Anthem by Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen’s Poems and Songs (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets) will be released on April 5, 2011. Man oh man, was my reaction a few nights ago. He’s one of my favourites. He leaves me speechless. It’s hard to find copies of his books here, and when I do it’s so damn expensive. You know the only reason why I sometimes desire to be rich someday? It’s so I can buy all the books I want and read all day and write for the rest of my life without having to worry if I have something to eat tomorrow. Then again, if I have that kind of life, what will I write about? Isn’t perfection brutal?

Anyway, here’s a poem I love:

Anthem
Leonard Cohen

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government —
signs for all to see.
I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.
Ring the bells that still can ring…
You can add up the parts
but you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.

From Selected Poems, 1956-1968 by Leonard Cohen, published by Bantam Books, 1971. ()

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