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Ballad of the Absent Mare

Posted: Wed Dec 01, 2004 5:22 pm
by kieron
Hello friends,
I hope you all are happy and well.

I have been wrestling with "BoftheAM" for sometime and seem to be getting nowhere. I recall a thread where it was written that this piece is based on an old Chinese passage about religion lost and found.

Can anyone help me with the interpretation of this piece. It fascinates me and when I think it makes sense the stanza blows me back to square one.

Perhaps I am unable, unworthy or just not meant to get it.

In hope...


Posted: Thu Dec 02, 2004 11:37 am
by tomsakic
Hi Kieron,
recently I was also interested by this topic, so I searched a little.

In the Recent Songs booklet, LC says:
"I owe my thanks to Joshu Sasaki, upon whose exposition of an early Chinese text I based Balld of the Absent Mare."

In recent book David Boucher's books I read that Chinese text is Ten Ox Herding Pictures by Ka-Kuan, also known as Ten Bulls Pictures. The English translation is made by Paul Reps. Ii is available completely online: ... _Page.html

Then, when you read all ten pictures' description, and Leonard's song lyrics, you can clearly see that stations from the Zen text are present in LC's song; I mean the narrative, the plot is basically the same, and some motifs and images. Here the horse run away, the cowboy is searching, etc. Also, it's the same plot, the metaphor for the search for enlightenment.
I guess we can compare all ten prose pieces with Leonard's lines, and we will have some excellent results, but alas, maybe next time (I'm delaying this for weeks now as I have no time; I was planning to include this research on my site).

Most recently, Jennifer Warnes published her story Let the Grief Inform Your Throat about this song on her reopened site:

Posted: Thu Dec 02, 2004 12:30 pm
by kieron
Dear Tom,

I cannot thank you enough. This is precisely why I love this community and the people that make it what it is.

Jenny's essay is beautiful in its simplicity and honesty. It is particularly poignant for me as I was with my mother as she passed away last week.

I feel there may be a greater force at play here. Thank you for the background to BAM.

Warmest regards

Posted: Thu Dec 02, 2004 2:08 pm
by tomsakic
Sorry about your mom, Kieron :cry: It must ne hard time for you. Recent Songs are the best choice, with that record LC accompanied his mother's passing away.
Take care of yourself

Posted: Thu Dec 02, 2004 4:09 pm
by Paula
Kieron - my thoughts are with you. Look after yourself.

Posted: Thu Dec 02, 2004 4:27 pm
by tom.d.stiller
Kieron, I feel sorry about your mother's passing away.

Last christmas my own had her second stroke, and died about a week later without ever having regained consciousness. There wasn't a chance to say good-bye to her...

My job gave me enough work to bury myself, while music and poetry were really helpful.


Posted: Thu Dec 02, 2004 4:30 pm
by tom.d.stiller
A passing remark on the "Ten Bulls": Cat Stevens, in his pre-islamic life, used the fourth stage for his album "Catch Bull At Four".

Posted: Fri Dec 03, 2004 3:07 am
by Joe Way
Dear Kieron,

I just read of your loss-please accept Anne and my sincere sympathy. We both enjoyed meeting you so much in New York.

Recent Songs was mostly composed while Leonard's mother was ailing-she died, I believe, in 1978 of Leukemia. It seems to me that the whole album is part of the grieving process-Anne and I were going through a similar period in our lives and all of its songs remind us of those days. As a side note, someone once mentioned that "Un Canadien Errant" was one of Leonard's mother's favorite songs, if whoever mentioned that could elaborate, I would be greatful.

I'm sure that it was a comfort to you both to be near your Mother through till the end.

Take care,

Joe & Anne

Posted: Fri Dec 03, 2004 3:11 am
by Joe Way
Hi Tom,

Thank you so much for bringing those great articles to us. I absolutely love Jennifer Warnes new site! I'm going to have to lobby the Pope to get Jennifer an A++

I also was curious about Ballad of the Absent Mare and these articles are very helpful.

Best regards,


Posted: Fri Dec 03, 2004 11:22 am
by tomsakic

Posted: Fri Dec 03, 2004 8:23 pm
by Kush
Hey Tom...thanks for all this info. I hadnt a clue....I'm gonna have to listen to the song again while looking at these.

Posted: Sun Dec 05, 2004 8:04 am
by lizzytysh
Dear Kieron ~

I am so sorry to hear of your mother's death. I agree with you that it is guided timing on your question and the responses that followed. Comfort and understanding are brought to us in so many ways. I so hope that you are doing okay. My heart is with you in your grieving.


Posted: Wed Dec 15, 2004 11:46 pm
by annaedith
who among you reflected about the motif of the horse? i myself being a horseperson of coursed loved the song,and now folllowsone of those great "linking it all togehter", those findings that make me tell myself "godis alive-magic is afoot":
the cowboy in the end rides the horse without bridle nd saddle, without force. i was able to do this with my first horse following the method of CANADIAN (as LC) linda tellington-jones. the horse was RUSSIAN, as was lc'smother. and the album was written for the dead of her, and for the relief of others loosing soembody.
it all goes round in beautiful circles.

Posted: Wed Dec 15, 2004 11:50 pm
by lizzytysh
Very beautiful connections you've made, Annaedith.

~ Lizzy

Re: Ballad of the Absent Mare

Posted: Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:09 pm
by alb123
To say I am fascinated by this song would be a gross understatement. I could lie on a deserted island in the middle of nowhere for the rest of my days and be content as long as I was afforded the company of this song. I have searched high and low, far and wide for a live recording of this song. Does anyone know if one exists? I ask, only to see if Leonard plays this song differently in a live setting as he so often does with his other material. Any insight would be greatly appreciated!