls of the heart. Some of the words written there, we cannot read. Yet we know they are true, even if we don’t know how we know.

Earlier today, not knowing Leonard Cohen had passed, I felt moved to work on his poem, Even Some of My Own, from Book of Longing. I have long felt that the poem had been passed over, underappreciated. Typical of Leonard, he delivers profundity in an offhanded way, intimating that we should not take him too seriously. I sensed that the poem, it its deceivingly casual style, nevertheless unfolded what was central to his work: that his poetry and song were proof that he had seen the infinite first hand, and that the human heart, sick with ignorance, could be operated upon with “proven songs.” He reminds us that there are “recommended procedures” given by flawed, compassionate, imperfect saints (like himself). These procedures, or spiritual practices, have stood the test of the ages. Here is the poem:

Even Some Of My Own

This is the end of it all
There won’t be much more
Maybe a cry or two
From the peanut gallery
Where I have made
My last stand
In the meantime
Operate on the heart
With proven songs
Such as Ave Marie
And Kol Nidre
Even some of my own
And execute
The recommended procedures
Such as kneeling down
Beside the appalling heap
Of days and nights
And patting the newest seconds
On to it
As if it were
A child’s sandcastle
Facing the tide
Under a full moon etc.
In other words
Encouraging
In the old penitent
A borderless perspective

The phrase “ravished by the song” comes from Leonard Cohen himself. Here is the relevant portion from an interview with Alan Twigg:

Cohen: “When you are writing out of the total embrace of the emotion of the moment, what comes out of there is authentic. People ask what does that song Suzanne really mean? The people who lay back and are ravished by the song know exactly what it means.”

Twigg: “I used to listen to that song all that time. I didn’t fathom it at all but you’re saying I understood it simply because I enjoyed it instinctively.”

Cohen: “Yes. If the thing is authentic, you can tune into it immediately. You can embrace it immediately. It includes you. That’s what I mean to say the song also includes you because it’s really authentic. Afterwards you can ask why it included you, but that’s not important.”

The Hindus say that the Universe is singing One Great Song. If you have ears to hear, you will be ravished by that song: you are the singer, you are the singing, and you are the song.

I believe that human consciousness is evolving, and that Leonard Cohen was an evolved forerunner, a gift from the universe, a prophetic and wise soul with an artist’s vision, a golden voice, and a mystic’s pen.

Leonard has now gained the light that he so generously shared with us. I have a personal reading of the last couplet of the luminous song Alexandra Leaving that I have not shared before. It is not an interpretation; it is more of a confession and a farewell to a spiritual brother. In the song, the god of love comes for Alexandra, and:

They gain the light, they formlessly entwine:
And radiant beyond your widest measure
They fall among the voices and the wine

Formless spirit, entwining with formlessness light, as we are told by all the great traditions, is our true identity. As Leonard said, revealing his lifelong dance with Kabbalah: “There is only light.”

When we come to the last lines, Leonard offers us a subtle reversal that opens a gateway to a profound insight than one might miss from not listening soft enough to muffled whispers rising from the caverns of the heart:

Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving.
Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost.

Today we say goodbye to Leonard Cohen leaving this vale of tears, but he gently reminds us that there is no need to think that one who has returned to the light should be considered lost to us. He asks us to contemplate a deeper possibility: to say goodbye to the notion that one who has formlessly entwined with love itself should ever be considered lost.

And you who were bewildered by a meaning:
Whose code was broken, crucifix uncrossed-
Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving.
Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost.

One thought on “Considering Leonard Cohen – Ravished By The Song: A Confession By David Peloquin

  1. Lisa

    Thank you for this. Though I am sad today, I find comfort thinking that now his questions are answered. Now he knows the mysteries. But I will miss knowing he is here in this world with us.