Hear Leonard Cohen Recite Ballad Of The Absent Mare (1980)

Leonard Cohen recites the first four verses of Ballad Of The Absent Mare. This excerpt is from a 1980 interview with Nigel Russell (University Radio 5UV, Adelaide – accessed at State Library of South Australia).

Note: Information about the “old Chinese text” to which Leonard Cohen refers and on which the song is based is available at

Thanks to Gordana Stupar, whose post alerted me to this recording

Emmylou Harris’ “Ballad Of A Runaway Horse” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox


Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

Biggest Influence on My Music – The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. … I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.

– Leonard Cohen (Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994)

Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a number of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Cohencentric feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at The Original Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.

Greeting from Leonard Cohen to Polar Music Prize Laureate Emmylou Harris (2015)

Dear Emmylou Harris,

Thank you for singing that song of mine [Ballad Of The Absent Mare].
You brought it to a place I could never get to.

And thank you for putting into the crowded air,
and establishing it there for all to feel,
the beauty, the dignity
and the loneliness of America itself.

In the midst of all the bewildering directions
your voice takes us home.

With deep gratitude,

Leonard Cohen

Also see Video: Polar Music Prize Laureate Emmylou Harris thanks Leonard Cohen for his letter

Emmylou Harris’ – Ballad of a Runaway Horse

Credit Due Department: Photo by Ckuhl at Dutch Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia Commons

Note: Originally posted July 9, 2015 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Zen’s 10 Oxherding Pictures & Leonard Cohen’s “Ballad of the Absent Mare”

In Let The Grief Inform Your Throat (JenniferWarnes.com), Jennifer Warnes offers, among other matters, her account of how Leonard Cohen introduced “Ballad of the Absent Mare” to her.

After being away on a silent retreat, Leonard Cohen came over to my house wearing an old beige MacGregor jacket, and his face was radiant. There was a little leap inside him. It’s impossible to be sad around Leonard when he is filled up like this because his smile comes from deep places. He came over to share a brand new song, called The Ballad of the Absent Mare. Not every day this happens

… Leonard had found some old pictures somewhere. They were called The Ten Bulls, old Japanese woodcuts symbolizing the stages of a monk’s life on the road to enlightenment. These carvings pictured a boy and a bull, the boy losing the bull, the bull hiding, the boy realizing that the bull was nearby all along. There is a struggle, and finally the boy rides the bull into his little village. “I thought this would make a great cowboy song”, he joked.

A scholarly examination of the relationship of these images, used for centuries to illustrate “the stages of a practitioner’s progression towards the purification of the mind and enlightenment, as well as his or her subsequent return into the world while acting out of wisdom,”1 can be found at Green, R., (2017). Teaching Zen’s Ten Oxherding Pictures through Leonard Cohen’s “Ballad of the Absent Mare”. ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts. 24(1), pp.29–58. The abstract follows:

This paper describes how to teach Zen’s famous Ten Oxherding Pictures through Leonard Cohen’s song “Ballad of the Absent Mare.” It also explains how instructors can contextualize these pictures within the history of Buddhist visual culture and thereby frame Cohen’s adoption of them as a cowboy ballad motif. The essay begins by describing the metaphor of the ox. It then reviews three theories about the origin of the pictures, contextualizing them within the history of Buddhist visual culture. Finally, it provides a PowerPoint presentation that connects each of the Ten Oxherding Pictures to verses of Cohen’s song and offers comments for instructors’ use in class.

Credit Due Department: Graphic atop post by Tenshō Shūbun – Shokoku-ji Temple website, Public Domain, Via Wikipedia Commons


  1. Wikipedia []

Charlie Daniels On Leonard Cohen & Kid Marley

You talk about me and Leonard being different. You take Leonard Cohen, from the world of academia, and you put him out in the middle of the country in this little house. [Kid Marley] loved Leonard. He used to come to Leonard’s sessions, and he’s the last person in the world you’d think Leonard would have anything in common with. I don’t know if it was having anything in common, or Leonard was just a nice guy. quotedown2

Charlie Daniels


Daniels, Cohen Formed Unique Bond by Jeffrey Ougler (Ifpress: Sept 9, 2010)

Ray “Kid” Marley was a cowboy who began working ranches by age 14 and won his first rodeo prize money at 17. He moved to Tennessee at age 20, He is described in this except from I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons: