The Master Song

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
Post Reply
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2006 2:54 am
Location: Manchester, uk

The Master Song

Post by lostsaint » Sat Dec 02, 2006 11:37 pm

For almost every night for the past few weeks I have been trying to absorb the meaning of the Master Song, one of L/C's earlier works.
I can gather that it tells of a kind of triology but in where does Leonard fit ?

Is he some kind of Slave to both the Master and the Woman?['And now you bring your prisoner Wine and Bread'?]

Was he once a Mentor to the 'Master' ['I taught him all that he knew']?

Was he the Lover of Both 'Master' and presumably 'The Woman'?['I taught him how he would long for me, no matter what you say or what you do']

Or Is he or has been The Master himself?

Any thoughts mush appreciated,
Failed Saint
Posts: 41
Joined: Tue Oct 03, 2006 5:15 pm
Location: Brussels, BE

Post by Nicolas » Tue Dec 12, 2006 1:40 pm

Hello Lostsaint,

I can only suggest you to read the analysis made by Judith Fitzgerald which stands on the website
Click on Alanlysis and you will see it.
I, myself have wondered very long about the meaning of the song and really love it.

User avatar
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Sep 21, 2006 9:23 am
Location: Tel Aviv, Israel


Post by lyndaim » Sun Dec 17, 2006 1:11 pm

This is an amazing song and I have also wondered much about it.
Thanks for the link.
Zoe Martell
Posts: 23
Joined: Sat Dec 09, 2006 10:04 am
Location: California, US

Post by Zoe Martell » Thu Feb 08, 2007 8:17 am

I don't profess to know what LC means, but I've always read it a bit the way you describe -- a love triangle of sorts, wherein LC's woman runs off with another man (with his permission?), thus enslaving them all....and there is indeed a strong hint at male/male sexual intimacy here, too.

One of my very favorite of the early songs.

Calls up the same type of triangular dynamics to me as famous blue raincoat, a bit.... and also of the gypsy wife...
Now that my ladder's gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart

W.B. Yeats
User avatar
Posts: 536
Joined: Thu Jun 27, 2002 1:32 pm

Post by Partisan » Thu Feb 08, 2007 1:19 pm

By all means use the link, just remember some people cannot see the wood for the trees.

Cohen Kid
Posts: 111
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2005 9:51 pm
Location: Holland

Post by Cohen Kid » Thu Feb 15, 2007 5:26 pm

it changes, but Master Song must be my favourite Cohen piece, especially when that tremelo guitar starts :P
I wondered too about the meaning, but it's nice to read about it here :D
A sip of wine, a cigarette
And then it's time to go
I tidied up the kitchenette
I tuned the old banjo
-10 new songs, Boogie Street
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Feb 22, 2007 1:15 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by Medusa0blongata » Sun Feb 25, 2007 6:33 am

Look at the triad from Beautiful Losers...
Posts: 5
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2012 12:06 am

Re: The Master Song

Post by IsaacOfTheNewts » Fri Feb 03, 2012 1:27 am

I'm bringing up a very old thread, i know. But it deserves more discussion.

On a BBC radio broadcast in 1968, Cohen says this before he begins the Master Song:
"It's about the Trinity. Let's leave that to the scholars... it's about three people."

The Judy Fitzgerald link in the first post references this too.
I agree with PARTISAN'S post about overcritquing, though, and would rather draw out simpler conclusions than fitzgerald...

So, i assume Cohen means to reference the christian trinity (you know, the Lord, his son, the holy spirit?). What's interesting is who he refers to as the 'master', who as the master's disciple, and who as "I".
There are hints of there being a woman, etc, but those could be symbolic.

So, any takers? Who's who?

ps- samples of that bbc broadcast on this blog: captain's dead
Posts: 5
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2012 12:06 am

Re: The Master Song

Post by IsaacOfTheNewts » Fri Feb 03, 2012 1:48 am

Oh. There's already a topic in the POETRY AND NOVELS section. No need for the necro after all.
John Etherington
Posts: 2589
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2004 10:17 pm

Re: The Master Song

Post by John Etherington » Sat Feb 04, 2012 2:45 pm

For a discussion on other dimensions of "Master Song" see the other "Master Song" thread that I've just pulled-up to the top area of this section!
User avatar
Posts: 2503
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2009 3:59 pm
Location: between the snowman and the rain

Re: The Master Song

Post by remote1 » Sat Feb 04, 2012 3:36 pm

"We are so lightly here"
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 8:24 am

Re: The Master Song

Post by Eklectika » Wed Jan 06, 2016 8:28 am

Heroin. Relisten to the song but with an open mind....whilst considering that the 3rd person, i.e. the master, is heroin. Makes perfect sense to me.
Dennis W
Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Dec 31, 2016 4:01 am

Re: The Master Song

Post by Dennis W » Sat Dec 31, 2016 5:02 am

I remain unpersuaded by Judith Fitzgerald's interpretation. What tips me off she might be on the wrong track is in the first paragraph. She quotes Leonard Cohen saying "it's three people" and then proceeds to explore a notion the song might be about three selves.

A self is an aspect of a person as an identity also is an aspect of a person. These terms are interrelated, but they are not the same. I'll defer further discussion of "selves" until I'm interacting with someone who has a basic understanding of Self Theory as it is presented in the works of George Meade and Carl Rogers. I'll just say the use of the term "self" here is at best informal. At its worst, it changes what Cohen actually said and likely meant.

I believe when he said "it's about three people" he literally meant three people. Further, he suggests the work might be subject to academic interpretation. Granted he appeared unwilling to participate in that academic discussion, but he clearly implied one might exist.

I still suggest the three people are most sensibly, Emily Dickinson (who heard her master sing), William Blake (who described the animal and spiritual nature of humans similar to "an ape with angel glands"), and Leonard Cohen himself. In this light the poem/song is seen as the masterpiece that it is. The writer yearns for the romanticism so strongly prevalent in their day that he dreams of stealing the great and alluring Emily Dickinson away from the powerful and masterful William Blake.

In this it is but yearning and not bragging, boasting, or challenging. It simply is the poet's yearning for the skills of the masters. I believe he largely succeeded in that endeavor.
Post Reply

Return to “Leonard Cohen's music”