The Darker Album and the Songs

Leonard Ciohen's last studio album (2016)
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Diane
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Diane » Sun Mar 12, 2017 12:44 am

Some notes on String Reprise/Treaty:

I wish there was a treaty we could sign
It's over now the water and the wine
We were broken then but now we're borderline
And I wish there was a treaty, I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine.


Doron, please correct (or add to) anything I am saying about the Bible.

I wish there was a treaty we could sign

Continuing with the assumption that the album You Want it Darker is a blending of Zen and the 'biblical landscape': If as I suggested, a treaty is about human law, in order to sign a treaty, you would have to sign in lieu of a ('wishing/wanting') ego-identity. Leonard's wished for treaty is entirely possible, it just cannot be signed, or made separate/permanent.

The meaning of this line could equally be 'I wish there was a tangible sign we could construct for our treaty' - like a religion; some kind of certainty to hold on to.

From the New Testament: When asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God will not come with observable signs. Nor will people say, ‘Look, here it is,’ or ‘There it is.’For you see, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21).

The last sentence there translated from:
he basileia tou Theou entos hymon estin (the Kingdom of the God in you is)
The Greek word εντος, means 'inside' or 'within'.

(According to one online writer, "despite being a typical word in Greek, εντος is used only twice in the New Testament: here in Luke 17.21, and over in Matthew 23.26, where it refers to the 'inside' of a cup" -- has this any relevance to hammered cup in Born in Chains? but I digress...)

"within you" is echoed in Treaty the full version

I heard the snake was baffled by his sin
He shed his scales to find the snake within


The snake/serpent, the part of us that caused/causes our 'fall', that made us 'sin' is baffled, i.e. bewildered/blinded by its own predicament. Scales falling from the eyes means of course being able to see clearly (a phrase that also originates in the Bible), as well as referring to the scales of the snake's skin.

I heard the snake was baffled by his sin
He shed his scales to find the snake within
But born again is born without a skin
The poison enters into everything


Looking up a reference to born again in the Bible led me unexpectedly to a passage that refers again to the Kingdom, a sign and a snake:
Jesus and Nicodemus, John 3.3

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know You are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs You are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time to be born?”

Jesus answered “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh is born of flesh, but spirit is born of the Spirit. Do not be amazed that I said, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” Jesus replied, “and do you not understand these things? Truly, truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, and yet you people do not accept our testimony.

If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.

Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.:

I heard the snake was baffled by his sin
He shed his scales to find the snake within
But born again is born without a skin
The poison enters into everything


The nasty snake was clearly the poisonous variety and when it looked inside, it killed itself (ego-death). Surely not what it wanted. It shed its skin and was no longer confined to what had been 'inside', alluding to our own assumption that 'we' firmly reside inside the boundary of our skin. The poison (death) inevitably meant it entered into everything. If your self is empty, it necessarily must be what the entire universe is doing at the place where you are. And in the process of the interconnected and ever moving universe, we are continuously born again.

(The powerful imagery of 'poison entering into everything' clearly has other intended meanings also, that have been touched upon already in this thread.)


It's over now the water and the wine

The water and the wine are one and the same substance.

We were broken then but now we're borderline

We were broken/suffering but now we are on the borderline between the 'different sides' of a line nobody drew.

And I wish there was a treaty, I wish there was a treaty

Both God/"God" and "us" in our illusory 'dual mode' each wishes there was a treaty, so that sentence is repeated for each 'side'.

Between your love and mine.

He pauses during the last line so it sounds like:

Between your love...and mine.

The pause - the gap - is reflecting that very gap that Vicki brought here:
Vicki wrote Leonard wrote:
We sense that there is a will that is behind all things, and we’re also aware of our own will, and it’s the distance between those two wills that creates the mystery that we call religion. It is the attempt to reconcile our will with another will that we can’t quite put our finger on, but we feel is powerful and existent. It’s the space between those two wills that creates our predicament.

I recall hearing how J Krishnamurti at one of his lectures raised his hand to show a gap between thumb and forefinger. “Ladies and gentlemen! All the miseries of the world are created by that gap -- between this and that!" He meant the 'gap' between those same two wills that Leonard speaks of; between how things are and how we want them to be.

In order to find the elusive 'answer' (which can never be 'found' because an answer would be a 'sign'), finally you have to look into the nature of this seeker of the resolution between these 'two wills'

What if, as I sit here trying to figure out a Treaty, I realise that I am like a person standing on a harbour-side waiting for a ship to come in, when all the while I am standing in the very boat I am waiting for? What if, realising that, I consequently have to realise the futility of waiting, and also of trying to turn the water into wine to get my boat sozzled in order to make it feel better before it gets to me.
Mat wrote:
Leonard’s deep-deep inner-most doubts may have been expressed in this aching song, "Treaty". And cyclic uncertainty, is why he repeats the verse in the final song, String Reprise/Treaty
singing about a Treaty “between your love and mine.”
Quoting myself from earlier in the thread when I was talking to Violet about the title track on Darker: Despair can move from being heavier to lighter, and back again. That's our lived experience of dealing with difficult things, isn't it. Sometimes we think everything's fine, and at other times we are distraught and far from peace. Within Darker the song, we are transported back and forth from bitter accusations to complete acceptance, aided by the music. (I can only imagine that any person contemplating their own coming death, no matter how spiritually realised, would move around in their degree of acceptance.)

If the truth is ever-changing (it sounded like the truth but it's not the truth today), then what? If nothing is certain then anything is possible. The reprise is the treaty. The cruelty of Impermanence is that we love at our peril, and the grace of Impermanence is that we are born again, and again, and again:

(String) reprise:
noun, a repeated passage in music.
verb, repeat (a piece of music or a performance).

From If I Didn't Have Your Love - were it not for Impermanence, no one that you hurt could ever heal.

What I haven't done is examine the connection between how Jesus is alluded to elsewhere on the album, and how I have quoted and interpreted him in this post, and I have a sense of loose ends as far as that is concerned. Any ideas?

A final thought for now, incorporating Islam into the mix:
wikipedia wrote:The Treaty of Hudaybiyyah (Arabic: صلح الحديبية) was an important event that took place during the formation of Islam. It was a pivotal treaty between Muhammad, representing the state of Medina, and the Quraysh tribe of Mecca in March 628 (corresponding to Dhu al-Qi'dah, 6 AH).
Apparently Islam wipes away everything that has gone before - it forgives, as of course does Christ. Maybe all treaties are forged as a gesture towards forgiveness and reconciliation, as Steven you noted:
Interesting that the song character isn't wishing for a reconcilement of the
two loves or a cementing. A treaty may not be as strong as a reconcilement.
Recently I came across a poem by by Stephen Dunn (whom you introduced on the forum some time ago). Not Leonard's style, but I'd like to quote it:
Love

Found dead in an alley
of words: awesome,
no hope for it, and share,
which must have fallen
trying to get by on its own,
and near the trash cans,
almost totally exhausted,
the barely breathing cool.

But there's love
among the disposables,
waiting, as ever,
to be lifted
into consequence.

And here comes a forager
looking for anything
that might get him
through another night.
Love's right in front
of him, his if he wants it.

In the air
the ashy smell of cliches,
the stink of obsolescence.
He's leaning love's way.

All the words are watching,
even the dead ones. It's as if
what he does next
could be the equivalent
of restoring awe to awesome —

that love, if chosen,
might be given back to love,
made new again.

But the man is just a man
out for easy pickings.
Or has he just remembered
how, early on, love
always feels original?

Let us forgive him
if he keeps on foraging.
Last edited by Diane on Sun Mar 12, 2017 1:01 pm, edited 5 times in total.
DBCohen
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby DBCohen » Tue Mar 14, 2017 2:23 pm

Diane,

What a great effort on your side, and very interesting and illuminating. Alas, I find myself in the awkward position of not finding an appropriate rejoinder. I’ll need more time to consider the wider picture, so I’m only offering one or two slight points.

One of the problems with the New Testament is that it is a double translation; you read it in English, which is translated from the Greek, but that version is also a translation; Jesus and everyone around him spoke either Aramaic or Hebrew, so we don’t have their original words (to say nothing of the gap in time between the actual utterances and the record made of them). So I’m not sure how much can be read into the occurrences of certain Greek words, and I hope I don’t sound too pedantic.

I’m much intrigued with your discussion of the snake; however, I still feel, as I indicated earlier, that LC in this song expresses disillusion over the possibility of being “born again”. Yes, there’s no escaping the fact that this album is dark and we must find the strength to face this darkness, which is nevertheless clothed in beauty.

Again, thanks for everything you wrote and my apologies for being unable to offer more at the moment.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Steven » Tue Mar 14, 2017 6:11 pm

Hi Diane,

Thanks for the interesting post.

I hear the snake's appearance in the song as most strongly an allusion to the biblical snake in
Genesis 3. That creature was the provocateur of the disobedience that led to the fall...
the "original sin." Treaties have relevance to all manner of situations of dire straits,
in the context of the song, most readily, to those connected with relationship
to God, as I experience the lyrics. Water and wine as Communion -- connection. The
baffling of the snake, could be indicating Satan's power to deceive the instrument
of his deed. "borderline," I hear as an allusion to borderline personality disorder. The
"snake within," I take to be a pejorative, a slur, on the commonly demonized animal.
Born again, is a sanctified condition, as per the New Testament. Life corrupts people
and its "poison" taints... it enters in. The shedding of snakes' skins, are often
taken as metaphor for capacity to get rid of old stuff, allowing, in a sense, for
new beginnings, rebirths. Great tie-in by L.C. with the skin shedding to the
biblical born again condition. The snake, here, does not have the ablity to get beyond
its pervasive condition of evil.

P.S. Can't get back to this thread with responses for a while. Swamped...
need a treaty. :)
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Joe Way » Wed Mar 15, 2017 12:58 am

Vicki, thank you for bringing the quote here and pointing out how relevant it is to our discussion.

Diane, wonderful analysis and like Doron I need to give it a little more thought before commenting. I do wonder if there is some element of Fundamentalism referenced by the quote "But born again is born without a skin." The many people particularly here in the U. S. who reference Born Again are generally the Bible literalists-a sense of faith without a lot of interest in the more literary aspects of the Bible and religion. I think Leonard was certainly referring to them in "Democracy" in the lines, "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".

There is another reference in "Steer Your Way"-"Steer your heart past the Truth/you believed in yesterday/Such as Fundamental Goodness/and the Wisdom of the Way." I think Leonard would put himself on the opposite side of such beliefs-the richness of literary aspects of the Bible are what most interest him.

One other observation-I think that the line from "String Reprise/Treaty"-"We were broken then, but now we're borderline" harkens back to "If I Didn't Have Your Love" where the chorus keeps echoing "That's how broken I would be/What my life would seem to me/If I didn't have your love/To make it real." To go a little further, I think that both this song and Treaty are addressed to the same entity. And it makes me think that one is recognizing "Love" while Treaty is addressing "Will"-very complicated. I also again ask the question-is changing from broken to borderline, an improvement or a lessening of one's status? So far I think that it is an improvement, but I am ready to change my opinion with other evidence.

Thanks for keeping this discussion alive.

Joe
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby vickiwoodyard » Wed Mar 15, 2017 1:19 am

Leonard tells us again and again how to approach his words and yet I don't think he minds us cherishing the chance to hang with them on the off-chance that something will ring a bell within our souls that might have only just been struck for the first time. That is the wonderful thing about the way of beginner's mind.

I agree that "now we're borderline" feels a tiny bit better than broken, although not much. And just as mysterious. Everything in this world is broken; he has laid that out before and we know it's true because we live it.

I keep saying the same things in different ways; that is how we all are. I keep saying that for me, you want it darker means that he is being utterly realistic about the suffering involved in leaving this world forever. It hurts big time, I would assume. He is sharing with us his fear of pain and how it wrecks him and how grateful he is for love.

I play the CD over and over, not to search for meaning but to experience love.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby DBCohen » Wed Mar 15, 2017 3:04 pm

Steven, Joe, Vicki,

I appreciate all your comments very much. There’s still a lot to think about; perhaps we should go back to the beginning…

Adam,

Yes, March 28 is the new moon, the first day of Nisan, the month of spring; in ancient times it used to be the first day of the year, which makes a lot of sense, since everything begins anew in the spring. It is rather strange to celebrate the new year in the midst of winter as Christians do (and much of the rest of the world following them), or in autumn as Jews have been doing for centuries. It is also the month of the Exodus, and in the words of our Man, “I was born in chains / But I was taken out of Egypt / I was bound to a burden / But the burden it was raised”, which ideally should come true for each and every one of us. I’d like to wish you and everyone else a real fresh beginning and happy days. Take care.

Doron
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Diane
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Diane » Wed Mar 15, 2017 5:21 pm

Dear Doron, Joe, Adam, Vicki, Violet, Steven, Mat and every other lovely person in this thread - I am too busy at mo to write (don't think I have anything to add anyway), but thanks for your thoughts!

Let's continue to steep ourselves in LC's work - at least until we gently decouple ourselves from this mortal coil. Happy Nisan.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Violet » Wed Mar 15, 2017 9:28 pm

Diane wrote:
Wed Mar 15, 2017 5:21 pm
Dear Doron, Joe, Adam, Vicki, Violet, Steven, Mat and every other lovely person in this thread - I am too busy at mo to write (don't think I have anything to add anyway), but thanks for your thoughts!

Let's continue to steep ourselves in LC's work - at least until we gently decouple ourselves from this mortal coil. Happy Nisan.
Thanks, Diane, you are very kind -- and I'm sorry I haven't responded specifically to your posts (for the most part) since I do find your ideas to be both subtle and far reaching. It's to do with my state of mind, and not lack of interest.

(It's still so interesting to me that Shakespeare is now part of this lexicon of sorts.)

Doron, thank you for your wish for a fresh beginning for all of us. Funny, here in Upstate New York we've just had over two feet of snow and more is expected, so it's not quite spring yet -- just as I haven't quite let go of my sadness yet.

In so speaking, I've been in a funny mess with this thread since I still can't bring myself to listen to the album right now, although I did listen to the two songs I wrote about. Perhaps I already mentioned at some point that contributing to this conversation in the aftermath of Leonard's death seemed therapeutic. Anyway, that's how it was that I wound up writing here, in spite of my reluctance to listen to the album.

I haven't gone over what I've written, but it occurs to me that my contribution has to do with injecting some present tense into the examination of the lyrics, which, given LC's command over multiple meanings simultaneously (some of which happens unconsciously), is perhaps to suggest their immediacy -- and/or whatever immediate concern he was grappling with -- as the entryway to myriad other matters and implications.

I guess I'll leave things at that for now.

.. except for a bit of Shakespeare:

Yet, do thy worst old Time: despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young.

[from Sonnet XIX]
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby vickiwoodyard » Fri Mar 17, 2017 1:48 pm

I have been reflecting on Treaty again as I listen to it many times over. I have been on the path for most of my life and this is how it is resonating with me for the moment. He could be talking about any relationship between 2 human beings. When he says "Only one of us was real," he is speaking of the "I am" awareness. In this sense, his "I am" is real, so the other is merely a projection he is making onto the beloved. He is saying that projections are not real.

Each of us is the "I am", of course and so human relationships have this built-in dilemma of there being only one who is real. Each person could say the same thing about the other.

Two people can love each other, but the unreality of the personality will never permit a true treaty.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby mat james » Sat Mar 18, 2017 12:17 am

I'll go along with that V.
For me, you hit the nail on the head, as they say.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Steven » Fri Mar 24, 2017 5:33 am

Hi,

Doron wrote:
"I appreciate all your comments very much. There’s still a lot to think about; perhaps we should go back to the beginning… "

Thanks, Doron. Likewise is my appreciation for the comments you
and others have made.

Want to note a bible verse that L.C. may have been directly
responding to in "Treaty," particularly with regards to the "water
into wine," the sitting "at your table every night," and the trying
but failing to "get high with you." It's not the only applicable verse,
of course. It is Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door, and
knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come
in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." "sup" is the
salient word in King James English. Other translations have
"dine" and "eat."

If people have a desire to do bible-lyrics exegesis here, they can
do so. If they don't, I'm stepping aside on this.
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby lizzytysh » Fri Mar 24, 2017 7:31 pm

Heartening to read this page of this thread. Will return another time to read more.
Totally distracted during this period by the facts of losing Leonard and getting hit with Trump. Crying daily for two months, on little to no provocation save the two preceding facts, made daily functioning all but impossible. An anti-depressant finally made daily life at least bearable.
Am grateful that, in Leonard's death, he did not die with knowing that Trump was what our country and we as individuals were going to have to endure going forward.

~ Lizzie
"Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
~ Oscar Wilde
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby I'm your fan » Wed Mar 29, 2017 12:01 pm

Ithaca by Constantine Cavafy, recited in English by Sean Connery with background music by Vangelis. The text is subtitled in Spanish:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3usUuJ6xNs
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby I'm your fan » Wed Mar 29, 2017 12:20 pm

This is an adaptation of Cavafy's poem sung in Catalan, by Catalan singer Lluis Llach. The subtitles are in Spanish: http://ytcropper.com/cropped/Mw58db7a15b497c
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Diane
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Re: The Darker Album and the Songs

Postby Diane » Wed Mar 29, 2017 1:00 pm

Nice links, I'm Your Fan.

Boss, not just your brother Mick but thousands, millions of others too, me included (if you're meaning is, as I take it to be, that many don't even get to be 'innocent' as young children). I guess I could have left that Schopenhauer out of my post, but I saw it the other day and it sprung to mind. One thought leads to another. You know how it goes.

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