"Elaboration of a tube" line in "Going Home"?

Leonard Cohen's previous album (January 2012)
John K.
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Re: "Elaboration of a tube" line in "Going Home"?

Postby John K. » Thu Dec 06, 2012 6:25 pm

Mirek wrote:Although there was already some discussion on that verse, but I guess it'd be better to have a separate thread about these words.

He will speak these words of wisdom
Like a sage, a man of vision
Though he knows he’s really nothing
But the brief elaboration of a tube

So, as Jarkko said - it is >tube<, not >tune<. In my opinion it's even better, 'cos elaboration of a tune wouldn't be hard to interpret.

What kind of tube did LC have in mind?

Cathode ray tube being a source of electrons? A scientific metaphor of a poet being a source of words? Someone has already mentioned that.

Elaboration of epithelial tube - biological metaphore of a developing living organism?

Other kind of >tube<? If so - what kind?


I am really interested in your opinions. Remember - I am not a native speaker of English, so my ideas might be absolutely false.
This is an old thread that I hadn't read any of until today, and I only read the beginning and the end; forgive me if I repeat old ideas (pun intended).

One of the beautiful things about Going Home is the unusual structure and rhyming pattern. I think this is more clearly shown in the second verse as the rhyming words rhyme quite precisely:

He wants to write a love song
An anthem of forgiving
A manual for living with defeat

A cry above the suffering
A sacrifice recovering
But that isn’t what I need him to complete

I want him to be certain
That he doesn’t have a burden
That he doesn’t need a vision
That he only has permission
To do my instant bidding
Which is to say what I have told him
To repeat

One of my long-held contentions is that Mr. Cohen is not just a great writer, he is a great songwriter. He writes songs in a way where the music, and melody, and words all flow together very seemlessly. His remarkable skill and precision is shown in this second verse, as shown there are three sections of each verse, the first two sections are fairly identical as to length and prosody but the third goes completely off the rails and is twice as long but comes back around and matches up with the first two verses quite nicely.

He is truly the master of song.

Ok, so what's the point? The point is that, in my opinion, one can't just take the "elaboration of a tube" line out of the context of the writing of the song itself. Mr. Cohen is of course a very talented writer in general, but here he is writing a song; the song has it's own needs. So we move backwards to the first verse, remembering that there is no guarantee that the first verse was actually composed first and the second verse composed second. After all, it's certainly possible that Mr. Cohen started with the refrain. However, the refrain is not the point today, here is the first verse:

I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit

But he does say what I tell him
Even though it isn’t welcome
He just doesn't have the freedom
To refuse

He will speak these words of wisdom
Like a sage, a man of vision
Though he knows he’s really nothing
But the brief elaboration of a tube

I have once again bolded the "rhyming" words, here I put the word "rhyming" in quotes because these words don't rhyme so well. One of the beautiful things about songwriting is that one can get close enough and call it good if it works, see my "rhyme" of John and fraud in my current signature.

So my opinion is that Mr. Cohen absolutely meant to use the word "tube", that he's referencing the context of the supreme being communicating to the world through Leonard, whether Leonard likes it or not. My opinion is that when Mr. Cohen was writing this song he was setting it up with the pattern it has and knew it was a really good idea, but needed something that would communicate the way he wanted it to. So he had the picture of him being the conduit by which these thoughts needed to be communicated to the world, which would be like a tube going from above to us, like a downspout or a rolled up piece of newspaper that I speak into your ear with. The "brief elaboration" relates to the relatively short time we are all here in this world.

Love,

Private John K.
I love to speak with John
He's a pundit and a fraud
He's a lazy banker living in a suit

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Re: "Elaboration of a tube" line in "Going Home"?

Postby identify » Fri Dec 07, 2012 6:16 am

The earthworm has long been used in elementary high school biology classes and described as a tube within a tube which led to complex evolutionary advances. Humans are no exception. Cohen uses the word "brief", either as a step in the direction of greater specialization or as an apocalyptic projection.
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Re: "Elaboration of a tube" line in "Going Home"?

Postby John K. » Fri Dec 07, 2012 7:11 pm

identify wrote:The earthworm has long been used in elementary high school biology classes and described as a tube within a tube which led to complex evolutionary advances. Humans are no exception. Cohen uses the word "brief", either as a step in the direction of greater specialization or as an apocalyptic projection.
Ah, the human as earthworm, I like it. :)
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He's a lazy banker living in a suit

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Re: "Elaboration of a tube" line in "Going Home"?

Postby Klaus@Kokanee » Fri Dec 28, 2012 10:41 am

Hello, sometimes I think it would be nice to have a thread titled the 'Muse of the Laboratory' because Leonard's lyrics include these brief but absolutely fundamental truths about reality, about what we are and how we fit into this universe.

For an example: "The sea so deep and blind / Where still the sun must set / And time itself unwind" ( from 'The Faith') and from the current thread: "He will speak these words of wisdom, / Like a sage, a man of vision / Though he knows he's really nothing / But the brief elaboration of tube".

Of course we are tubes, tubes who breathe in oxygen and breathe out CO2; tubes who ingest food/energy and excrete waste. Tubes, who are indeed "nothing but" a very "brief elaboration" , given the 17 billion year history of "time itself unwind(ing)".

As others have suggested, Leonard's use of the tube as metaphor also makes sense, given he sometimes describe his poetry moving through him, as if from some other or higher source or self .

Another way I can think of Leonard as a tube, is as one who inhales our Zeitgeist, gets high (or low) and then exhales the poetry of the collective unconscious. "Like a sage", he speaks "words of wisdom" about our truth. Leonard's dispatches from the depth of the interior landscape, reflect who we are and sometimes who we will be.

"All your children here / In their rags of light / In our rags of light / All dressed to kill". (from: "If It Be Your Will").

Here is Leonard's version of "We Are Stardust". In his version, the big bang of light has condensed into the rags of matter which clothe our souls/selves. Our essence is dressed in matter of flesh. We are tubes of flesh that evolved to kill. But that is a whole other story.

(A few years ago, before Leonard published "Going Home", I tried to record my thoughts about the issue Leonard raises with his: "All dressed to kill". I used the word "tube" to describe human beings. I (tried and failed to) include the piece in an attachment.)
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Re: "Elaboration of a tube" line in "Going Home"?

Postby IMM » Sat Dec 29, 2012 7:43 pm

Klaus@Kokanee wrote:Hello, sometimes I think it would be nice to have a thread titled the 'Muse of the Laboratory' because Leonard's lyrics include these brief but absolutely fundamental truths about reality, about what we are and how we fit into this universe.
It might be appropriate. If you look closely at the poster, you might notice that all of the glassware is bracketed by the retorts. ;-)
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Re: "Elaboration of a tube" line in "Going Home"?

Postby Mirek » Mon Dec 31, 2012 12:56 am

IMM wrote:
Klaus@Kokanee wrote:Hello, sometimes I think it would be nice to have a thread titled the 'Muse of the Laboratory' because Leonard's lyrics include these brief but absolutely fundamental truths about reality, about what we are and how we fit into this universe.
It might be appropriate. If you look closely at the poster, you might notice that all of the glassware is bracketed by the retorts. ;-)
Sounds quite interesting. Do you mean the retorts here are symbols of distillation of the words - purification of poetry?
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Re: "Elaboration of a tube" line in "Going Home"?

Postby holydove » Sun Feb 17, 2013 10:01 pm

It'a been a while since I looked at this thread, & don't remember for sure if this was mentioned, but I don't think so, & I recently came across this interesting little piece of info, which coincides with some ideas that have been expressed here:

Kabbalah has blessings for everything under the sun, every conceivable human activity, including going to the bathroom. Usually, the blessings are said before the act, like before eating something, before putting on clothing, etc. But out of respect, the bathroom blessing is said when one has completed the act, & is leaving the bathroom. It goes like this:

"Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has formed humans in wisdom, & created in them a system of ducts & tubes. It is well known before your glorious throne that if but one of these be opened, or if one of those be closed, it would be impossible to exist in Your presence. Blessed art You, O Lord, who heals all creatures & does wonders."
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Re: "Elaboration of a tube" line in "Going Home"?

Postby cohenadmirer » Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:11 pm

holydove wrote:It'a been a while since I looked at this thread, & don't remember for sure if this was mentioned, but I don't think so, & I recently came across this interesting little piece of info, which coincides with some ideas that have been expressed here:

Kabbalah has blessings for everything under the sun, every conceivable human activity, including going to the bathroom. Usually, the blessings are said before the act, like before eating something, before putting on clothing, etc. But out of respect, the bathroom blessing is said when one has completed the act, & is leaving the bathroom. It goes like this:

"Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has formed humans in wisdom, & created in them a system of ducts & tubes. It is well known before your glorious throne that if but one of these be opened, or if one of those be closed, it would be impossible to exist in Your presence. Blessed art You, O Lord, who heals all creatures & does wonders."
I can't see or hear myself making such a blessing after using the bathroom though I usualy have a certain amount of gratitude for whatever happened while i was in there !
Wouldn't it be nice if the man himself posted here to put us out of our 'misery' ( or perhaps deepen the mystery?)
Anyway the song gets greater with every listening and the concert audiences love it .it has such a great opening and closing line and for me the song as a whole speaks of ' recovery', self acceptance and a little knowing self deprecation

In anatomical terms the ' vocal tube' is......
the part of the air passages above the inferior ligaments of the larynx, including the passages
through the nose and mouth.


I wouldn't be surprised if the line is another variant of his tendency to belittle his singing abilities
Last edited by cohenadmirer on Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Elaboration of a tube" line in "Going Home"?

Postby holydove » Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:55 pm

cohenadmirer wrote:
I can't see or hear myself making such a blessing after using the bathroom though I usualy have a certain amount of gratitude for whatever happened while i was in there !
:lol: I think I'd have a hard time saying it with a straight face, anyway!

Yes, that would be very cool if the Man himself commented here!

I think the tube is everything that has been mentioned, & more - from the most basic & mundane to the most lofty & spiritual, & everything in between. Brilliant line & brilliant song, & the live performances of it are treasures for the ages!
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Re: "Elaboration of a tube" line in "Going Home"?

Postby msbette » Sun Mar 03, 2013 3:28 am

My take on the word "tube"in this context is that it is a conduit or channel from the spiritual universe to the human heart or it could also be from the heart reaching toward the spiritual or higher self that connects us all. In my mind the genius of Leonard Cohen"s lyrics is that they are pure poetry and bypass the brain and directly speaks to the heart. By doing this the connection is pure and true rather than an intellectual construct.
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Re: "Elaboration of a tube" line in "Going Home"?

Postby Athnuachan » Sun Mar 10, 2013 11:28 pm

Simple explanation : Everything goes in one end and out the other - we are animals. We are "nothing". And our time on earth is brief.

(Bet Cohen would have a good laugh if he read some of the elaborate interpretations of this! )
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Re: "Elaboration of a tube" line in "Going Home"?

Postby jdhayes » Sun Mar 24, 2013 4:52 pm

It brings to mind the public announceent on the tube in london: Mind the gap. I wonder what could be read into that?
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Re: "Elaboration of a tube" line in "Going Home"?

Postby Jean Fournell » Thu Jun 20, 2013 4:37 pm

Here, for comparison, there is another "tube" meeting with his "elaboration". Written by an atheist.

(Please ignore with a benevolent smile the awkwardness of my attempt at translating – English is not my mother-tongue, and I haven't had all that much practice over these last two decades and a half or so.
It is just meant to give the gist of it to those who are not entirely at ease with reading German.)

Mohammeds Berufung

Da aber als in sein Versteck der Hohe,
sofort Erkennbare: der Engel, trat,
aufrecht, der lautere und lichterlohe:
da tat er allen Anspruch ab und bat

bleiben zu dürfen der von seinen Reisen
innen verwirrte Kaufmann, der er war;
er hatte nie gelesen – und nun gar
ein solches Wort, zu viel für einen Weisen.

Der Engel aber, herrisch, wies und wies
ihm, was geschrieben stand auf seinem Blatte,
und gab nicht nach und wollte wieder: Lies.

Da las er: so, daß sich der Engel bog.
Und war schon einer, der gelesen hatte
und konnte und gehorchte und vollzog.

Rainer Maria Rilke
(written between 22.8. and 5.9.1907 in Paris)

Muhammad's Calling

But then as in his hiding place the high one,
immediately known: the angel, stepped,
upright, the pure one, all of light and blazing:
he gave up all ambition and he begged

permission to remain the through his travels
inwardly messed-up merchant that he was;
he hadn't ever read – and now of all
a word like that, too much for any wise one.

The angel, though, he lordly showed and showed
him what was written down there on his paper,
and did not yield, and would again: Do read.

And there he read: thus, that the angel bent.
And was already quite one who had read, and
was able and obeyed and carried out.

● — ● — ●

Poussière troublée, ô, cachant
un amour indivis
qu' le cœur dessous enseigne
à ce cœur brisé dessus.
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Re: "Elaboration of a tube" line in "Going Home"?

Postby MarieJolie » Wed Jun 26, 2013 3:23 pm

Jean Fournell wrote:Here, for comparison, there is another "tube" meeting with his "elaboration". Written by an atheist.

(Please ignore with a benevolent smile the awkwardness of my attempt at translating – English is not my mother-tongue, and I haven't had all that much practice over these last two decades and a half or so.
It is just meant to give the gist of it to those who are not entirely at ease with reading German.)

Mohammeds Berufung

Da aber als in sein Versteck der Hohe,
sofort Erkennbare: der Engel, trat,
aufrecht, der lautere und lichterlohe:
da tat er allen Anspruch ab und bat

bleiben zu dürfen der von seinen Reisen
innen verwirrte Kaufmann, der er war;
er hatte nie gelesen – und nun gar
ein solches Wort, zu viel für einen Weisen.

Der Engel aber, herrisch, wies und wies
ihm, was geschrieben stand auf seinem Blatte,
und gab nicht nach und wollte wieder: Lies.

Da las er: so, daß sich der Engel bog.
Und war schon einer, der gelesen hatte
und konnte und gehorchte und vollzog.

Rainer Maria Rilke
(written between 22.8. and 5.9.1907 in Paris)

Muhammad's Calling

But then as in his hiding place the high one,
immediately known: the angel, stepped,
upright, the pure one, all of light and blazing:
he gave up all ambition and he begged

permission to remain the through his travels
inwardly messed-up merchant that he was;
he hadn't ever read – and now of all
a word like that, too much for any wise one.

The angel, though, he lordly showed and showed
him what was written down there on his paper,
and did not yield, and would again: Do read.

And there he read: thus, that the angel bent.
And was already quite one who had read, and
was able and obeyed and carried out.

● — ● — ●

Poussière troublée, ô, cachant
un amour indivis
qu' le cœur dessous enseigne
à ce cœur brisé dessus.
I have found an "official translation of this poem:

When into the hidden cave the angel stepped—
he was unmistakable, so towering and radiant—
the lone man there shed all claims
and asked only to be permitted
to remain the simple man he was,
a merchant confused by his travels.
He could not read—and now a word like this
was too much for even a wise one.

But the angel, imperious, pointed over and over
to what was written on the page he held,
and would not yield and kept insisting: read.

Then the man read, and when he did the angel bowed.
It was as if he had always been reading,
and now was able to obey and bring to pass.

thus, am not able to fully appreciate your suggestion; but the question of interpretation of the word "tube" in these lyrics still intrigues me...I wonder, does this strike that human beings are simply a "channel" (made of all kinds of "tubes") through which a Superior Entity has been "speaking" over the centuries? Or is it "the angel" (representing the same Entity) who compels human beings to "read" (i.e. use their brains) and live their lifes consciously in Faith, any kind of Faith?
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Jean Fournell
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Re: "Elaboration of a tube" line in "Going Home"?

Postby Jean Fournell » Fri Jun 28, 2013 5:00 pm

@ MarieJolie: "thus, am not able to fully appreciate your suggestion"

My point is based on the first word of line 6 of the (original) poem by Rilke: "innen" (inside).

This word (or any similar notion) is omitted in the quoted translation by Anita Barrows and/or Joanna Macy (the website http://yearwithrilke.blogspot.fr/2011/1 ... lling.html does not specify),
as well as in the far better translation by Leonard Cottrell http://www.planck.com/Rilkerhymed/rilkemohammed.htm.

And with the lack of this "innen", which I translated by "inwardly", there is no more opposition "inside-outside". And with the lack of that opposition, the poem would be "off topic" here.

The original, however, I maintain to be of interest (and so I took the pains of translating it, however poorly) in the context "brief elaboration of a tube" (not a tangle of tubes, by the way, but "a tube", one tube).

And "channel" is an important aspect, but not the only one.

(Many poets, including Leonard Cohen, have said that they don't know where "it" comes from; and Rilke, at the time he wrote this poem, had just stopped working as a secretary for the sculptor Auguste Rodin — from whom he had learned that art is one small spark of "it", but that all the rest is hard, disciplined work.
This understanding changed him and he became a considerably better poet. The poem at hand is certainly not one of his very best ones, but it is far beyond the sometimes pretty cheap stuff which by then he had quit producing.)

Let me explain my point:

There is a traveling merchant, responsible for several dozen up to several hundred animals crossing deserts, many of them pack camels carrying valuable merchandise. A few animals in the lot belong to himself, the rest is owned by rich clients for whom he travels. Insurance companies do not exist at that time, and there is quite a number of gangs attacking caravans in the desert, but no police.

Our chief executive caravan leading manager therefore has to hire camel drivers of the rather tough kind, lest they all be killed or sold as slaves. And he has to keep them from quarrelling and fighting with each other — if needs be by strong-arming them into peaceful behaviour. (Later, he forbade alcohol.)

Arriving at an oasis or a town, he has to buy fodder and water. True enough, camels can go for a long time without drinking — but horses and sheep can't. So he is under pressure, and the sellers know it, and he still has to strike a correct bargain, because that is part of his job.
To put it in a nutshell: survival depends on efficacy.

A job like that requires "stamina" (or "stomach", or "guts").

Occasionally, when he is not crossing some desert, he withdraws from the crowd.
I have no knowledge of what he is doing during these retreats, of course, but I easily imagine that he practises something that insiders nowadays would call "spiritual materialism" or "mental hygiene for executive managers via autosuggestive introjection-projection training".
In order to keep this required stamina intact.
And it works well. He and his clients prosper.

And then something happens.

Rilke says "Versteck" (hiding place). Rilke does not say "cavern in Mount Hira". He does not specify whether this is a physical hiding place, or a mental one where tricks and schemes are being worked out. (The second inside of the first could be plausible.)

Therefore Rilke does not specify whether Gabriel steps into the cavern (such a physical existence of an angel would be hard to admit even for many believers), or rather into the introspective-introjective-projective-prospective mental state of the executive manager boosting himself for the next trip.

But in both cases the impact is internal. The term commonly used is "insight".
(There is a difference between looking and seeing, or listening and hearing, or speaking and saying.)

This man has a clear view of tricks and schemes producing "stamina" in order to prop up the façade of a successful, presumably deeply honest 40-year-old business man, still good enough at fist-fighting and weaponry to stand his ground.
The vision of a tube.

A tube different from the zen "bag of skin, full of blood and bones and crap", which itself is almost the opposite of the low language "bag of farts".
(After all, Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells", for instance, have to be clean and open in order to ring properly.)

A tube that all of a sudden lays off all ambition, that is required now to be empty in order to be able to "read". And the tube "just doesn't have the freedom to refuse", and "it" occurs.

(I don't agree with Leonard Cottrell when he says in the first line of his translation:
"Power stepped into his hiding place:"
My objection is that Gabriel is no power ("awe" would be more acceptable). He is a messenger, a channel; and messengers, far from being powers, have often been beheaded for having brought unwelcome news.
The necessity does not come from any power, but merely from the wholehearted comprehension that there is no way of escaping one's own truth. And this truth is such a minute weakling that just about any liar can easily get rid of it in no time at all — can't we?
Of course we can. We keep on practising all the time!)

So far a few aspects of analogy.

And here two differences (not the only ones, of course):

— In the tradition, Gabriel doesn't say "read".
He says "recite", which means "repeat by heart".
Much closer to "to SAY what I have told him to repeat"...

— And now take a man of twice the age, having repeated truth coming from the heart over half a century.
Going home...
(The persona is different from the real Leonard Cohen, who doesn't depend on morrow-sorrow-rhyming. The persona does.)

Thanks for your patience — J.
___________________________________________________
Therefore know that you must become one with the bow, and with the arrow, and with the target
to say nothing of the horse.

... for a while
... for a little while...

(Just a filthy beggar blessing / What happens to the heart)

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