Hey, that's a lot of input! Good thoughts, the two of you!
For my part, I'm wandering off into details quite a bit, so my contribution (at least for now) is somewhat meagre. Here's what I can come up with so far:
● I'm struck by the 3 + 1 quality of the album —
feels to me as though the previous three albums had only just been a preparation for this one. But I'm too intimately touched by this phenomenon to discuss it in public, at least for the time being.
● Methinks, the song "Happens to the Heart" is an earlier version of the poem, and that Leonard Cohen kept working on the text until he asked Jarkko to post it on the forum:
And even then, within a few hours, the following changes were made:
S5L7 was changed from
"You give in and then it's simple
" to "You say Uncle, then it's simple
S6L7 was changed from
"I lost my job defending
" to "I got this job defending
(Since due to these modifications I had to look up "say Uncle", I learned that in ancient Rome the uncle was the second highest authority after the father. Kids in a brawl, saying "Uncle", would acknowledge the winner as an authority second only to their own father —
meaning total submission.
And so I do maintain that "sharks and minnows" should also be seen, to some extent, as an expression used among playing children.)
Instead of prose coming first, which then if worthy becomes a poem, which then if worthy becomes a song, we here have an unfinished text sung. And Leonard Cohen kept polishing the text —
because that's all he could do, and because it was so important that he had to
For me there can be no doubt that this song-poem is a very important message, on which Leonard Cohen spent his last energy, except maybe for "Listen to the Hummingbird".
● The troublesome woman, to me, could be any woman, of course, any relationship. But her incarnation would be his former manager with whom he had an affair and who defrauded him of all his liquid assets, even liquidating his copyrights. And who then inundated him with filth-mail.
● The "rifle" I rather see in "the land of the fathers", where in nineteen-seventy-three-Oh!-three he sang for the Israeli troops.
Leonard Cohen never went against the Palestinians —
disagree with nationalism, including Israeli nationalism. He no more than claimed the right for everybody to live (and not be thrown into the sea).
● The beggar:
Yes, in this stanza surely Kyozan Joshu Sasaki is representing all the begging monks —
in the first four lines.
In the middle, I suggest to mentally insert, as a kind of hinge, two lines from "Undertow":
And my heart the shape
Of a begging bowl
The second half of the stanza then would refer to the narrator. As a filthy beggar himself now, he has no fable to tell and no lesson to give —
he can do no more than first guess, later bless "What happens to the heart".
And then: Are we ourselves any more (and subsequently: any less…) than this kind of beggar? Isn't that all we've got?
Leonard Cohen is gone. Who, if not we, whom he tried to teach, is going to be "guessing-blessing / What happens to the heart"?
● The "heart", methinks, can be seen as different from the human heart with its various facets, too —
namely as in "The Stranger Song":
Please understand, I never had a secret chart
to get me to the heart
of this or any other matter
In this sense, meaning the centre, core, essence, the term is used in the "Heart (of wisdom) Sutra", the most important sutra in Zen Buddhism, chanted after each meditation. Leonard Cohen will have recited this sutra thousands of times.
In the Other Writers and Writing section, I posted a few indications:
https://www.leonardcohenforum.com/viewt ... 86#p373309
● In this context, the line "I was selling holy trinkets" would be quite some demystification of evangelical devotion and elation, and therefore I'd call it "spiritual" in Its4inthemorning's classification.
● Likewise for 7B: "spiritual".
Is he betting that the flood will win and sink the ark, or is he betting that the game of "the-flood-against-the-ark" will be played?
There is a parallel in "Different Sides":
The waters are blessed while a shadowy guest
Kindles a light for the lost
So my take is "spiritual"
● In what concerns the lines
Had a pussy in the kitchen
And a panther in the yard
there is a review posted by Jarkko
https://leonardcohenforum.com/viewtopic ... 92#p370087
commenting on the German bilingual edition of "The Flame", quoting (and criticising) the outrageously lousy translation of those lines:
Had a pussy in the kitchen / And a panther in the yard
Hatte ’ne Mieze in der Küche / Einen Mähnenwolf im Revier
Translated back into English that would be:
Had a kitty-cat in the kitchen / A maned wolf in the hunting territory
One should have expected at least something like
Hatt' 'ne Muschi in der Küche / Und 'nen Panther drauß' im Hof
(Or, because of "passiert" in the refrain:
Und 'nen Panther im Geviert
This prompted me to have a last go at my translation of Rainer Maria Rilke's poem "The Panther —
In the Jardin des Plantes, Paris": https://leonardcohenforum.com/viewtopic ... 16&t=38690
After more than a decade of despairing over translating difficulties, I've come up with something I hope I won't feel too bad about in a few months or years. And at any rate, I have a distinct feeling of having reached my limits. The translation is not very good, but it's the best I can do.
As for the "radio", Its4inthemorning —
wasn't that in "Treaty"?
You were my ground, my safe and sound
You were my aerial
A decent "ground", and a "safe"-ty razorblade with a "safe"-ty pin pressing a pencil stub onto that razorblade, and earphones for the "sound", and an "aerial":
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_r ... _radios%22
A subversive little thing allowing both soldiers and civilians to secretly listen to Marlene Dietrich or Lale Andersen singing "Lili Marleen" —
or Jesus allowing our priest to listen to God (way back in time, when he was a boy)...