Treatment Of Love In Selected Poems By Leonard Cohen

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Published on August 18, 2009

Author: mehdi_hassanian

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Treatment of Love in Selected Poems by Leonard Cohen

Treatment of Lo ve in Selected Po ems by Leonard Cohen Mehdi Hassa nian esfaha ni (GS22456) Austra lian and Canadian Literature (BBL5304) Lectu rer: Assoc. Prof. D r. Mala chi Ed win Vetha mani UP M, Ma rch 2008. Most of Cohen’s poems and songs come from his personal experience and the social interactions he has had in his life. It would be helpful to know him, in the first step, to interpret his poems. Therefore, to put it concisely and in Nadel’s words, it should be stated that he is “a well-tailored bohemian, an infamous lover who lives alone, a singer whose voice resides in the basement of song, a Jew who practices Zen” (1). That can explain one of the common themes of his poems, which is love and failure in love, as well as his above-ordinary and a bit philosophical view of life, love and death. In this analysis I will discuss his viewpoint of ‘love’ in the following poems / songs, which share a common characteristics and they almost observe the same pattern regarding the theme of poem: · Suzanne · Everybody Knows · Bird on the Wire · Poem ("I heard of a man ...") · I'm Your Man

Mehdi | 2 Suzanne is the first to mention; it’s not just the one he played in every tour performances, but also the only one he claimed to be “reportage” (Ratcliff, 14) and “the best song he'd ever written” (Thomas). It refers to Suzanne Verdal, a dancer, whom he met once in Montreal. In real world he claims that, "they were never lovers, but she gave [him] Constant Comment tea in a small moment of magic" (Nadel, 125), and in poetry, she gave him a new insight of love: a thing which is more than just a passionate attraction, and is so powerful that can ruin a relationship or lead it to prosperity. In Suzanne, Cohen depicts a love, an affection which may seem ‘half crazy’ but comes from the heart. It is a true feeling which is encouraged by nature when river reveals their love. He compares it to Jesus’ claim that can be sank beneath one’s wisdom like a stone, ignored or rejected by a skeptical mind, but should be accepted through one’s heart. He asserts that if faith should be touched by heart and it is a possible way for a man to reach salvation, love of Suzanne is from the same kind. His platonic love comes from beauty which Suzanne represents. She would also, like Jesus, ask us to change our point of view, as she shows us where to look; and one may like to agree with her forever in this case. She is a pure love, devoted to enlightenment, to children who want to learn about love and to anyone who is open to feel her love. She is an inspired teacher whose love cannot be described, but makes you want to travel with her, even blind if there are social boundaries or logical barriers; the one you can truest and you know that you can trust by your heart. To ensure the road which love asks them to travel, he observes the role of mind, and the logic of this action: a faithful man will follow Jesus passionately and blindly, knowing that he can trust Jesus and he knows where they are heading to, and Cohen’s persona will go after Suzanne, knowing that he can trust her, because of the mutual love he describes in the first and third stanza. But in Everybody Knows the perception and presentation of love is different. It is as if Suzanne was the only true love, and all others are unfaithful. Here he refers to many social

Mehdi | 3 events and political theories to consider them obvious and claim at last that ‘Everybody knows that you love me baby / Everybody knows that you really do / Everybody knows that you've been faithful / Ah give or take a night or two’. Persona is cynical toward the beloved but believes that ‘That's how it goes’ or should be. He cannot consider his relationship complete. It is not even worth fighting when there is no enjoying and there is no mutual trust. Unlike the previous poem, narrator here is indifferent. He will not go after someone or do something; he wouldn’t move and will simply let it go, asserting that everybody knew it would come apart. Persona is already distanced from beloved, and avoids connecting himself with this love. The whole poem looks like a report from outside, by a stranger. Bird On The Wire narrates an opposite situation, when lover has been unkind and untrue, who seeks atonement and forgiveness. His loneliness brings him back to the beloved, even though she was incomplete in such a way that led him to do wrong and go apart. He feels hapless like a drunk, but cannot forgive himself and the answer depends on beloved. He faces a dilemma, which is a repeated condition in some other poems as well: being alone like a lonely bird is unbearable, but beloved is not what he expects too; this failure ends in his cheating or her. He cannot decide to be satisfied with less or ask for more; therefore his return to beloved would not be permanent one. There is no statement of love or intimacy and his song is not a love song written for a beloved, it is just an excuse to let the tired man in. The same thing happens in I hear of a man, but here beloved leaves (or persona is convinced that she will leave the lover). Although they are together, physically next to each other, their relationship lacks the ‘trust’ which is essential. It seems that being with someone else than Suzanne affects persona’s self-image and makes him feel incomplete as well. He loses his self-confidence, and believes that any stranger can come and steal his beloved. If he is silent, there are other men outside who can speak beautifully. Even knowing that, he never tries to speak and silence blossoms like tumors on their lips. He never attempts to fight for

Mehdi | 4 this love, as if she is not worthy for such an action or he expects the beloved to chat. It is hard to say whether he is upset, angry or willing to lose, as there is no condemnation or a morose feeling or a furious outburst. But he is indifferent. When he is with the beloved (and has run away from loneliness) it is obvious that their relationship cannot work out. He wants more, and he is unable to trust. AS a result, he forgets love and prepares to leave. His mind will not concentrate on beloved anymore, and depicted pictures would be of himself or other people outside. Unlike the previous one, in I'm Your Man, he starts with promising ideas to convince the woman (it may be a personal response due to his deep and rough voice that I connect his words to a mature love / relationship, and not a teenager’s kiss or disappointment) and asks her to consider him his lover, his man. The emphasis on changing in a way that the woman is pleased seems dull when he pretends to have no personality, no characteristics of himself and no idea of who he is. He can be a lover, or wear any other kind of mask, and become a boxer, a doctor or a driver. It sounds as if he just wants the woman, physically, mechanically and emotionlessly; he needs her in his life, regardless of their relationship; as a lover, partner or a friend. This makes it an absurd attempt. Even love is a mask for him to wear. This song was written when Cohen was depressed because of difficulties he had with Dominique; a faltering relationship. In the second stanza, when moon is bright and they are close enough to feel the reality of their relationship, he comes to the point that after this struggle, she is not the perfect beloved he was looking for. Another disappointment, as no one can replace or be like Suzanne. He faces a dilemma; to confess and ask her leave, or continue even if he cannot keep his promises (to be always with her, love her and be whatever she asks for). He chooses the later one, and indulges in his usual unsatisfactory relationship, because there is no real beloved comparing to his platonic image of love, and he cannot ask her to leave.

Mehdi | 5 Love and failure in love is a repeated theme in Cohen’s poetry, and they all follow the same structure. He respects love and expects mutual trust, but he fails to find a complete love outside, except for Suzanne. Persona of these love songs tries different situations and different beloveds, by they all end in inability to succeed; he cheats or she runs away. A safe solution may be isolation, and the condition he portrays in Tower of Song, when he counts the days and becomes old, but is still unable to find the love. Works C ited Nadel, Ira Bruce. Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen. USA: University of Texas Press, 2007. Ratcliff, Maurice, and Chris Charlesworth. The Complete Guide to the Music of Leonard Cohen. UK: Omnibus Press, 1999. Thomas, Abraham. "[minstrels] Suzanne -- Leonard Cohen". The Wondering Minstrels. MArch 10, 2009 <http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/116.html>.

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