The Faith

Leonard Cohen's recent albums - share your views with others!
holydove
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The Faith

Postby holydove » Wed Aug 19, 2009 6:34 pm

I have recently fallen madly in love with this song(The Faith on Dear Heather album), it's been going through my head constantly, and is totally haunting; I have a couple of questions to put out there. . . My take on it is that Leonard is addressing God in this song, and describing the various events that have occurred on earth throughout the history of humankind, (including wars fought in the name of religion, the many slain, deaths for other reasons, inventions of tools like the club, wheel, etc.); and, erego, he is asking God, "Aren't you tired yet"?(of all the destruction and death, I presume) What an amazing thing to say to God! My questions are:

Would anyone like to offer their thoughts on the meaning of the line: "These words you can't forget", and:

In the little booklet that comes with the CD, it says this song was written by Leonard, and based on a Quebec folk song. Does anyone know in what way it is based on a Quebec folk song; because the lyrics seem very much like "Leonard lyrics"; perhaps the melody is from a Quebec folk song, or a small part of the lyrics? Would be interesting to know. . .

I just love how Leonard addresses God as lover, and lovers as God; how endlessly enchanting!
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LisaLCFan
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Re: The Faith

Postby LisaLCFan » Thu Aug 20, 2009 8:43 pm

Hi Holydove! I love this song too, it is certainly haunting and has a way of sticking in one's head. It does seem like Leonard is singing to "god" when he laments, "Oh love, aren't you tired yet?" There is probably more detailed discussion of this song in the "Dear Heather" section, which you may want to check out.

As for the Quebec folk-song on which it is based, the music (of The Faith) is from the folk-song, not the lyrics (the lyrics, I believe, are all Leonard's and very different from the lyrics of the folk-song). However, in case you weren't aware, Leonard did record the actual folk-song (with its original lyrics). It is called "The Lost Canadian" ("Un Canadien Errant"), and it is on his Recent Songs album (from 1979), and he sings it entirely in French (and with a delightful and unique musical accompaniment, which I shall not give away in case you've not heard it yet.) Somewhere on YouTube is a clip of Leonard (circa late-seventies) discussing this song and his recording of it, as it plays in the background.

Cheers!
holydove
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Re: The Faith

Postby holydove » Fri Aug 21, 2009 5:23 pm

Hello, sweet LisaLCfan, thank you for the info and your suggestions; I did check out the discuusion in the Dear Heather section - very interesting. I actually have heard Un Canadien Errant, but didn't make the connection; now that you pointed it out, i listened again, and noticed the similarity in the rhythm and melody; I love hearing Leonard sing in French, but the sound of the mariachi band felt kind of jarring to me at first, so I must confess that was the only Leonard song I often found myself skipping; now that I listened more closely, I see that it is quite beautiful, and only the mariachi sounds at the very beginning are still a little jarring. But I saw a transcript of an interview with Leonard where he says that he felt it was humorous and ironic for a Jew to to be singing a song about an exiled French Canadian, to the sounds of a Mexican band - he felt it really magnified the idea of exile to the point of a kind of ironic absurdity (don't remember his exact words, but that was the gist).(pretty funny when you think of it that way, huh?)

Also, at the end of the discussion in the Dear Heather section, a very knowledgeable person points out that the line, "the blood, the soil, the faith" may be a reference to "Nazi blood & soil mysticism" ; nobody responded to this comment, but I thought it was very interesting, so I googled it. It turns out that part of the Nazi occult belief system was a doctrine called "Blood & Soil" which, to put it simply as possible, contended that there was a metaphysical connection between the German bloodline and German soil; it became a basis for anti-semitism because the Jews were considered a wandering people with no ties to the land, therefore they were considered infererior and, according to Nazi belief system, did not belong on German soil. (Maybe you already knew about this and I am boring you? If so, i apologize). Anyway, this was quite enlightening for me.

It has happened so often that through the desire to understand Leonard's lyrics, I discover bodies of knowledge that I would never have otherwise known about.

I have also further contemplated little thoughts that had occurred to me previously, about the line "O Love, arent' you tired yet?"
I still think he is addressing God, but along with that, he can also be addressing all of humanity at the same time; and he could also be addressing Love itself, love and God often being interchangable, it seems. . . very interesting, as always. . .
Lilifyre
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Re: The Faith

Postby Lilifyre » Mon Aug 24, 2009 8:49 am

Hi Hollydove. We seem to really like the same songs. I've meant to comment here since you began this thread but had a computer crash and some other things that have kept me from the site recently. I'm just now getting everything working again.

The Faith is one of my favorites and has been since the first time I heard it. It's one of those that I played non-stop for days. This is another one of Leonard's songs that has so many layers to it. I felt from the first time I heard it that he was speaking out against bigotry on all fronts. I agree that "Love" and god are used interchangably in this one.

As for the song being based on the melody of Un Canadien Errant, I was unaware of it myself. I was taking my partner to a doctor's appt the other day and was playing Leonard on my CD player in the car. My partner likes Leonard's music, but is not really what I would call a fan...not like I am anyhow. When I start talking about him she rolls her eyes like a teenager being reprimanded by a parent. :roll: Anyhow, I had the CD player fairly low and The Faith began playing. She started singing Un Canadien Errant in French. :o I swear I almost had an accident I was so surprised. She's from Minnesota and she said she heard that song frequently as a child, being so close to Canada. You just never know when you're going to run into something Cohen-esque... :lol:

Thanks for the info about the Nazis and the "blood & soil" connection. I really appreciate all that I've learned on these boards.
Lili
"Well, that's my story
I admit it's broken and it's bleak
But all the twisted pieces fit
A 1000 kisses deep."
holydove
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Re: The Faith

Postby holydove » Tue Aug 25, 2009 12:29 am

Hi Lilifyre, so nice to hear from you! I'm glad you have healed your computer. It's so lovely to find a kindred mind who loves the same songs. The Faith is indeed a multi-layered song, and there are some layers that i can feel emotionally but remain mysterious in terms of intellectual understanding, and I continue to ponder (as is the case with many of Leonard's beautiful words).

The line right after "the blood, the soil, the faith" is "these words you can't forget"; in light of the Nazi "blood & soil" connection, I now wonder if "these words. . . " refers to those very words. I'm sure that if one's loved ones were killed as a result of that doctrine, one would never forget those words (or maybe he's refering to the millions of words/ideas that have led to the many horrors that have occurred in the world?) Or perhaps it refers to "your vow", which are the very next words in the song, as vows are usually communicated through words; and then, which vow, or whose vow? The vow made by God to humanity, or the vows humans make to each other or to God (vows which are so often broken); or perhaps all of the above.

I believe the emotion behind "the Faith" itself is also multi-layered, containing much irony. On the one hand, depending on which/whose faith we are talking about, it is "faith" that has caused so many of these horrors. On the other hand, it is sometimes "faith" that gets people through the pain, and can, in a sense, heal us. There is so much more to talk about with song, but I think it might be best to take just a couple of spoonfuls at a time!

That is very interesting and funny about your partner knowing The Lost Canadian. I also have a very close friend who is not a fan (doesn't really know anything about Leonard), and I recently played, for her, a sampling of songs from The Essential album, and she said she didn''t like Leonard's voice (how sacreligious and shocking that felt! but I did my best to be patient and accepting). I almost decided to not play any more Cohen for her, but one day, at the last minute, I grabbed Dear Heather to play in the car (mainly because I was longing to hear The Faith at that moment), and when I played The Faith, she said, "That's really beautiful"! So I proceeded to play other songs from the Dear Healther album for her, and lo and behold, she liked every one of them! (She wasn't enraptured like we are, but she did appreciate it). My next plan is to show her the DVD of his London concert. . . we shall see. . .
Lilifyre
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Re: The Faith

Postby Lilifyre » Tue Sep 01, 2009 12:22 am

I was listening to "The Faith" this morning while waiting for my partner who was getting some medical tests done. I played it several times over and over and of course, found something that I hadn't paid much attention to before. So many layers to this song.

It occurred to me that, along with it being a reference to Nazi Germany, the phrase "the blood, the soil, the faith" might also refer to the Arab/Israeli conflict. Both sides, both Arab and Israeli lay claim to that land/soil, and from earliest Biblical days blood has been spilled on that soil. The faith could refer to all 3 major religions that were born in the middle East...Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In fact the phrase that says, "A cross on every hill, a star, a minaret" would seem to point to those 3 religions in particular. All 3 religions sprung from the same people, the same geography, the same "soil", yet they have constantly been in conflict with each other. There has also been what I call "the 3 kids" rule. Basically, this is from my observations as a child playing with my 2 cousins. We were all within 2 yrs of each other age wise. Almost never did we all 3 get along. Usually it was me and one of them against the other sibling. Our alliances changed each time we were together...sometimes several times in the same "playdate". Such has been the rule of the Middle East. The Christian Crusaders killed both Jews and Muslims as being inferior. Other times, the Christians joined the Jews against the Muslims (as now). I even believe there may have been some times when the Christians joined forces with the Muslims against the Jews. The phrase, "Your vow, your holy place" certainly speaks to all 3 religions and their actions over the millenia.

The song as a whole, seems to be asking, "When will all the killing end?" It could be asking that question of both god and mankind...."aren't you tired yet?"

Lili
Lili
"Well, that's my story
I admit it's broken and it's bleak
But all the twisted pieces fit
A 1000 kisses deep."
holydove
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Re: The Faith

Postby holydove » Thu Sep 03, 2009 4:45 pm

Lilifyre, I've had the same thought about "O love, aren't you tired yet?" - that he could be addressing both God and all of humanity. The ". . . cross. . . star . . . minaret. . . " line, I'd say, definitely refers to those three religions (Judaism, Christianity, & Islam); and I would venture to say that every religion offers some sort of vow(s) that a person could take, and they certainly all have their holy places.

That's a great point you make, that "the blood, the soil, the faith" could also be about the conflict in the Middle East. I'd say that's a very strong possibility, as they have been fighting and killing over "soil" AND "faith" since before time even began. . .

Also, the line "the sea so deep and blind" - perhaps a reference to the sea of human emotion/activity, including "blind faith" and/or the murderous activity that has emerged from that type of faith. (I don't think he is implying that all faith is blind, but that a kind of faith which produces wars and killing would be "blind").

In fact, I recently read in a book about Kabbalah, that" The essence of faith is an awareness of the vastness of Infinity." (a book by D.C. Matt called The Essential Kabbalah) Now that, I believe, would be true faith, rather than the "blind" variety. (Isn't that a wonderful definition of faith!)
Lilifyre
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Re: The Faith

Postby Lilifyre » Wed Jun 02, 2010 3:13 pm

Welcome smithdsouza, You can listen to the song on YouTube at the following link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79ImCDjmr4U

I know it can be purchased from iTunes. Individual songs are 99 cents (American). I'm not sure what album it is on as I seldom if ever purchase entire albums. It is a truly lovely song. Hope you enjoy it and this helps you.

Lili
Lili
"Well, that's my story
I admit it's broken and it's bleak
But all the twisted pieces fit
A 1000 kisses deep."
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LisaLCFan
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Re: The Faith

Postby LisaLCFan » Thu Jun 03, 2010 4:46 am

smithdsouza wrote:I never heard this song can any one tell me from where i can get this song,as you all are describing it seems to be a very good song. I also want to listen this song.
This song is on Leonard Cohen's album entitled Dear Heather, released in 2004. As noted, it would be available on iTunes, or you could just buy the whole album (from a music store, amazon, etc), as it is beautiful and unique (like all of Leonard's albums!).

Cheers!
the_padre
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Re: The Faith

Postby the_padre » Wed Nov 10, 2010 9:12 pm

My own suggestion to holydove and anyone, is that the lines:

These words you can't forget
Your vow, your holy place

... are evoking scripture, God's covenant with his people, and the holy place of the promised land (Jerusalem). At least that's what this listener hears.

And it's one of the most deeply moving songs I've ever heard.
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somewhat_nifty
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Re: The Faith

Postby somewhat_nifty » Thu Feb 03, 2011 5:26 pm

I admit I have neglected Dear Heather in the past, but recently I have been listening to it, and, like all of you, I cannot get this song out of my mind! I knew that the music was an outtake from Recent Songs (so I'm guessing that the violin part is played by Raffi Hakopian) and that the melody is that of Un Canadien Errant, but yet it manages to sound very different and uniquely lovely (though perhaps the lack of mariachi band helps!). It is beautiful in its simplicity. I have enjoyed reading everybody's take on it above.

However well you think you know Leonard's work, he manages to pull something else out of the bag and astound you anew.

'O love, aren't you tired yet?'
I'm chained to the old masquerade...
2008: London O2 14th Nov, RAH 18th Nov; 2009: NY RCMH 16th May, Weybridge MBW 11th July, Barcelona 21st Sept; 2010: Sligo 31st July, Lille 25th Sept, Las Vegas 11th Dec; 2012: Wembley Arena 8th Sept, Dublin 11th Sept 2013: London O2 21st June, London O2 14th Sept
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Diane
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Re: The Faith

Postby Diane » Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:35 am

I think The Faith is an extraordinary song, too. This paragraph, from the excellent piece from Stephen Watson that Sturgess copied to the forum a while ago, sums it up for me:
Leonard Cohen was the author of songs – one thinks of ‘If It Be Your Will’, ‘Anthem’ and ‘Love Itself’, and most recently perhaps ‘The Faith’ (from Dear Heather) – which are still among the few authentically religious songs of our time. They are such not primarily because of the traces of any particular faith which might inform them. Rather, they carry us back to the anthropological roots of religion and perhaps all spirituality: namely, our species-awareness of what ‘If It Be Your Will’ calls ‘the broken hill’ of this world and thus our need – our very great need. At the same time, whatever their point of origin in that broken place – however much Cohen himself had been, like others, a lifelong prisoner of that place – these songs rise to attain a note that is absolutely pure. And recognised or not, it is this note alone which, in the realm of artistic expression, constitutes the authentically religious. It is only purity of this order which confers a blessing.
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somewhat_nifty
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Re: The Faith

Postby somewhat_nifty » Wed Feb 09, 2011 1:13 pm

Thanks for sharing that Diane. I am not religious but can appreciate the special quality of these songs that answer an innate need. These songs have what I loosely define as a 'purity' about them that touches the soul, and I can see that if you were of a religious bent you might respond to them in that way, although I do not. Anyone can appreciate pure beauty though when it is before them!
I'm chained to the old masquerade...
2008: London O2 14th Nov, RAH 18th Nov; 2009: NY RCMH 16th May, Weybridge MBW 11th July, Barcelona 21st Sept; 2010: Sligo 31st July, Lille 25th Sept, Las Vegas 11th Dec; 2012: Wembley Arena 8th Sept, Dublin 11th Sept 2013: London O2 21st June, London O2 14th Sept
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Diane
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Re: The Faith

Postby Diane » Thu Feb 10, 2011 1:43 am

Hi somewhat nifty. Yes what I take the meaning of the passage I quoted to be is that all belief sytems - be they religious or atheistic - are necessarily limited, but that there are some truthes that we all feel and experience and share, that are so regardless of how they are interpreted. It's perhaps this 'purity' that LC reaches, by including many religions in his allusions, and building layers of meaning, and most of all by pointing to the deeper unifying truth behind them all.

I think The Faith is expressing the 'tireless' collective pain of humanity. Beyond that, what is the faith? That very word illustrates the difficulty trying to explain things in words, because faith can mean believing in something you have not experienced, or it can mean 'openess', to your own experience; bringing no pre-conceived ideas to it. These two definitions are opposites.

There's a possible Zen Buddhist allusion in "Those words you can't forget.": I imagine Leonard would have worked on koans a fair amount when he was in the monastery, with Joshu Sasaaki Roshi being a Rinzai Zen Master. Koans are questions designed to create "great doubt", until they make you realise (as in to know, rather than to intellectually understand) the insubstantial nature of your self (this process has been described as being a deliberately-induced dark night of the soul). These koans/questions are with you day and night and very much become "words you can't forget" until they unseat your experience of your self as real, as whatever-you-think-it-is. Students of zen are encouraged to have 'great faith' (in the possibility of enlightenment), and equally, 'great doubt'. Doubt and faith feed from each other. When you doubt your self enough, you're there!

From a zen perspective, 'faith' might also be characterised as giving in to the inevitability of loss (impermanence; death - so many graves). The song reminds you of how immensely difficult this is, while perhaps implying that this loss, and our fear of this loss (i.e. our love) are one and the same thing.

In any case, It's a marvellous song. You're right too that the music has a beautiful simplicity. Undertow is the other gem on that album. I've dug out my cd and really enjoying the listen. Cheers:-)

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