Thursday 27 April 2017

Poetry - Ulick O'Connor: Cohen: a rare man of verse and song

Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen

Ulick O'Connor

Leonard Cohen, who died two months ago, was that rare person, one who could create poetry as well as music. In later years he came to Ireland on a number of occasions and gave performances in Dublin and Sligo. He talked of the influence that Yeats had had on him.

St Francis of Assisi was another of Cohen's models.

"As a young man, he spoke to me in a way I could understand," Cohen said.

"I address the daisies in a style made popular by St Francis. At his tomb, I did feel peaceful beside his powder. Dare I say he welcomed me. It's true, it's true, and it's true".

Cohen saw St Francis, not just as a saint, but also as an interpreter of divine beauty. Here is a poem he wrote which would not be out of place in the Oxford Book of Modern Verse.

from IF IT BE YOUR WILL

If it be your will

that I speak no more,

and my voice be still

as it was before;

I will speak no more,

I shall abide until

I am spoken for,

if it be your will.

If it be your will

that a voice be true,

from this broken hill

I will sing to you

from this broken hill

all your praises they shall ring

if it be your will

to let me sing.

If it be your will

if there is a choice,

let the rivers fill,

let the hills rejoice,

let your mercy spill

on all these burning hearts in hell,

if it be your will

to make us well.

Leonard Cohen 1934-2016

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