The Gypsy’s Wife


“My own marriage was breaking up at the time [of writing the song – Ed] and in a sense it was written for my Gypsy wife, in other words, the wife that was wandering away. In another way it’s just a song about the way men and women have lost one another. Men and women have wandered from each other and have become gypsies to each other. In the last verse it says, “There is no man or woman you can touch, but you who come between them will be judged.” In other words, even though we are in the midst of some kind of second catastrophe, it’s not an invitation to take advantage of it. That’s mostly what the song’s about.”Leonard Cohen (570)

There Is A War


““There’s a war between the rich and poor, there is a war between a man and a woman.” We are in the midst of this flood or catastrophe we are in, these are the days of the flood. These are the final days. In a sense, all the institutions are, and have been, swept away. And the ethical question is, “What is the proper behavior, what is the appropriate behavior in the midst of a catastrophe?” That song is a kind of war cry to strengthen the participants, to inform them that there was a conflict but it’s an uncharitable song, it’s very difficult to sing it correctly without making it sound like a slogan.”Leonard Cohen (570)

Who By Fire


“That song derives very directly from a Hebrew prayer that is sung on the evening of the Day of Atonement, “Who by fire, who by sword, who by water.” According to the tradition The Book of Life is opened and in it is inscribed all those who will live and all those who will die for the following year. In that prayer is cataloged all the various ways in which you can quit this vale of tears. The conclusion of the song as I write it is somewhat different, “Who shall I say is calling?” That is what makes the song into a prayer for me in my terms which is who is it, or what is it that determines who will live and who will die?”Leonard Cohen (570)

Tower Of Song


“Is that place where the writer is stuck. For better or worse you’re in it. I’ve come this far down the line, I’m not going to turn around and become a forest ranger or a neuro-surgeon. I’m a songwriter. It’s where you are and it’s where you’ve got to be. And you have to come to terms with your own predicament.”Leonard Cohen (634)

Light As The Breeze


“It emphasizes the temporary, fleeting comfort that this congress brings. Nevertheless, when you’ve had a moment of comfort you return to the struggle with the residue of the experience. It enables you to shoulder things better.”Leonard Cohen (635)

The Guests


“Its sensibility is sponsored by the poems of Rumi and Attar, who are Persian poets of the 12th and 13th centuries. I guess it’s a religious song, just about our stranger-hood on the Earth and how it’s resolved.”Leonard Cohen (969)