Leonard Cohen’s Song to Donald Trump

leonard-cohen-2What a week it was—still is!

I’m still crying inside.

Yes, Leonard Cohen sent me soaring into mourning.

Gorging on his music these past few days, I realized how he helped me appreciate the value of struggle. His struggle was an art form.

I saw Cohen perform on an intimate stage at the University of Alberta in 1966, and ever since I’ve been his devoted fan. It’s only now, fifty years later, that I see how his poetic confessions have influenced my understanding of the human journey.

Listen to these lyrics from a song on his album, “Dear Heather.”

From bitter searching of the heart,
Quickened with passion and with pain,
We rise to play a greater part.

For the past seven blog-years, I’ve been arguing that fiction exists to dramatize that essential miracle. Characters rise above their petty selves. You may think that’s overly optimistic, but I say, it’s everyone’s trajectory.

This is the faith from which we start.
Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart.

Hearing those lines just a few minutes ago, I thought of all the soul-searching going on in America right now. The most positive among us want to make America healthy again.

We loved the easy and the smart,
But now, with keener hand and brain
We rise to play a greater part.

In my overactive imagination I see Leonard singing these lines to Donald Trump.

Had Leonard lived one more day, and witnessed the election result, I doubt he would have been so ungracious as to dismiss the president-elect. I imagine the poet having faith in the sacred trajectory of every person, including The Donald.

In any case, what can a poet do but offer his poem as a solution:

The lesser loyalties depart
And neither race nor creed remain,
From bitter searching of the heart.

I don’t know about you, but it’s only when I’m forced to that I search my heart. With the pressure Trump is feeling now, is it possible that he’s re-examining things he said during the campaign? Are his “lesser loyalties” beginning to depart? After all, abandoning our infantile beliefs is what growing up is all about.

Not steering by the venal [corrupt] chart  
That tricked the mass for private gain,
We rise to play a greater part…

Leonard! Are you suggesting that Donald Trump may rise to meet the challenge? What a concept. If so, then I for one am willing to buy into such positivity. What choice do I have? What’s more, this is no time for me to abandon my faith in you, Leonard.

Here are the final lines of Cohen’s poem titled Villanelle for our Time:

Reshaping narrow law and art
Whose symbols are the millions slain,
From bitter searching of the heart
We rise to play a greater part.

Consider this:

If Leonard is wrong—and if my optimism is misguided—because Trump fails to search his heart—then, get ready.

We will all have to rise to play a greater part.

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  1. says

    Wonderful, PJ. You and The Leonard doing us wise and eloquent service with this posting. Perhaps The Donald will rise beyond what he has so egregiously shown us throughout his campaign, but I am cautioned by these words of Maya Angelou, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Another message of this disastrous election result and the concomitant death of our beloved Leonard, is to stop looking for Daddy to do it for us fer gawdsake. The time “to rise to play a greater part” is now.

  2. Rhonda says

    Thank you, PJ. I’m still crying too, but I am not so optimistic. As Obama said in one of his last speeches before election day, “Your character does not change when you get into the White House.”

  3. says

    Another great post, PJ. I’ve been too numb to write my own … too many thoughts competing for precedence … but I am appreciating the thoughtful writings of others in this time of great(er) uncertainty.

  4. says

    Donaleen… Nor am I holding my breath. Perhaps I should have just leapt straight to the conclusion: time for everyone to start playing a greater part.

  5. says

    Rhonda… thanks for your comment. Regarding ‘character changing’ — I wonder how many storms it takes to change a person’s character. I think it depends upon how much a person appreciates the value of adversity in their life. The Donald will be a hard nut to crack. Probably needs a total shipwreck before he wakes up. But then Odysseus required more than a few knocks on the head, as well. Cheers. ~ PJ

  6. Sarah says

    How your words fit with what I wrote to friends last night:

    I have come to accept that the only way I can face difficult moral times, is as a writer supported by writers. People who use words to reason, not manipulate. Writers who know truth can be complex, but nonetheless revere it as the lodestone we seek.

    Looking forward to having you back in Mazatlan, PJ

  7. Rhonda says

    I’ve personally resolved to try and be a better person, more understanding, kinder to strangers. I’m wearing my safety pin, which I hope will be not only an outward sign, but will help me have civil courage if and when it becomes necessary.

  8. says

    “Biggly.” Perhaps you have heard the Donald use that word and thought “how ignorant.” Yet, the movement he is listening to deserves such a word. Perhaps you think that it is the rabble who elected him—those who have not mastered the “slick”—The residents of the “Basket of Deplorables.” But do not be misled by pretty words and the mud slung from the Washington swamp he hopes to drain. It is time to honor the workers of our world. Those of us who have labored mightily while others learn to talk pretty. Those of us who pay while others spend our money.
    Like you, PJ. I hope the Donald rises to the occasion. He is not taking a salary nor is he selling out America for personal gain, destroying those records and pretending he can’t remember. And he flys his own plane.Time to send our kids to trade schools as well as colleges and learn to change our own tires. The middle class will pay dont you know. So honor those who earn it. And pray that “biggly” means the breaking free of the spirit of brotherhood. Breaking windshields, protecting curruption, wont get it. LIke you, I pray the job sources the man and he learns to sing Leonard’s song—”biggly.” For what we have ahead of us is not pretty. America is in terrible trouble. Europe is in terrible trouble. Tiime to put our shoulders to the wheel—biggly.

  9. Yvette Carol says

    I too have been influenced by the wonderful Leonard Cohen along the way of this turbulent ride through life. A true poet has returned to the ultimate greater part.
    Simple, eloquent post, PJ. Loved it.
    This is a new time, there is a blossoming of hope and positivity all around us. Can’t you feel it? It’s like a wave has begun which can not be stopped. Humans coming together.

  10. says

    Yvette… You’re a vortex of positivity, so I’m not surprised that you experience a wave of such heading your way. Please draw us all into it. Btw… I’m in Mexico now, just arrived, getting acclimated. Next post should have a warm sweet scent.

  11. Yvette Carol says

    Thanks, my friend.
    Nice to have an image of where you are now. I look forward to the warmly-fragrant, hopefully spicy post. Yes, I shall draw you into my vortex. My latest post might interest you as it gives a glimpse of the way. :-)

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