You'll see your woman hanging upside down

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
User avatar
Boss
Posts: 1441
Joined: Mon May 16, 2005 1:56 pm
Location: Treblinka

You'll see your woman hanging upside down

Post by Boss » Sun Aug 12, 2007 8:54 am

G'day. I'm really hoping for someone to shed some light.

In January 1993 I first heard the song The Future on a kibbutz in Northern Israel. Needless to say, it left a lasting impression. However, there are a few lines that i don't think I've ever clearly understood. They are these:

You'll see your woman hanging upside down
her features covered by her fallen gown


If anyone has any sort of interpretation of what Leonard may have meant, I would be rapt to read them.

Thanks very much,
Boss
2009 - Melbourne
2013 - Melbourne, Brisbane
User avatar
Teratogen
Posts: 1653
Joined: Mon Jun 21, 2004 11:09 pm
Location: Santa Clarita, California
Contact:

Re: You'll see your woman hanging upside down

Post by Teratogen » Sun Aug 12, 2007 10:20 am

Well, a woman hanging upside down with a gown on, the gown would fall upwards, if that makes sense, covering her upper torso. :)
"Rock and roll is dead, but I am its revival. I'm prophesied by sages died, from Buddha to the Bible." --TERATOGEN
http://www.myspace.com/teratogen (music page)
http://www.myspace.com/teratogen666 (personal page)
http://www.facebook.com/#!/TheNoHoldsBard?ref=profile (Facebook page)
User avatar
Boss
Posts: 1441
Joined: Mon May 16, 2005 1:56 pm
Location: Treblinka

Re: You'll see your woman hanging upside down

Post by Boss » Sun Aug 12, 2007 1:57 pm

How ya' doin', T?

It's been a long time. Hope you're well.

I reckon I understand the physical dimension, that's fine thanks mate. I'm kinda' wondering if there's any significance about these words. Like, is he suggesting that women's moral or social standing will be, say, inverted/changed in some way in the future? There is something he's implying and I just don't understand it.

Do any women have a point of view?
2009 - Melbourne
2013 - Melbourne, Brisbane
User avatar
jimbo
Posts: 868
Joined: Tue Jan 30, 2007 4:11 am
Location: ireland
Contact:

Re: You'll see your woman hanging upside down

Post by jimbo » Sun Aug 12, 2007 4:23 pm

Ill have to think bout this one....................it could be Jesus.s Mother.Her face hidden from the world?
love is not forgotten......
User avatar
Joney
Posts: 250
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2007 3:31 am

Re: You'll see your woman hanging upside down

Post by Joney » Sun Aug 12, 2007 5:14 pm

This was the first Leonard Cohen song that was ever played to me by my brother a few years ago and I was quite shocked by the imagery that this line suggests. It is a very disturbing picture. All sorts of emotions would arise. "Features covered" would dehumanise the woman and the fact that she is "your woman" (although any woman would be disturbing) adds to the trauma.

But then nobody would describe the lyrics of this song as an upbeat and jolly, although the music and tempo are quite upbeat.
Manna
Posts: 1998
Joined: Fri Feb 09, 2007 6:51 am
Location: Where clouds go to die

Re: You'll see your woman hanging upside down

Post by Manna » Sun Aug 12, 2007 7:17 pm

I don't know if this is an image that harkens to any other semi-well-known particular image, but I have heard of various kinds of torture that involve being hung upside down. Sometimes the legs are spread and the genitalia beaten or otherwise mutilated. I have no way of knowing if Leonard intended to bring that particular to mind. There are some pretty fukt up things in this world, and I think he did intend to bring that to mind. I think Joney's analysis of dehumanizing is an important thing to recognize here.

It took me a while to be able to appreciate this song. Maybe I encountered it when my version of the future and the world was fresh! bright! daisies! Anyway, now I think it's really great. I know that mood.
User avatar
glida
Posts: 56
Joined: Sat Jun 16, 2007 8:31 am
Location: Newport News, VA USA
Contact:

Re: You'll see your woman hanging upside down

Post by glida » Sun Aug 12, 2007 10:33 pm

Here's my crack at it:

As usual, Leonard compresses numerous powerful images to suggest a variety of primal, overlapping explosions. The vision is clearly apocalyptic, with images of ghosts, fires, explosions, and the complete breaking down of social and moral order from its very genesis ("....breaking of the ancient western code..."). With the private life exploding, we are left with no personal boundaries which afford us any protection from the intrusions of an impersonal, pernicious world. The white man dancing also evokes racism and a patriarchy out of control. And given LC's veneration of women (except when they are causing him emotional pain) the contrast of the completely dehumanized woman hanging upside down with genitalia completely exposed and unprotected suggests the complete breakdown of civilization, somewhat akin to Nazi torture (more clearly evoked, perhaps, in the first verse ("Give me back my broken night/my mirrored room, my secret life/it's lonely here,/there's no one left to torture/Give me absolute control/over every living soul/And lie beside me baby,/that's an order!")

The one line of redemption? ".......love's the only engine of survival."

Fred
"When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.”

- Martin Buber
John Etherington
Posts: 2596
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2004 10:17 pm

Re: You'll see your woman hanging upside down

Post by John Etherington » Mon Aug 13, 2007 12:01 am

On a more postive note, this image could be a variation on the "hanged man" in the tarot, who hangs upside down tied by one foot.
I believe the card shows someone who sees the world from a different perspective, and has almost mystcal insights.
User avatar
st theresa
Posts: 430
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2006 7:24 pm
Location: Edmonton Alberta

Re: You'll see your woman hanging upside down

Post by st theresa » Mon Aug 13, 2007 12:30 am

http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/future.html

so many questions are already answered right here in this forum -not saying this answer is correct--just pointing out that we shouldn't miss it in such a discussion.
User avatar
glida
Posts: 56
Joined: Sat Jun 16, 2007 8:31 am
Location: Newport News, VA USA
Contact:

Re: You'll see your woman hanging upside down

Post by glida » Mon Aug 13, 2007 7:20 am

Dear Theresa,

Thanks for the link......I read the article with great interest.

Much to think about, and it was useful to consider her viewpoints from the resources of her discipline. What she posits involves a deeper consideration of paradox and irony in the song's text, particularly in the dual function of the divisions of good and evil as destructive, but also as a vehicle to dissolve boundaries of ego and self, which paves the way for a more natural form of living based on love as "the only engine of survival."

At the same time, I think the song reveals other dimensions when viewed from a socio-historical context, e.g. the image of the upside down hanged woman evokes some of what has already been discussed in this thread.

What do others think?

Fred
"When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.”

- Martin Buber
User avatar
Teratogen
Posts: 1653
Joined: Mon Jun 21, 2004 11:09 pm
Location: Santa Clarita, California
Contact:

Re: You'll see your woman hanging upside down

Post by Teratogen » Mon Aug 13, 2007 10:42 am

Perhaps it's all just a little simpler than that. Reading that line in context to that verse there is not much else there that we may take from to understand its meaning a little deeper. But taking that line in the context of the entire song it seems to me quite simple. What's the refrain of every verse? "I've seen the future, baby: it is murder." The scene described in that particular verse is just very chaotic and almost apocalyptic. The visual of a woman hanging upside down with her gown over her face seems to be just one of the many descpritions of this apocalyptic environment. On a none too deeper level perhaps it also suggests that women, who our society, in its simplest ideas, views as being innocent, compassionate, and the source of beauty, is just another casualty. He may just as well have said that there was a child hanging upside down and decapitated. To me that's all I'm really seeing.
"Rock and roll is dead, but I am its revival. I'm prophesied by sages died, from Buddha to the Bible." --TERATOGEN
http://www.myspace.com/teratogen (music page)
http://www.myspace.com/teratogen666 (personal page)
http://www.facebook.com/#!/TheNoHoldsBard?ref=profile (Facebook page)
Kaleid
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Jan 20, 2007 11:12 pm

Re: You'll see your woman hanging upside down

Post by Kaleid » Mon Aug 13, 2007 4:06 pm

For a long time I've understood or have seen it as a continuation of the theme "you'll see the breaking of the old ancient western code" which is freedom and her is the statue of liberty...a great symbol for freedom.
Don't know if this is helpful to anyone really...just my two euro cents.
User avatar
hydriot
Posts: 881
Joined: Sun May 21, 2006 3:07 am
Location: back in the UK

Re: You'll see your woman hanging upside down

Post by hydriot » Mon Aug 13, 2007 8:33 pm

I remember the murder of Sharon Tate vividly, and I have this strong image in my mind of her being tied upside down over the side of a staircase and her belly being slit open. However, in reality this doesn't seem to have been the case: she was wearing a bikini and was found on the ground with a rope around her neck attached to another victim.

So why do I have this strong (false) image? In the immediate aftermath of an atrocity like this, newspapers tend to print inaccurate reports in their desperation to get to press. Unfortunately, what we remember, because of the shock of that first reading, are those inaccuracies.

I wonder if LC has the same (inaccurately-reported) image of her murder? That would tie in with the following reference to Manson.
“If you do have love it's a kind of wound, and if you don't have it it's worse.” - Leonard, July 1988
Steven
Posts: 2140
Joined: Tue May 03, 2005 12:32 am

Re: You'll see your woman hanging upside down

Post by Steven » Mon Aug 13, 2007 11:01 pm

Hi Boss,

My take on this is that the women upside down represents a reversal of viewpoint.
That he speaks of a "gown," an article of clothing associated with formality and
social occasion where appearance and narcissism have more play, is telling. The
gown is akilter, covering "features" (another more narcisstic concern) and perspective
has been turned on its head... I've taken to mean that circumstances have substantively
changed to the point that less substantive concerns, well, they really don't matter then.
What do you think?
User avatar
tomsakic
Posts: 5262
Joined: Wed Jul 03, 2002 2:12 pm
Location: Zagreb, Croatia
Contact:

Re: You'll see your woman hanging upside down

Post by tomsakic » Wed Aug 15, 2007 3:40 pm

I'm with Manna in this. As I lived through recent wars here in former Yugoslavia (or at least on edge of it) as a kid, I always see mutilated and raped women, hanged upside down (with their gowns hanging) while listening to this lyrics. Also, the Ancient Western Code is breaking down, there's something coming (the blizzard) and it's on our threshold. Really prophetic song, it seems to describe the new world of post-global and post-Communist and post-9-11 world. The main line is, imo, "and the white man dancing", not doing anything in the midst of this flood (to say Leonard's favourite word on the matter, repeated from Gypsy's Wife up to Book of Longing), or the apocalypse. The fact is that the "and the white man dancing" is the final line in the structure of the song, in its narrative, repeated two time as the conclusion - after that, the song repeats itself, so structurally that's indeed the poet's final conclusion. Somewhere in this Forum, long ago, we discussed about "and the white man dancing", and it was said it's great description of an end - the Western Civilisation, as known from Greece and Judeo-Christianity, with logical conclusion in the project of colonialism (and Holocaust), is breaking down. The white man is dancing, nevertheless pollution, ecological dead-end, breaking of secret life, etc, everything caused exactly by - white man.

That was digression to another line, but these line about woman hanging upside down is one of series of great lyrics, short and direct metaphors in which Cohen captures the waste political and cultural processes in few words, like "and the white man dancing", "lousy little poets coming round, trying to sound like Charlie Manson" etc.

Btw, that article A READING OF THE FUTURE is very strange. Why woman hanging upside down is the reversion of Christ's sacrifice? And the redeemer? She is anyhow hanging upside down (what's torture), she is YOUR woman, and "her features covered by her fallen gown". The whole article is some kind of one-sided religious reading, often very bizarre. Like "why are lousy poets compared to Charlie Manson?" I mean, poetry speaks beyond rationality, and I feel every metaphor in this song as masterpiece and unbelievable insight. The poets of The Future's world are looking for the new language, and the new discourse is the discourse of insanity. The poet is in a way the voice of God or the voice of the landscape beyond the rationale, the voice within... So Manson - as the epitome of The Future's madness or someone who claims to be God's prophet - is giving the new voice, or the new language in a way (I'm speaking in terms of the distorted world of The Future, as given by the song) - and the poets of The Future are trying to sound like him, because they think - wrongly, as the narrator of The Future thinks (the whole song is to be read in modus of irony, I strongly believe) - that the new discourse, the language of the new world, is the language of Manson. Or, The Future's language is the language of insanity.

I also did mention ecology and stuff, because there are hints in the song, like "Take the only tree that's left
and stuff it up the hole in your culture". This line is great because it says so much - not to mention that in just one word - CULTURE - Cohen says it all, it's ONLY tree left, and there's hole in the culture. Not only that the hole is a term in Deconstruction, but "Culture is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language", and it's the main term of all humanist theory in last 30 years or so ->> http://pubpages.unh.edu/~dml3/880williams.htm It also brings to mind the dichotomy of Nature and Culture - the White Man (Western Code / Civilisation) has ruined the nature, and the culture / civilisation is now becoming Murder; while the poet rudely and ironically sings that the lacuna in the culture can be stuffed only with the last tree, the last piece of nature.

Of course, the only solution is given only as a short hint, and that's the core of the song - Love is the only engine of survival. (I like the use of word "engine" here, again Culture vs. Nature, while Love is the Nature's thing... or is it Culture's invention?)
Post Reply

Return to “Leonard Cohen's music”