The Traitor

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st theresa
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Re: The Traitor

Postby st theresa » Sat Dec 15, 2007 7:02 am

This thread caught my attention and I decided to look up symbols for the swan and the rose. The first one I found was from Yeats. The next said that both those symbols are associated with Aphrodite, (also called Venus, Astarte, Inanna and more) I am not sure how this fits in, but finding that Leonard was in the service of Aphrodite, would not greatly surprise me.
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Re: The Traitor

Postby simonelli » Sat Dec 15, 2007 6:49 pm

I remember reading in a book somewhere that The Traitor is simply an autobiographical memory of Cohen's time in London, hence, the swan and the 'English river'. It's about a love affair he had here, but so Cohen-esquely imbued with universal meaning.

I love it. It's quite satisfying playing it on the piano with the 12-beat arpeggio of the left hand supporting the beautiful melody played with the right.
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Re: The Traitor

Postby ForYourSmile » Sun Dec 16, 2007 12:08 am

Of course, it is not a surprise to associate Leonard with Aphrodite. :lol:

It would be interesting to know this Cohen's affair in London, and a dream for me to play The Traitor in piano, though just with one hand. :(
Manna wrote:I wonder if Leonard has an akin army.
Leonard had. "I have my songs and I have my poems. I have my book and I have the army..." (Please Don't Pass Me By) (The Army was the Cohen's band in his two first tours: 1970 & 1972). Now he has a formidable fan's army, he knows, is the Commander. ;-)

As I said, my transcription has not warranty, not at all. I didn't use quotations marks. I take a short fragment for you, Steven, in mp3:

The Traitor commented by Leonard Cohen.

For this Christmas time I think that the DVD "I'm Your Man" is absolutely a recommendable gift. :roll: (I say this for if I have some copyright problem).

It is difficult to accept a betrayal without responsibility or guilt. It seems that in this case the circumstances were extreme; to fall in love, (according to my theory).

I am still interested in the Courtly Love, as Joe spoke, in the Lord Byron's poem and the common characteristics, romantics and epics, with we can see in "The Traitor". Remember too "Go no more a-roving".

Alberto Manzano, in his book "Canciones y nuevos poemas 2", in reference of "So on battlefields from here to Barcelona" writes: "Cohen pays tribute to the Spanish Civil War, which near to the French Resistance and the Nazi Concentration Camps, forms part of the personal mythology of the poet". Manzano is an eminence, but I'm not sure about this affirmation.
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Re: The Traitor

Postby ~greg » Sun Jan 20, 2008 8:59 pm

(1st of maybe 6 or so)
The Rose of Sharon

On the Diamonds in the Lines site,
(specifically here: ,)
there is this "Early version sung 4 years before its official release" -

(sorry about the formatting. it's the best i could do.)
The Traitor - early version____________________________ The Traitor - on Recent Songs

The Swan it floated on the English river___Now the Swan it floated on the English river
The Rose of Sharon opened like a mess___Ah the Rose of High Romance it opened wide
A suntanned woman yawned through the summer___A sun tanned woman yawned me through
______________________________________________________________the summer
Unfolding like a fan to my request___and the judges watched us from the other side

I told my mother, Mother I must leave you___I told my mother "Mother I must leave you
Preserve my room but do not shed a tear___preserve my room but do not shed a tear
Should rumors of a shabby ending reach you___Should rumour of a shabby ending reach you
It was half my fault and half the atmosphere___it was half my fault and half the atmosphere"

Well I broke the glass an arm above that hammer___But the Rose I sickened with a scarlet fever
And the fire touched me with a magnet flame___and the Swan I tempted with a sense of shame
At last she said I was her finest lover___She said at last I was her finest lover
And if she withered, I would be to blame___and if she withered I would be to blame

She held me tight just like a soldier's widow___The judges said you missed it by a fraction
But soon I heard reports of the attack___rise up and brace your troops for the attack
Yes and past her hair and through the steamy window___Ah the dreamers ride against the men
______________________________________________________________of action
I saw the men of action falling back.___Oh see the men of action falling back

But I lingered on her thighs a fatal moment___But I lingered on her thighs a fatal moment
I kissed her lips as though I thirsted still___I kissed her lips as though I thirsted still
My falsity it stung me like a hornet___My falsity had stung me like a hornet
The poison sank and it paralized my will___The poison sank and it paralysed my will

I could not move to warn the younger soldiers___I could not move to warn all the younger soldiers
That they had been deserted from above___that they had been deserted from above
So on battlefields from here to Barcelona___So on battlefields from here to Barcelona
I'm listed with the enemies of love___I'm listed with the enemies of love

And long ago she said, I must be leaving___And long ago she said "I must be leaving,
But keep my body here to lie upon___Ah but keep my body here to lie upon
Yes and move it up and down and when It's sleeping___You can move it up and down and when
______________________________________________________________I'm sleeping
You can wire up the rose and wind the Swan___Run some wire through that Rose and wind the Swan"

So daily I renew my idle duty___So daily I renew my idle duty

I kiss her open mouth and I praise her beauty___I kiss her open mouth and I praise her beauty
And people call me Traitor to my face.___and people call me traitor to my face
So: Why did Cohen replace "the Rose of Sharon"
with "the Rose of High Romance"?

"The Rose of Sharon" has many associations.
(Obviously - since it's from the Song of Solomon.)

Whereas, according to Google, "the Rose of High Romance"
has just this one association, -Cohen's song, "The Traitor".

I believe that "The Rose of Sharon" occurred to Cohen
simply as a catch-phrase, which he used as temporary filler.

So: the "Song of Solomon" isn't the key to the deep meaning
of "The Traitor". So the explicit reference to it was gratuitous
and misleading. So that's why he dropped it.

Gratuitous references are the hallmark of "lousy little poets",
who superstitiously believe they acquire the power of the
shoulders they're standing on by gnawing on them and regurgitating
the semi-digested bits of immortal flesh and bone.

On the other hand, just as every American poet since
Whitman has had to deal with the inspiration of
Leaves of Grass, so too, ever since about 965B.C.,
every writer of erotic love songs has had to deal
with the inspiration of "The Song of Solomon".
Therefore Cohen, being the gentleman that he is,
still felt obliged to pay it homage. Which he did,
first of all, by removing that grossly misleading explicit
reference "Rose of Sharon", and replacing it
with the non-referencing "Rose of High Romance".
But then also by replacing his weakest line:
"the fire touched me with a magnet flame",
with a much stronger line (and subtler reference to The Song of Solomon)
- "the Rose I sickened with a scarlet fever",

It refers to the line: "for I am sick of love",
which the "Rose of Sharon" herself sings
in the "Song of Solomon" (2:5.)

A very resonant line. It turns up, perhaps, in Blake's
"O Rose thou art sick". And perhaps also in Dylan's
"I'm sick of love" (in "Love Sick", in "Time out of Mind"
--although not the line as much as the general tone
of Dylan's song makes this plausible)

(Blake's "crimson joy" may be compared to Cohen's "scarlet fever",
in that, whatever else these means, they mean that these poets
were not comfortable with cliches like "red rose". They feel a need
to "add value" to them, in sometimes bizarre ways.
Dylan, of course, is the master of cliches. He uses them willy-nilly,
completely unselfconsciously, and, consequently, much more
seamlessly. (My own opinion is that, if you've ever been interested
in etymologies, then you know that all words are already cliches
anyway. There's no way around it. Official clichés are simply
bigger cliches. ))

Whenever these sick roses turn up they remind me
that our gametes are haploid cells, and that they
therefore, after awhile, will be attacked by our own
immune systems as if they were foreign bodies.
We then become - quite literally - sick
of the absence of love. ("sick of love" in short).
The symptoms being very similar to the flu.

The influence of "The Song of Solomon" on "The Traitor"
can not be understated. The "Song of Solomon" is not
the key to the deep meaning of "The Traitor". It's influence
on "The Traitor" is a subtle low-level-background-radiation.
Just inspiration. Nothing more.

But I quote Chapter 2 of The Song of Solomon anyway.
Maybe somebody else can see a more substantial connection.

(There are 7 other chapters in the Song of Solomon.
They should all be read to see how impossible it is
for any sensual love song not to be inspired by it - )
The Song of Solomon, chapter 2:

I am the rose of Sharon,
and the lily of the valleys.

As the lily among thorns,
so is my love among the daughters.

As the apple tree among the trees of the wood,
so is my beloved among the sons.
I sat down under his shadow with great delight,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.

Stay me with flagons,
comfort me with apples:
for I am sick of love.

His left hand is under my head,
and his right hand doth embrace me.

I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem,
by the roes, and by the hinds of the field,
that ye stir not up, nor awake my love,
till he please.

The voice of my beloved! behold,
he cometh leaping upon the mountains,
skipping upon the hills.

My beloved is like a roe or a young hart:
behold, he standeth behind our wall,
he looketh forth at the windows,
shewing himself through the lattice.

My beloved spake, and said unto me,
Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;

The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

The fig tree putteth forth her green figs,
and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret places of the stairs,
let me see thy countenance,
let me hear thy voice;
for sweet is thy voice,
and thy countenance is comely.

Take us the foxes, the little foxes,
that spoil the vines:
for our vines have tender grapes.

My beloved is mine, and I am his:
he feedeth among the lilies.

Until the day break, and the shadows flee away,
turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart
upon the mountains of Bether.

About the other differences between that early version
of "The Traitor", and the album version. They are interesting
in themselves. And they are certainly interesting to anyone
interested in the craft or cult of song-writing. And they may
help somebody with their understanding the album version.
Which was why I quoted them side-by-side. But I don't myself
go off in that direction. I tried to, but it was too frustrating.
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Re: The Traitor

Postby ~greg » Mon Jan 21, 2008 7:10 am

(1st of the 2nd of 6 or so)

The Swan, the Rose,
the Hope, the Globe.
Now the Swan it floated on the English river
Ah the Rose of High Romance it opened wide
A sun tanned woman yawned me through the summer
and the judges watched us from the other side
I hope everybody at least felt
that there has to be some kind of connection
between "the Swan it floated on the English river"
and Shakespeare. I hope I was the only one
who couldn't remember what it was.
Actually, probably, the only thing unusual about me
was that I couldn't have cared less.

It turns out that Ben Jonson called Shakespeare
the Swan of Avon
the Sweet Swan of Avon.

Shakespeare is so called by Ben Jonson
because his home was on the Avon.
Now, if somebody called me a Swan, my first impulse
would be to knock his block off. But had Shakespeare
knocked Ben Jonson's block off, then everybody
would still be talking about it. It would have have entered
into the common lexicon. Longshoremen would still be
threatening each other with variations on
"I'm gonna do to you what Bill did to Ben",
or "I'm a gonna BillBen you!".
And since that's not the case, I figured
"Swan" must have had different connotations
back in BenBill's day.

But looking deeper, perhaps not.

There was a rivalry between Ben Jonson and Bill Shakespeare
that might remind some people of what we guess has to be
the relationship between Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan.

Relationship with Shakespeare

There are many legends about Jonson's rivalry with Shakespeare,
some of which may be true. Drummond reports that during their conversation,
Jonson scoffed at two apparent absurdities in Shakespeare's plays:
a nonsensical line in Julius Caesar, and the setting of The Winter's Tale
on the non-existent seacoast of Bohemia. Drummond also reports Jonson
saying that Shakespeare "wanted art." Whether Drummond is viewed as accurate
or not, the comments fit well with Jonson's well-known theories about literature.

In Timber, which was published posthumously and reflects his lifetime of practical experience,
Jonson offers a fuller and more conciliatory comment. He recalls being told by certain actors
that Shakespeare never blotted (i.e., crossed out) a line when he wrote.
His own response, "Would he had blotted a thousand," was taken as malicious.

However, Jonson explains, "He was, indeed, honest, and of an open and free nature,
had an excellent phantasy, brave notions, and gentle expressions,
wherein he flowed with that facility that sometimes it was necessary
he should be stopped". Jonson concludes that
"there was ever more in him to be praised than to be pardoned."
Also when Shakespeare died he said "He was not of an age, but for all time."

Thomas Fuller relates stories of Jonson and Shakespeare
engaging in debates in the Mermaid Tavern; Fuller imagines
conversations in which Shakespeare would run rings around
the more learned but more ponderous Jonson.

That the two men knew each other personally is beyond doubt,
not only because of the tone of Jonson's references to him
but because Shakespeare's company produced a number of Jonson's plays,
at least one of which (Every Man in his Humour) Shakespeare certainly acted in.

However, it is now impossible to tell how much personal communication they had,
and tales of their friendship cannot be substantiated in the present state of knowledge.

Jonson's most influential and revealing commentary on Shakespeare
is the second of the two poems that he contributed to the prefatory verse
that opens Shakespeare's First Folio. This poem, "To the memory of my beloved,
The AUTHOR, Mr. William Shakespeare: And what he hath left us,"
did a good deal to create the traditional view of Shakespeare as a poet who,
despite "small Latine and less Greek," had a natural genius.

The poem has traditionally been thought to exemplify the contrast
Jonson perceived between himself, the disciplined and erudite classicist,
scornful of ignorance and skeptical of the masses, and Shakespeare,
represented in the poem as a kind of natural wonder whose genius
was not subject to any rules except those of the audiences
for which he wrote. But the poem itself qualifies this view:
"Yet must I not give Nature all: Thy Art, / My gentle Shakespeare, must enjoy a part."

Some view this elegy as a conventional exercise,
but a rising number of critics see it as a heartfelt tribute to the
"Sweet Swan Of Avon," the "Soul of the Age!"
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Re: The Traitor

Postby ~greg » Mon Jan 21, 2008 10:16 am

(2nd, of the 2nd of 6, or so)

The Swan, the Rose, the Hope, the Globe
- continued

If Shakespeare was The Swan,
then perhaps Ben Jonson was the Rose?

There was a connection, - with "The Rose" theater -
Jonson began work with Lord Admiral's acting company in the summer of 1597
performing under Philip Henslowe's management of "The Rose". ...
By the end of the year, Jonson had killed an actor of Henslowe's company,
Gabriel Spencer, in a duel on September 22 in Hogsden Fields.

Jonson was arrested and tried for murder at the Old Bailey,
however escaped hanging, after being visited by a Roman Catholic priest
and converting to Catholicism, by claiming benefit of clergy
and was imprisoned only shortly,
however giving up his property and being branded
on his left thumb.
- which is interesting as being an early instance
- perhaps the original - of the wildly popular fad
of finding Jesus in prison, and the benefits thereof.

However, to refer to Ben Jonson as "The Rose" for that reason
would be like referring to John Wilkes Booth as "The Ford"
for having killed Lincoln in Ford's theater (where he knew
his way around, having played Cassius in Shakespeare's
play Julius Cesar, which is how he managed to get away.)

In short, unlikely.

So back to The Swan.

To pour gasoline on the fire (or flicker)
Shakespeare wrote more about birds than any other poet
in western literature. Some of the Bard's many references to his
favorite bird, the glorious swan, are featured here.
- ... 82602a.htm
However, "The Traitor" has more cogent connections
to Shakespeare's time by way of the theaters in London back then.

The most famous was, of course, "The Globe",
but there were several others in that same tight area - Southwark
- on the south bank of the river Thames -
(from )
(click on map to zoom out)

It is on account of that location that any or all of those theaters,
- the Swan, - the Rose, - the Hope, - the Globe, ...,
- could be said to have "floated on the English river".

Moreover, The Old Baily is on the opposite side of the river.
Thus: "the judges watched us from the other side".

As for the sun tanned woman,
the only person famous in London, in Cohen arcania,
for having had a sun tan, was the bank teller of the Bank of Greece
Ira Nadel wrote: After having a wisdom tooth pulled one day,
he wandered about the East End of London
on yet another rainy afternoon
and noticed a Bank of Greece sign on Bank Street.

He entered and saw a teller with a deep tan
wearing sunglasses, in protest against the dreary landscape.

He asked the clerk what the weather was like in Greece.
"Springtime" was the reply.
Cohen made up his mind on the spot to depart,
and within a day or so he was in Athens.
(--Various Positions, pg 75)
But I don't know if she was a woman.

And a more likely candidate, in London, was Nancy Bacall.

Cohen was excited about being in the capital of English literature
and felt he was joining Shakespeare, Milton, and Keats. {and Jonson?}
"London is welcoming another great author!" he declared.
But after the initial excitement, Cohen found London dull
and its night life unpromising. He obtained a "reader's ticket"
to the Hampstead Public Libraries and spent a good deal of time
at the William (as the local pub, the William IV, was called).

He later discovered a West Indian club called the All-Niter,
where he found terrific music, marijuana, and dancing.

With Nancy Bacall, who was in London to study classical theatre
and begin a career in radio journalism with the CBC,
he explored late-night London. They played pinball in East End dives,
met pimps, explored the drug culture, went to clubs, and encountered
some alternative politics.

Nancy was then dating a disciple of Malcolm X named Michael X,
who later founded the Black Muslim movement in London.
He planned to return to Trinidad, take over the government,
and make Cohen part of the ruling party,
as "permanent advisor to the Minister of Tourism!"

Michael X did return, but he was soon arrested.
Cohen, with others, attempted to organize support for him
but failed.
(Various Positions, pg 72)
("permanent advisor to the Minister of Tourism" -
- might remind some of the movie "The Last King of Scotland".)

If Nancy had a tan then
A sun tanned woman yawned me through the summer
could mean her, if we could account for the yawning,
since Nadel's description of their time together would seem to contradict it.

But Nancy was "in London to study classical theatre".
And it is at least plausible that during the day the two
of them explored some of the other sites of London together.
In particular, the Southwark area, to see what was left
of the old classical theaters. She would have known
all about them, and would have recounted all the
dusty old historical facts.

Whatever her talent as a vade mecum, these day trips of theirs
would necessarily have been somewhat boring, relative to their
nightlife together. And, because of the contrast, Cohen describing it
as such wouldn't be an insult. It'd simply be teasing.

Thus "she yawned me through the summer"
-- meaning "summer street", which bounds the theater district on the south,
just as the English river, on which it all floats, bounds it on the north.

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Re: The Traitor

Postby ~greg » Tue Jan 22, 2008 9:28 am

(3rd, of some finite but unbounded universe)

interlude: On Courtly Love

Joe is right that knowing a little bit about The Art of Courtly Love
can help us with the enjoyment of "The Traitor".

But I go one step beyond.
I say that nothing about Leonard Cohen can ever be understood
if we don't learn a lot about Courtly Love.

I have a translation of Capellanus' little book around here somewhere.
Which I can't find. Which is unfortunate, because all I can find from it on the net
are the 31 "rules" from its chapter 2.
Which can be very misleading out of context.

But here they are -
Andreas Capellanus: The Art of Courtly Love, (btw. 1174-1186)

Book Two: On the Rules of Love

1. Marriage is no real excuse for not loving.
2. He who is not jealous cannot love.
3. No one can be bound by a double love.
4. It is well known that love is always increasing or decreasing.
5. That which a lover takes against his will of his beloved has no relish.
6. Boys do not love until they arrive at the age of maturity.
7. When one lover dies, a widowhood of two years is required of the survivor.
8. No one should be deprived of love without the very best of reasons.
9. No one can love unless he is impelled by the persuasion of love.
10. Love is always a stranger in the home of avarice.
11. It is not proper to love any woman whom one should be ashamed to seek to marry.
12. A true lover does not desire to embrace in love anyone except his beloved.
13. When made public love rarely endures.
14. The easy attainment of love makes it of little value; difficulty of attainment makes it prized.
15. Every lover regularly turns pale in the presence of his beloved.
16. When a lover suddenly catches sight of his beloved his heart palpitates.
17. A new love puts to flight an old one.
18. Good character alone makes any man worthy of love.
19. If love diminishes, it quickly fails and rarely revives.
20. A man in love is always apprehensive.
21. Real jealousy always increases the feeling of love.
22. Jealousy, and therefore love, are increased when one suspects his beloved.
23. He whom the thought of love vexes, eats and sleeps very little.
24. Every act of a lover ends with in the thought of his beloved.
25. A true lover considers nothing good except what he thinks will please his beloved.
26. Love can deny nothing to love.
27. A lover can never have enough of the solaces of his beloved.
28. A slight presumption causes a lover to suspect his beloved.
29. A man who is vexed by too much passion usually does not love.
30. A true lover is constantly and without intermission possessed by the thought of his beloved.
31. Nothing forbids one woman being loved by two men or one man by two women.
To see how misleading these can be,
check this out -
from ... apter1.htm
In twelfth-century France, Andreas Capellanus,
chaplain to Countess Marie of Troyes,
wrote a treatise on the principles of courtly love.

The first rule was that "marriage is no real excuse for not loving."

But he meant loving someone outside the marriage.

As late as the eighteenth century the French essayist Montaigne
wrote that any man who was in love with his wife
was a man so dull that no one else could love him.
Also, consider this -
Pretending to be written in 1190 but in fact from about 1225,
Andrea Capellanus: De Arte Honeste Amandi (in Latin)
is a satiric attempt to make a theory out of all this fiction.
Like Joe said
From what I gather, there is no basis in reality
that Medieval knights actually behaved in this fashion.
However -
Although today the notion of whether or not
there ever was a cult or practice of Courtly Love has come
under much attack, one can find poetry that clearly used its concepts,
especially in the 12th and 13th centuries....
My cultural anthropology teacher used to drive home like a jack-hammer
about half a dozen principles, one of which was the overwhelmingly
important distinction between "overt" and "covert" culture.

In particular there is nothing extraordinary about a culture
that overtly thinks of itself (as implied by the way it presents
itself in its songs, for example) as appreciative and protective
and even idolizing of women, but which covertly engages in
what we would definitely have to characterize as extremely
misogynistic behavior. Many "modern" Islamic cultures seem,
to us, to act exactly that way. But in this they are probably acting
much more in accord with the true medieval notions of courtly love,
than with our modern derived ideals of romantic love.

(And vice-versa. Our culture is just as hypocritical
and blind to itself as any in history.
Ethnocentricity is the name of the game.
If you really want change, vote Barack Obama.
Otherwise Hillary.)

To say that Courtly Love never existed implies either
an inability to understand it, or else a blatant refusal
to accept that it was what it was.

That there existed "Court" is the case.
That there existed "Love" is certain (since we are here.).
And therefore there existed "Courtly Love".
Whatever it was. And whether or not we might like it.

When I was trying to think up other examples
of covert vs overt culture, I remembered a one-hit-wonder from long ago,
which I had memorized back then in order to annoy my big sister,
who thought it expressed an unhealthy sentiment -
Teen Angel - Mark Dinning

That fateful night, the car was stalled
Upon the railroad track,
I pulled you out, and we were safe,
But you went running back

Teen angel, can you hear me?
Teen angel, can you see me?
Are you somewhere up above?
And am I still your one true love?

What was it you were looking for
That took your life that night?
They say they found my high school ring
Clutched in your fingers tight


Just sweet 16, and now you're gone
They've taken you away
I can no longer kiss your lips
They buried you today

Now, there may be an academic controversy as to whether
there ever actually existed the ideal, -or cult, -or practice,
-of "Teen Love".

And there may be an Andrea Capellanus to satirize its rules,
the first one being:
1.) Never, -ever ever, -whatever else you do,
- and even if it means losing your life,
- never lose his high school ring!

And it may be doubtful if anyone ever actually followed
rules like that. (Although you never know,)

Nevertheless "Teen Love" did exist.
I know, because I remember slow-dancing.

It existed in all the songs in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
It existed in bryll cream and cow-licks; poodle skirts and pony-tails.
And ......well......
when I went looking for those "Teen Angel" lyrics,
I found this, which expresses it well -
The local supermarket where I shop plays Musak,
which is always set to hits of the 50s and 60s.
{The music is aggravating to the young store clerks
who have to listen to it hour after hour day after day,
but in the brief time I spend there, usually late night Wednesday,
it provides a welcome morsel of soulful nourishment.}

Last week I remember singing along with
the classic Venus by Frankie Avalon,
as I'm walking into the parking lot.

__________Venus, make her fair
__________A lovely girl with sunlight in her hair.
__________And take the brightest stars up in the skies
__________And place them in her eyes for me.

Okay, if you know the words to Venus, you're obviously
in a certain age category. And that's fine, because the category
isn't so much a chronological distinction
-Venus was popular in 1959
- as it is cultural. I'm thinking, "What a sweet song.
And how alien to a lot of the youth music around me today."

Not that I bother to actually sit down and decipher the lyrics
of the more artistically meaningful modern rock or hip-hop/rap ditties.
But someone invented the Internet, so as a research project,
I decide to look up some lyrics from Kid Rock
-the following from the Cocky album:

__________You never met a motherfucker quite like me
__________Hey hey like me
__________Like me
__________Hey hey hey like me
__________You ain't never met a motherfucker quite like me

No doubt hot young chicks are curling their toes
in orgasmic delight as the pure poetry pumps into their iPods.
Can't wait for the video. Note, Kid says "hey" three times
in the fourth line, after saying "hey" only two times
in the second line. Now, that's art! Also appreciate
the overwhelming sensitivity shown to his love interest,
the lucky girl (presumably).

(read the rest of it here: )
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Re: The Traitor

Postby Sue » Fri Jan 25, 2008 1:11 am

Paz wrote:i was just wondering wether anyone knows the meaning behind The Traitor?
its such a beautiful song, but i just cant work it out!!
I can't add anything to the work people have already done interpreting the content of the song but I would like to say something about its style. I think it pokes fun at a certain type of English folk music, and associated chocolate-box notions of chivalry, in a way that makes it a sort of "Lumberjack song" in reverse. The melody and the way it is sung make that clear from the outset. People in this parodied world clearly do not behave quite as we would have them do; they are traitors, so to speak, to our expectations of them. If you don't see a parallel between:

The judges said you missed it by a fraction
rise up and brace your troops for the attack
Ah the dreamers ride against the men of action
Oh see the men of action falling back


I chop down trees, I wear high heels,
Suspenders and a bra
I wish I'd been a girlie
Just like my dear papa

then perhaps there is a clearer one between the latter and

She said, I'm tired of the war,
I want the kind of work I had before


I reached for you but you were gone,
so lady I'm going too

- because (I would contend) these songs tend to parody medieval Romance, or our ideas of it, in a similar way. Only Joan of Arc is not funny in the way the other two are, so something else must be is going on.



"Was it Bill or was it Ben
Climbed the greenhouse wall just then?
Which of these two flowerpot men -
Was it Bill or was it Ben?"

(BBC, Watch with Mother, c.1953)
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Re: The Traitor

Postby kalinowt » Fri Jul 25, 2008 11:05 pm

Has anyone thought about the connection between this song and Cohen's early days where he worshiped artist/ revolutionaries such as Lorca (whom he even named his daughter after)? Cohen was even in Cuba when Castro first took power. It seems there was a time when Cohen sought to emmulate Lorca (who was executed). Perhaps this song is an ackowledgement of that, or his voicing of his resignation that he could not be like Lorca, and so his choice of a different path. In this way he has (willingly ) betrayed or forsaken his previous revolutionary ideals.
What do you think?

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Re: The Traitor

Postby authentic_love » Sat Oct 25, 2008 3:32 pm

I think the song is about the courage to fight unauthentic love

The traitor
Now the Swan it floated on the English river
Ah the Rose of High Romance it opened wide
A sun tanned woman yearned me through the summer
and the judges watched us from the other side
A beginning of a love relationship

I told my mother Mother I must leave you
preserve my room but do not shed a tear
Should rumor of a shabby ending reach you
it was half my fault and half the atmosphere
The prototypical departure from Mother & Home

But the Rose I sickened with a scarlet fever
and the Swan I tempted with a sense of shame
The love got spoiled…

She said at last I was her finest lover
and if she withered I would be to blame
The classical accusations and guilt involved in a spoiled relationship…

The judges said you missed it by a fraction
rise up and brace your troops for the attack
Ah the dreamers ride against the men of action
Oh see the men of action falling back
There is a critical moment, maybe an ambivalent one, where one deceives one-self. Rather then being a brave man of action and guiltlessly leaving/fighting, one becomes an unauthentic sleepy traitor (or dreamer) and does not act…

But I lingered on her thighs a fatal moment
I kissed her lips as though I thirsted still
My falsity had stung me like a hornet
The poison sank and it paralyzed my will
The unauthentic dreamer fell asleep at the critical moment where he could still wake-up, fight habits, routine, guilt, conventions - and do something. He lost the battle of authentic love, relationship, life.

I could not move to warn all the younger soldiers
that they had been deserted from above
So on battlefields from here to Barcelona
I'm listed with the enemies of love
Since he did not quit (or change) the relationship, and did not warn the other young lovers about the dangers of falling asleep during the 'duty of living an authentic life', or warn them about the hypnotizing effect of routine, guilt, etc. he is considered the enemy of love

And long ago she said I must be leaving,
Ah but keep my body here to lie upon
You can move it up and down and when I'm sleeping
Run some wire through that Rose and wind the Swan
So daily I renew my idle duty
I touch her here and there -- I know my place
I kiss her open mouth and I praise her beauty
and people call me traitor to my face
Love & life have become an issue of soulless mechanical maintenance… and the ones who remain in such circumstances are traitors… traitors to the camp of brave people who have the courage to act without being paralyzed by routine, guilt or shame.
imaginary friend
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Re: The Traitor

Postby imaginary friend » Sun Oct 26, 2008 4:57 am

Authentic Love,

That was a simple, shining interpretation.
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Re: The Traitor

Postby FOXWOOD » Mon Oct 27, 2008 1:27 pm

I think that authentic_love has it spot on.

"Run some wire through that Rose and wind the Swan"
Shows how the relationship has failed. The rose now must be artificially supported. The swan has become a machine that needs winding.
Royal Albert Hall London 1988, Manchester Opera House 18th June 2008,
Manchester Arena 30th Nov 2008, Weybridge 11th July 2009,
Lissadell House 31st July 2010, Dublin 11th & 12th September 2012, London O2 21st June 2013,
Manchester Arena 31st Aug 2013,Leeds 7th September 2013

Re: The Traitor

Postby mattenuttall » Fri Apr 03, 2009 11:22 pm

I think "authentic_love" is getting closest with his interpretation. But it's not a case of love getting spoiled. Zeus seduced Leda in the guise of a swan:
The betrayal in this song is the swan-seducer's failure to love-her-and-leave-her. The seducer becomes inauthentic when he stays to "prove" his love. Both the woman and her seducer know that this is not what they really wanted to happen. They both realize the mistake soon after they stay together.

Either that, or as Cohen jokes in the "I'm Your Man" commentary, this really is a military song <grin>.
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Re: The Traitor

Postby hilfie » Mon Apr 13, 2009 1:38 am

One should never have to explain the genesis and rationale for choosing one's lyrics; or so thinks this still young naive listener, recently introduced to the magic that is Leonard Cohen [I'm Your Man].
How much of any creation might be a mix of one's personal experiences, readings; dreams and aspirations; guilt; failure; envy; atonement; the whole gamut of experience; and perhaps a relative randomly chosen mix of lyrics with little reason other than to create a mystery or, just a rhyming melody.
Heaven forbid that some listener might embarass an author for an explanation of the inexplicable.
Is it not, though, fun to wonder!?
Perhaps Mr Cohen just had a regretful experience and, in his inimitable style, is sharing it with us.
In any event, long live Occam's razor!
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Re: The Traitor

Postby Antony » Mon Apr 27, 2009 12:29 am

I’ve always understood the song to be a description of the man thinking his purpose was to be a great lover and thereby to assuage his guilt at not having satisfied his mother. Hence the reference to the ‘judges on the other side’ who are the man’s internal critics passing comment on his performance and attempts to bring happiness to ‘a sun tanned woman’.

I agree with Jose Way’s point that the swan is used as a metaphor for the male sexual organ.

In his battle he is like a soldier bravely persevering to achieve his goal but is thwarted by his own actions (the Rose I sickened with a scarlet fever and the Swan I tempted with a sense of shame) and the pressure he feels from her (She said at last I was her finest lover and if she withered I would be to blame) but also his internal critics (The judges said you missed it by a fraction, rise up and brace your troops for the attack)

But his attempts to please her make him inauthentic. (But I lingered on her thighs a fatal moment I kissed her lips as though I thirsted still. My falsity had stung me like a hornet The poison sank and it paralysed my will)

The ‘other younger soldiers’ are other men who labour under the same neurosis and are ‘deserted from above’ in the sense that they are helpless because they are not conscious of the forces at work.

The result is that the man becomes one of the worlds ‘enemies of love’ by being an inauthentic lover ‘from here to Barcelona’

Redemption comes with the man realising that what he thought was his purpose was not it at all. His real purpose was to give up the battle to become a great lover and to accept that surrender in a guiltless way. He will, of course, then be called a Traitor by others who are still driven by the same guilt or do not understand the neurosis.

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