In the past few days, I have been having a couple of moments of pure serendipity. Anyone who has been following my reviews will see that Paul Beatty’s The Sellout and Shusaku Endo’s Silence have been my latest two reads. Over the holidays I also watched the brilliant Brendan Gleeson film Calvary. Today, as I was doing some jobs around the house, I turned on a Leonard Cohen playlist on Spotify and this was the first song that came up. The common themes found in these four very different sources is almost uncanny.

I was in Waterstones yesterday wandering around the poetry section and I came very close to buying a couple of Leonard Cohen poetry books. Many of his songs can be read or performed as poetry and none more so than this song, the titular track to his final album. Cohen recorded this album in his own home as his health deteriorated. The powerful lyrics suggest that the singer is a man engaged in debate with his God.

I strongly recommend that you listen to Leonard Cohen perform his song here.

Now take a closer look at the lyrics.

You Want It Darker

If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the help that never came
You want it darker

Hineni, hineni
I’m ready, my lord

There’s a lover in the story
But the story’s still the same
There’s a lullaby for suffering
And a paradox to blame
But it’s written in the scriptures
And it’s not some idle claim
You want it darker
We kill the flame

They’re lining up the prisoners
And the guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle class and tame
I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim
You want it darker

Hineni, hineni
I’m ready, my lord

Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the love that never came
You want it darker
We kill the flame

If you are the dealer, let me out of the game
If you are the healer, I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory, mine must be the shame
You want it darker

Hineni, hineni
Hineni, hineni
I’m ready, my lord

Hineni
Hineni, hineni
Hineni

 

As I researched these lyrics further I found this excellent website, Genius.com, that delves deeper into the meaning of the song. Just like Fr. Rodrigues in Silence, Cohen questions God’s inaction to the cruelties of the world. Cohen even goes as far to say that God ‘wants it darker.’ The contributors at Genius.com help fill in the Biblical references and Jewish prayers that influence the song’s theme. Some contributors even hint that the ‘million candles burning for the help that never came’ and the prisoners and guards reference the Holocaust.

To conclude my ramblings, I’ll leave you with this quote from The Sellout:

‘Silence can be either protest or consent, but most times it’s fear.’