Episode 3: Tribute to Leonard Cohen

Written by on November 14, 2016

This week’s theme is postponed, and in its place is my own, brief tribute to Leonard Cohen, who died this week.

Gacela of the Morning Market
Federico García Lorca

Through the arch of Elvira
I want to see you pass,
to know your name
and begin weeping.

What grey moon at nine
drew the blood from your cheek?
Who gathers your seed
of sudden blazing in the snow?
What brief cactus needle
murders your crystal?

Through the arch of Elvira
I’m going to see you pass,
to drink your eyes
and begin weeping.

What voice to chastise me
you raise through the market!
What enraptured carnation
among the heaps of corn!
How far away I am near you
how near when you go away!

Through the arch of Elvira
I’m going to see you pass,
to feel your thighs
and begin weeping.

translated by Stephen Spender and J.L. Gili

(The first poem of Lorca’s encountered by Cohen, at the age of 15 in a Montreal bookstore. Cohen fell in love with the poetry of Lorca, who became perhaps his greatest influence.)

Cohen and Marianne Ihlen on the island of Hydra, 1960. (Photo by James Burke, from the Life Picture Collection)

Cohen and Marianne Ihlen on the island of Hydra, 1960. (Photo by James Burke, from the Life Picture Collection)

 

The God Abandons Antony                                                                                                                             Constantine P. Cavafy

When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,
work gone wrong, your plans
all proving deceptive—don’t mourn them uselessly.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.
Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say
it was a dream, your ears deceived you:
don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
as is right for you who proved worthy of this kind of city,
go firmly to the window
and listen with deep emotion, but not
with the whining, the pleas of a coward;
listen—your final delectation—to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

(Adapted by Cohen into the song “Alexandra Leaving”, from 2001’s Ten New Songs.)

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Playlist:

Track

Artist

Album

  • Minute Prologue
    Leonard Cohen
    Live Songs
  • Passing Through
    Leonard Cohen
    Live Songs
  • Gift (Poem)/Interview
    Leonard Cohen
    N/A
  • Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye
    Leonard Cohen
    Songs of Leonard Cohen
  • The Guests
    Leonard Cohen
    Field Commander Cohen: Tour of 1979
  • God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot (Excerpt from "Beautiful Losers")
    Leonard Cohen
    N/A
  • Field Commander Cohen
    Leonard Cohen
    New Skin for the Old Ceremony
  • Sing Another Song Boys
    Leonard Cohen
    Live at the Isle of Wight 1970
  • The Partisan
    Leonard Cohen
    Live at the Isle of Wight 1970
  • Lover Lover Lover
    Leonard Cohen
    Field Commander Cohen: Tour of 1979
  • Night Comes On
    Leonard Cohen
    Various Positions
  • If It Be Your Will
    Leonard Cohen
    Live
  • Leaving the Table
    Leonard Cohen
    You Want It Darker

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