The Window

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
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TineDoes
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The Window

Post by TineDoes » Fri Mar 19, 2010 7:25 pm

Could anybody explain to me what is meant by 'a letter' in the following stansa of 'The Window', or give me the link to a place on the forum where it may have been discussed?

For the holy one dreams of a letter
Dreams of a letter's death
"There’s no forsaking what you love ...."

Rotterdam 2008; Antwerpen, Dublin 2009; Gent 2x, Lille , Las Vegas 2x 2010, Gent, Amsterdam, Dublin 2x 2012, Antwerp, Berlin, Rotterdam 2013
holydove
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Re: The Window

Post by holydove » Fri Mar 19, 2010 11:17 pm

T.v.d.Does, the Kaballah says that God created the universe through a specific combination of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. I think the verse you mention could be a reference to that teaching. Also, Hebrew is considered a "revealed" language, rather than a man-made language - so that could connect to the idea of the Holy One dreaming of a letter (Hebrew & Sanskrit are the two language that are said to be "revealed" - i.e, by God, or with Sanskrit, the Source of Creation (or Universal Self), which, as seen by Indian philosophies, is not exactly a separate "entity").

If you go to page 2 in Leonard Cohen's Music, & scroll down to around the 8th topic (The Window), you can see a discussion of this song.

Hope that helps. . .
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TineDoes
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Re: The Window

Post by TineDoes » Sat Mar 20, 2010 12:11 am

holydove wrote: Hope that helps. . .
Yes. Thank you for this. Look forward to reading the whole discussion.
"There’s no forsaking what you love ...."

Rotterdam 2008; Antwerpen, Dublin 2009; Gent 2x, Lille , Las Vegas 2x 2010, Gent, Amsterdam, Dublin 2x 2012, Antwerp, Berlin, Rotterdam 2013
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TineDoes
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Re: The Window

Post by TineDoes » Sat Mar 20, 2010 5:08 am

I have loved reading the earlier thread on The Window and found it very very interesting. I wanted to know the meaning of the word 'letter' beacause I have translated most of LC lyrics into Dutch. This word has more meanings than one. By explaining about of the 22 letters of creation from the Kaballah I now know it refers to a letter of the Jewish Alphabet, (I will read up on this.)
and that the meaning of each letter is secret to most. So we cannot know what Holy One was dreaming of.

Though the earlier tread seems to have run its course, Holydove, you have dropped your case about the song being about a biblical character, and ‘that it has to be about a real person that Leonard knew and loved..’
at the risk of boring everybody.. I still have other questions.

Chris Allen, the author of the footnotes in the book ‘The Lyrics of Leonard Cohen’ 2009 Omnibus Press London, writes the following: Cohen is attempting to seduce a woman into a state of grace.)
Although, as someone else wrote: ‘ this song is a prayer to a woman whose soul is shattered, a song touchingly beautiful and compassionate’, do I not hear a soft reprimand in it: Climb on your tears and be silent/Like a rose on its ladder of thorns. As if he is telling the woman to pull herself together/step out(side) of herself.
---
The waves of sickness that loosens the high ‘silver nerves’. Might they be tears or are there other connotations?
"There’s no forsaking what you love ...."

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Re: The Window

Post by Lilifyre » Sat Mar 20, 2010 9:33 am

t.v.d, thanks for reviving this topic. And Holydove, I remember well our previous discussion of this song. Now, where did I put that book I told you about??? My Rabbi gifted me with a copy of it and I know it's here on my desk somewhere... :shock:
Though the earlier tread seems to have run its course, Holydove, you have dropped your case about the song being about a biblical character, and ‘that it has to be about a real person that Leonard knew and loved..’
at the risk of boring everybody.. I still have other questions.

Chris Allen, the author of the footnotes in the book ‘The Lyrics of Leonard Cohen’ 2009 Omnibus Press London, writes the following: Cohen is attempting to seduce a woman into a state of grace.)
Although, as someone else wrote: ‘ this song is a prayer to a woman whose soul is shattered, a song touchingly beautiful and compassionate’, do I not hear a soft reprimand in it: Climb on your tears and be silent/Like a rose on its ladder of thorns. As if he is telling the woman to pull herself together/step out(side) of herself.
---
The waves of sickness that loosens the high ‘silver nerves’. Might they be tears or are there other connotations?
t.v.d, no need to apologize, this song is a favorite of mine, and I believe Holydove as well. I'm sure there are others who may have thoughts to add as well.

I have heard (possibly it was mentioned in the previous thread) that Leonard was inspired to write this by either his mother or grandmother....that she is the woman by the window.

If you look at the whole verse:
And come forth from the cloud of unknowing
And kiss the cheek of the moon
The New Jerusalem glowing
Why tarry all night in the ruin
And leave no word of discomfort
And leave no observer to mourn
But climb on your tears and be silent
Like a rose on its ladder of thorns
It appears as what you refer to as a "soft reprimand", or perhaps an encouragement to rise above the state of "remorse". It seems to be calling this "woman at the window" to dry her tears and move ahead...get on with life!

As for the lines:
Lost in the waves of a sickness
That loosens the high silver nerves
To me, it is more than just tears. More like self-pity or a sense of being lost or forsaken.

The whole song builds to the final verse:
Then lay your rose on the fire
The fire give up to the sun
The sun give over to splendour
In the arms of the high holy one
For the holy one dreams of a letter
Dreams of a letter's death
Oh bless thee continuous stutter
Of the word being made into flesh
As I look at it now, it seems to be showing an example of how to move forward. The rose is beauty, but it is painful beauty. If you cling to it too tightly, you will injure yourself on the thorns. So the woman is instructed to let it go, to lay it on the fire. Fire is a transformative element. It quite literally changes the chemistry of what is put to it. This is where some basic Kabbalah as well as Jewish folklore come in. Kabbalistically, the "rose" is transformed and rises up the "Tree of Life" from the purely earthbound material to the realm of the spiritual...from fire to sun to "splendor" or the "heavenly" if you will, and comes to rest in the arms of the Holy One. The Holy One once again transforms it and returns it to the material world. It becomes a never ending circle of creation....from the dreams of the Holy One to a concept (dream of a letter) to a material manifestation and back up to the arms of the Holy One. The Holy One dreams of a letter and dreams of a letter's death....one is not greater than the other and each will happen in its time. The "continuous stutter" would be this continuous birth/death/rebirth....the word(concept) being made into flesh(matter).

The "soft reprimand" then would be a reminder that, even when all seems to be lost, it really isn't, it is merely in a state of transition....another pause on the circle that is LIFE.

These are my interpretations, yours may be different, for Leonard speaks differently to each of us. That is what I love so much about his work.

Lii
Lili
"Well, that's my story
I admit it's broken and it's bleak
But all the twisted pieces fit
A 1000 kisses deep."
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TineDoes
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Re: The Window

Post by TineDoes » Sat Mar 20, 2010 1:20 pm

Thank you Lili. Reading your explanation of this song brought tears to my eyes. You put into words exactly my vague thoughts and ideas about this beautibul song. Especially this:
Lilifyre wrote:I have heard (possibly it was mentioned in the previous thread) that Leonard was inspired to write this by either his mother or grandmother....that she is the woman by the window.
Yes, it was mentioned in the earlier thread that LC may have written it for his mother. This makes it even more meaningful to me. Last year my mother passed away. I remember her often during her life standing at the window of her department, on a sixth floor, looking out at the sky, birds and life going on at street level. The image of the song, as you portray it, befits the thoughts I often had at seeing her there.
It was at her bedside, when there was no verbal communication possible, that I started my first translation - Anthem. LC songs helped me through these difficult times.

-----
By the way. I was reading up on the Kabala and the 22 letters of the Hebrew Aphabet, of which I knew and still know nothing. But I read about an interesting link being made between this and the 22 cards of the Tarot; the Great Aracana/mysteries representing the Tree of Life.

Thanks again
Tineke
"There’s no forsaking what you love ...."

Rotterdam 2008; Antwerpen, Dublin 2009; Gent 2x, Lille , Las Vegas 2x 2010, Gent, Amsterdam, Dublin 2x 2012, Antwerp, Berlin, Rotterdam 2013
holydove
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Re: The Window

Post by holydove » Sun Mar 21, 2010 12:45 am

Just want to add a couple of thoughts: I like the interpretations given here, but I don't see the "climb on your tears/and be silent. . ."verse as any kind of reprimand - I see it more as a compassionate instruction (Lilifyre also mentioned "instruction on how to move forward") - and the instruction has to do with transmuting pain into something beautiful. "Transmutation" is a specific process where one actually uses the energy of one thing, to turn it into something else. So the narrator wouldn't be telling the woman to just ignore, or even somehow move away from the pain (and get on with it), but to understand its value, in that the energy of the pain itself can be used to create something else (beauty, love, etc.) out of it. I think this correlates with the lines: "so lay your rose on the fire, the fire give up to the sun. . ." etc., because first the tears are transmuted into the "rose", and then the rose is transmuted into fire, sun , splendor, & finally merged into the Holy One - as Lilifyre said, becoming less & less "earthbound" or material - so I think the two verses outline a sequence of transmutation into the essence of God, Love, Infinity, whatever one wants to call it. And I think the rose rising out of its ladder of thorns fits with this, because the existence of the rose does not cause the thorns to disappear, but the beauty of the rose co-exists with the thorns of pain (until one lays it on the fire, of course - then the rose & the thorns are transmuted into the realms beyond. . .)

I have also thought that the woman in the song could be Leonard's mother, and perhaps the "sickness that loosens the high silver nerves" could refer to a kind of mental/emotional/psychological condition, that causes the nervous system to be extremely, or excessively sensitive. Leonard has mentioned (and/or it's in biographies) that his mother suffered from depression (the description sounds kind of like manic-depression), & I think she was actually hospitalized at some point because of her mental condition.
And I have also read that the Major Arcana of the Tarot is thought, by some who have studied it, to have a correlation with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

Just have to add - isn't this song the most gorgeous & creative prayer you have ever heard?!!
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TineDoes
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Re: The Window

Post by TineDoes » Sun Mar 21, 2010 2:43 am

Today I found an interview with LC in Rasky's book about the making of the film 'The Song of LC'', where they talk about The Window. I will quote a passage:
Question: 'Why do you stand by the window abandoned to beauty and pride? Was it something you say?
LC: "I tried many versions of that song and I was trying to write a lyric for that over a year.... The melody established quite early and I liked it......It is hard to isolate, indicate or explain that precise moment when that kind of accurate an explicit languate that we call poetry arrives and satisfies you because it's really based on the harmonics ot that language, rather than the words themselves.......
So, "darling of angels, demons and saints, and the whole broken hearted host" means that one which is beloved and cherished by the whole, all the inhabitants of the whole cosmos, that is the arisen one. That is the Christ,...the Redeemer, that is that highest aspect of one's own being that has the regenerative capacity. (Holydove; transmutation) But all those, all that kind of explanation is completely irrelevant to the music of a passage which can evoce those things. But as soon as that evocation is clouded or obscured by the kind of mechanism in the heart or the mind that would desire such an explanation, then the song has failed."
holydove wrote: Just have to add - isn't this song the most gorgeous & creative prayer you have ever heard?!!
Yes it is.
"There’s no forsaking what you love ...."

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holydove
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Re: The Window

Post by holydove » Sun Mar 21, 2010 6:17 pm

TineDoes, thank you so much for that quote from Rasky's book - beautiful, affirming, & revealing, at once! But I don't agree that our desire/compulsion to analyze & uncover the meaning, means the SONG has failed - if anything, it would mean WE have failed in some way (LC , with his usual humility, blames his creation)! Anyway, how generous of Leonard to share some of those inner workings with us. . . very sweet. . .
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Re: The Window

Post by Adam la Terre » Tue Apr 06, 2010 1:38 am

"lay your rose on the fire"


possibly a reference to Song of Songs?

"Like a rose among thorns, so is my beloved among the maidens,"
you never have to tell me what it is you really think of me, I'll just say I'mdoing fine, but do I have to dance all night. -Leonard Cohen
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TineDoes
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Re: The Window

Post by TineDoes » Tue Apr 06, 2010 5:17 pm

Adam, I do not know. Anybody?

Song of Solomon - Chapter 2
1. I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
2. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
"There’s no forsaking what you love ...."

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Lilifyre
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Re: The Window

Post by Lilifyre » Tue Apr 06, 2010 7:22 pm

After reviewing the Song of Songs, I don't so much see the phrase: "lay your rose on the fire" as a reference to Song of Songs as I see it referencing the Tree of Life concept that I have mentioned previously. The only way to know if Leonard was drawing a reference to Song of Songs, one would have to ask him. I suspect, however, he would answer your question with a question such as "What do you think it means?" So, if it evokes an image of Song of Songs for you, than that is what it mean....to you. The following seems to relate to both those concepts. This is a reference on Song of Songs from a Conservative Jewish website: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/B ... ongs.shtml
The verse: 'Like a lily among thorns, so is my darling among the maidens (2:2)' is interpreted as referring to Israel's oppression by the secular powers: 'Just as a rose, if situated between thorns, when the north wind blows is bent towards the south and is pricked by the thorns, and nevertheless its heart is still turned upwards, so with Israel, although taxes are exacted from them, nevertheless their hearts are fixed upon their Father in Heaven.'

In the Zohar and the early Kabbalah the dialogue of love is between the two Sefirot, Tiferet, the male principle in the Godhead, and Malkhut, the Shekhinah, the female principle. In the opening passage of the Zohar, in current editions, the lily among the thorns is Malkhut attacked by the demonic forces but strengthened against these evil forces by the five strong leaves surrounding the lily, the other lower Sefirot.
Lili
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I admit it's broken and it's bleak
But all the twisted pieces fit
A 1000 kisses deep."
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Re: The Window

Post by stella s. » Fri Apr 09, 2010 9:48 am

see it more as a compassionate instruction (Lilifyre also mentioned "instruction on how to move forward") - and the instruction has to do with transmuting pain into something beautiful.
That's exactly what comes to my mind, when I listen to that beautiful song. But there is another thing about the rose. For me the rose is also a symbol for "beauty and pride" (the woman at the window is described as "abandoned to beauty and pride"). The rose on the fire is a sacrifice and burning it means giving up beauty and pride. The woman loses her youth (her beauty and pride - and her pain of course) to win something else - she can feel "the splendour in the arms of the high holy one".
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Re: The Window

Post by DBCohen » Sat Apr 02, 2011 8:01 am

I apologize for not taking part in this discussion, because I was waiting for the publication of my long article on “The Window”, which has now been kindly loaded by Jarkko on the Files; you can find it by going to the “Analysis” section on the Files, or by clicking on the link on the Front Page, or through the following link:
Www.leonardcohenfiles.com/doron-window.pdf

The article was written about two years ago, and now is finally printed in a scholarly magazine here in Japan (in both English and Japanese versions). For some reason, the magazine would not give me a PDF version of the article (although they do give printouts, which most magazines no longer do), so the PDF you’ll find on the Files is from my own computer, but the text is identical (you’ll find the English version only; anyone who needs the Japanese one can get it from me privately 8) ).

I’d like to thank once again the Forum members who’ve read the draft of the article and commented on it; some of them are mentioned in the last footnote, including TineDoes who initiated this thread. I couldn’t have done it without you.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with my interpretation of “The Window”; I know it means different things to different people, and I’d be grateful for your comments and suggestions.

Many thanks,

Doron
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mat james
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Re: The Window

Post by mat james » Sat Apr 30, 2011 2:42 pm

Could anybody explain to me what is meant by 'a letter' in the following stansa of 'The Window', or give me the link to a place on the forum where it may have been discussed?

For the holy one dreams of a letter
Dreams of a letter's death
(tinedoes)

I was pondering this line just recently Tine and a thought popped into my mind;
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
(New Testament, John 1:1)

“For the holy one dreams of a letter”
I wondered if Leonard is suggesting that if in the beginning there was the “Word”, then as soon as God created the first “letter” of that “Word” then at that moment Creation began.
“Dreams of a letter's death”
It follows then that if that “letter” dies, or is erased, then one finds themselves back before Creation; and one with the Creator.
So if we dream of a letter’s death, we perhaps destroy the “Word” and return to undifferentiated unity; the all pervasive “I AM” of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible.

The next two lines are very interesting too:

“Oh bless thee continuous stutter
Of the word being made into flesh”

John 1:14 states "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
The “continuous stutter” probably signify the various prophets, (worldwide) and “the word being made into flesh” in this particular case; the reference seems to be Jesus in John 1:14 above.

(Read Doron’s paper on “The Window”, if you haven’t already)
http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/doron-window.pdf

Mat.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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