Leonard Cohen (September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016)

One of our greatest poets, he lived to see the first flickers of the great change.

Coming to Leonard Cohen somewhat later in life when I was searching for poetic inspiration as I slogged through my own biographical “Cloud by Day, Fire by Night” he immediately became an instant “go-to” when I’d be searching for syntax in composition and structure. For me he dwelt in a higher strata inhabited by some living, but mostly past, icons who seemed to have this direct line to God and the galaxy, while at the same time knowing exactly when to take out the trash. Formidable in both the sacred and the mundane, I give you some of my favorite Cohen lines…

Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering; There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in. ~ Anthem

There’s a blaze of light in every word, It doesn’t matter which you heard, The Holy or the broken Hallelujah. ~ Hallelujah

And Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water, And he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower; And when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him, He said “all men will be sailors then until the seas shall free them”; But he himself was broken long before the sky would open, Forsaken, almost human, He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone. ~ Suzanne 

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded, Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed; Everybody knows the war is over, Everybody knows the good guys lost; Everybody knows the fight was fixed, The poor stay poor, the rich get rich; That’s how it goes, Everybody knows. ~ Everybody Knows

Plus the iconic “Democracy is Coming to the USA” … Especially in light of the overwhelming victory of Donald Trump this week. Oh the irony of it that would so please Mr. Cohen!

It’s coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It’s here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it’s here they got the spiritual thirst.
It’s here the family’s broken
and it’s here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It’s coming from the women and the men.
O baby, we’ll be making love again.
We’ll be going down so deep
the river’s going to weep,
and the mountain’s going to shout Amen!
It’s coming like the tidal flood
beneath the lunar sway,
imperial, mysterious,
in amorous array:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.


A farewell to Marianne
Back in July of this year, Cohen got word that his long-ago lover, and subject of one of his earliest hits, had barely days to live, and penned this letter of farewell in his usual poetic style:

“Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t have to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”

To which Marianne’s family responded with this:

“Dear Leonard, Marianne slept slowly out of this life yesterday evening. Totally at ease surrounded by close friends. Your letter came when she still could talk and laugh in full consciousness. When we read it aloud, she smiled as only Marianne can. She lifted her hand when you said you were right behind, close enough to reach her. It gave her deep peace of mind that you knew her condition. And your blessing for the journey gave her extra strength… In her last hour I held her hand and hummed “Bird on the Wire,” while she was breathing so lightly. And when we left the room, after her soul had flown out of the window for new adventures, we kissed her head and whispered your everlasting words. So long, Marianne…”

So long Marianne, indeed, and farewell Leonard, with many thanks for the brilliance with which you entertained and educated us. You will be long remembered.

Cohen died on November 7, 2016 at the age of 82 at his home in Los Angeles. His death was not announced until November 10.

His funeral was held on November 10, 2016 in Montreal, at a cemetery on Mount Royal, his congregation Shaar Hashomayim confirmed. As was his wish, Cohen was laid to rest with a Jewish rite in a family plot.

A memorial is planned to take place in Los Angeles at a future date. Cohen was survived by his two children and two grandchildren.

His son Adam stated, “My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records [“You Want It Darker“]. He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humour.”

Tributes were paid by numerous stars and political figures. Citizens and officials in Montreal, Canada, where he spent his early life, are considering honoring him by naming a street and other locations, including a library, after him.


H/T Gerard Vanderleun and American Digest

Soli Deo Gloria!

Soli Deo Gloria!