Suzanne – Leonard Cohen – Lyrics – Analysis

Suzanne

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she’s half crazy
But that’s why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you’ve always been her lover
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said “All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them”
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you’ll trust him
For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind.

Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters
And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbour
And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she’s touched your perfect body with her mind.

Leonard Cohen (1933 – 2016)

This song was written by Leonard Cohen and recorded by quite a few artists including Judy Collins. He relinquished all rights when he inadvertently signed a contract without reading the detail, so he never made any money from his creation. He said that this was fitting in that he did not want to make money out of this personal love text.

This is all to do with poetry and lyrics and the way they intertwine. The music adds the dimension to the words. I have broken the lyrics up into three sections to consider the words. It is up to the reader of any lyrics to consider the poetic merit.

Well it is all to do with Cohen’s relationship with Suzanne Verdal while he lived in Montreal. He used to walk by Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, where sailors were blessed before heading out to sea.

In general, the poem is all about personal idealization of both his friend Suzanne or any woman and later a reference to Jesus. The Suzanne personal interaction involves tea and oranges and we have the feeling that she is quite unusual and bohemian and a much-male-loved character in the city.

Section 1 … well the key point is the meeting of wavelengths … the strength of love that joins in such a communion is clearly metaphorically  evident in the words –  she lets the river answer / That you’ve always been her lover. And the joy of that unison gives trust and blind adherence. In his mind she is perfect. The emphasis is on mind.

Section 2 … I find this a remarkably interesting side step for we have an idealization of Jesus with reference to sailors. This is appropriate considering the Montreal context. And Jesus was of course broken up in many ways including the sin-problem of humanity and the cross. But Jesus is often regarded as a savior and a repair of imperfection so he may see Cohen as perfect – for he’s touched your perfect body with his mind. And this union may be like the idealization of Suzanne and he may likewise give blind adherence.

Section 3 Suzanne takes Cohen on a journey of places not so nice perhaps, but he still wants to travel with her – And she shows you where to look / Among the garbage and the flowers. Children, the future, are looking for love and Suzanne says that that future is in the mirror – while Suzanne holds the mirror facing Cohen – in other words it is up to Cohen. And she like Jesus – has touched his perfect body with her mind.

What a nice thought to have a perfect body!

Here is a link to Leonard Cohen singing this on You Tube

2 thoughts on “Suzanne – Leonard Cohen – Lyrics – Analysis

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