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Posted: Wed Jul 19, 2006 12:15 pm
by Dem
Tom thanks for the explanations.

When you say:
"The system we're living in is shot on that day, they shot him, the system which adjusted to that strict September drum, and now it's gonna be September for many years to come."
you are refering to 911?
What is the connection?

lightning wrote:
At least someone still has the freedom to write a poem and sing a song denying free will, but in time that will go too.
If there isn't such thing as "free will", how can someone "have the
freedom" to write a poem denying it?

Leonard could have not written that poem or he was
deterministically bound to write it?


Posted: Wed Jul 19, 2006 12:59 pm
by hydriot
Dem wrote:What does "The system is shot " mean?

What "But time is long gone
Past my laughing stock "?
There is an expression in English "He's shot his bolt" which I have always taken to refer to the crossbow, a weapon so fearsome in mediaeval warfare that the Church banned its use against other Christians. The only big disadvantage with the crossbow was that it took a long time to reload, compared to the rate of fire achieved by an archer for example. So after a crossbowman has "shot his bolt", you're safe, and have your best chance of disabling him.

"He's shot his bolt" means he has made his best play and failed.

I interpret "The system is shot" to mean that the system has made its best play and failed ... so now we have the chance to respond.

"Time is long gone past my laughing stock" (I assume here that LC has the same incorrect idea as most of us that a laughing-stock relates to the stocks or pillory). Usually we pass through time, busy in our every day lives. A man in the stocks is detained for the whole day: he loses an entire day of his life doing absolutely nothing, so much so that he might imagine he sees time walking past him for once, and laughing at him!

That is the image it conjures up in my mind, but of course it is the nature of poetry that it means different things to different readers.

Posted: Wed Jul 19, 2006 1:55 pm
by Dem
hydriot, thanks for the reply.

After a bit of "googling" I understand the phrase
"The system is shot " as you:
it has made its best play and failed.

Now, the other one
"Time is long gone past my laughing stock" remains
a bit obscure to me although some reading about
stocks and pillories has helped to grasp the idea.


Posted: Wed Jul 19, 2006 2:20 pm
by Young dr. Freud
So, that's laughing stock. But someone can only be the figure or riduculing, or its object (so, others laugh at him/her/it, make him/her ridiculous). So, his time of being laughing stock can be past, gone, but how time can be past my laughing stock? - Maybe genuine speakers could enlighten me?
Nobody can enlighten you Tom, because despite LC's being such a careful writer...those two lines are a mess. He needs to revamp them. They are just plain awkward.


P.S. When I read those lines...I see Time scurrying by hilarious cows and chickens.

Posted: Wed Jul 19, 2006 4:34 pm
by lightning
The system is shot usualy means, idiomatically, the body is broken down. I thought it related to physical complaints, i.e. "I live on pills."

Posted: Wed Jul 19, 2006 4:39 pm
by lizzytysh
Hence, another of Leonard's, infamous, double entendres :wink: 8) .

~ Lizzy

Posted: Thu Jul 20, 2006 12:23 am
by margaret
In my part of the world "the system is shot" is exactly as Lightning interpreted it. Physically or medically broken down.

To be a laughing stock is to be an object of ridicule, so in in this context I take it to mean that he used to be laughed at, but that was a long time ago. So,'s a long time since I was a laughing stock.

Posted: Thu Jul 20, 2006 12:29 am
by lizzytysh
Over here, it's a phrase that can refer to mechanical systems... or systems of government, as well... any system, period, really, can be shot. With Leonard, reference to a or many systems of government wouldn't be unlikely. "Laughing stock" as Lightning and you have referenced it, Margaret, is the way that I would take it, too. It feels to me as YdF has pointed out, though, that the lyric itself could use [would improve with] a bit of refining... just something awkward and difficult to interpret [outside of the norm :wink: ] about it.

~ Lizzy

Posted: Thu Jul 20, 2006 3:21 am
by Tchocolatl
The Book of Longing (song) - corrected lyrics (from Tom's post)

Can’t make the hills
The system is shot
I’m living on pills
For which I thank G-d

I used to be strong
Cock of the walk
But time is long gone
Past my laughing stock

I followed the course
From chaos to art
Desire the horse
Depression the cart

My page was too white
My ink was too thin
The hand wouldn’t write
The song wouldn’t sing

My animal howls
My angel’s upset
But I’m not allowed
A trace of regret

For someone will use
What I couldn’t be
My heart will be hers

She’ll step on the path
She’ll see what I mean
My will cut in half
Freedom between

For less than a second
Our hearts will collide
The endless suspended
The door open wide

She will move on
with nary a care
What no one has done
She’ll heal and repair

I know she is coming
I know she will look
That is my longing
This is my book

I know she is coming
I know she will look
This was my longing
And this was my book

Tom, that is my two-pence.

It is a song. Songs have rules of themselves. They don't follow the written language's laws perfectly. Poetic license, you know.

Try to read the idea/emotion carried by the choice of the words :

I used to be strong
Cock of the walk

And I'm not so sure - like you are - that "cock" is not used (also) in reference to the slang word for penis, here, considering the sum of erotism contained in his work compared to the other "walkers" of the same walk.

"But time is long gone"

Or, same idea expressed in other words : It was a long time ago, now that all this happened -

pause and

"Past my laughing stock"

Or, in other words : my laughing stock is past.

A repetition, of the idea, stressing the fact.

Now "laughing stock" :

"laughing stock"? Who could be suprised to see him self deprecating again? His career as an artist, as a "minor poet"(My page was too white
My ink was too thin The hand wouldn’t write) a guy that could "barely cary a tune" (The song wouldn’t sing)etc. etc. just can write "my laughing stock" talking about his career.

(Of course some simple minds would say "ey! yes this guy should polish his poems a little - this is why I guess he feels the need to write something to protect the Queen EII from being the victim of misunderstandings. For the rest of us : he does not give a damn. :D 8) And God, he is right! ) :lol:

Posted: Thu Jul 20, 2006 9:48 am
by Young dr. Freud
Not all the tortourous explanations in the world will make any sense out of "past my laughing stock." It's a lost cause.


Posted: Thu Jul 20, 2006 11:08 am
by ~greg
Not all the tortuous explanations in the world will make any sense out of
"past my laughing stock." It's a lost cause.

Quite right, luv!

(I can say "luv" because I'm not british and I know you know I don't mean it.)

(Although you have come close to being funny (perhaps intentionally)
a couple of times recently. Which is surreptitiously seductive.)

On the other hand it is actually very easy to explain,
and to appreciate,
what Leonard Cohen is actually singing,
which is:
The time is long gone
Past my laughing star
-- re: what
Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote:
The little prince told Antoine

At night, when you look up at the sky,
since I shall be living on a star,
and since I shall be laughing on a star,
for you it will be as if all the stars are laughing.
You alone will have stars that can laugh!
And when you have got over your loss
(for we always do),
you’ll be happy to have known me.
You will always be my friend.
You will want to laugh with me.

In fact I'm pretty sure LC wanted "laughing star"
more than "cock of the walk",
because he doesn't actually sing "cock of the walk",
but something more like "cock ah the wah"
(to rhyme with "star".)

Anyone who ever loved Wilfred Owen can appreciate
the (very)-off-(internal)-rhyme: walk/star, but there aren't very many of us.
So if LC really is going for a pop hit with this,
he'll probably wind up being more blatant.

In any case it will be facinating to see how he resolves it!

(listening again, maybe he's singing:
"I used to be strong
Cock of the war
But time is long gone
Past my laughing star"

Which is off-rhyme too,
but easier. And topical.)

Posted: Thu Jul 20, 2006 2:10 pm
by Tchocolatl
It is twisted minds that are torturing sense.

However, torture is only torture. In any case it makes a false statement true. But maybe in the mouth of the frightened to tame the torturer. Try harder.

Posted: Thu Jul 20, 2006 5:02 pm
by lightning
Maybe it could be read, "(the ) Past (is) my laughing stock," meaning "now I laugh at the past." He wasn't a laughing stock when he was strong so the other interpretation makes no sense. "Stock" isn't great choice of words here but it kind of rhymes with "walk.

Posted: Thu Jul 20, 2006 5:18 pm
by Joe Way
"Not all the tortourous explanations in the world will make any sense out of "past my laughing stock." It's a lost cause."
Our Very Reverend Freud makes a legitimate criticism-the type of criticism that Leonard often engaged as a young man trying to be a Great Poet. I am interested, though, in your specific reasoning. Is the phrasing simply too awkward or non-poetic. The meaning appears quite clear to me as a reference to his long held reputation as the grocery of despair.

There is a scene in "A Mighty Wind" where Mickey has gone off into a solo career, a career that produced some angst driven music-and as they show a couple of album covers from that era, I detect a distinct resemblance to the cover of "Songs of Love and Hate." I suspect that Leonard took this type of kidding somewhat hard for a time.

There are some revisions in the lines that he's made in which I personally prefer the originals. But he will go on revising because that is what he does. I read that Yeats was revising some lines on the afternoon that he died.

I'll also add that I think they are great songs-some of the best that he has written musically. It helped that I was familiar with the texts prior to hearing the songs and that they also happened to be a couple of my favorite poems from BoL. The musical accompaniment to "Book of Longing" is similar to the style that he used in "First We Take Manhatten."

Tchoco, I have the same sense that you did that "Cock of the Walk" is intended for its sexual reference as well as its more direct reference to strutting. For me, it brings to mind, Chaunticleer. I find it overall a work rich in contrasts and dichotomies. It is very encouraging that he is producing first class work right now.


Posted: Thu Jul 20, 2006 7:28 pm
by Tchocolatl
Joe, yep! :D I like the tempo.

Just the reading alone creates a rythm in itself, the way it is written. And for feeling this rythm, I have to deal with the poem as a whole, from the beginning to the end, in one shot, it can not be seen separate part by separate part.