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.



Lyrics submitted by lypsyl

"Anthem" as written by Leonard Cohen

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Anthem song meanings
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11 Comments

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  • +7
    General Comment:The line "a crack in everything" seems to come from a book by Jack Kornfield on buddhism. The story is that a young man who had lost his leg came to a buddhist monastary thing, and he was extremely angry at life, and always drew these pictures of cracked vases and damaged thing, because he felt damaged. Over time, he found inner peace, and changed his outllook, but still drew broken vases. His master asked him one day: "Why do you still draw a crack in the vases you draw, are you not whole?" And he replied
    "yes, and so are the vases. The crack is how the light gets in"
    neptune235on April 17, 2005   Link
  • +4
    General Comment:"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light" is a quote attributed to that great Zen monk Spike Milligan.
    futatoriuson September 21, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General Comment:I think this song is also a reminder that in the grand scheme of things all you can do is move forward and do the best you can with what you have.
    radiotoaston October 10, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:Thanks. This is one terrific song and now it has a new look.
    quilceneon August 11, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:i agree the chorus is saying its the flawed things that are the most beautiful because they are the ones with character.

    it reminds me what someone said about imagine: its a great thing to aim for but if the world was like that it would just be boring
    kdanceon February 08, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:There is a wonderful passage in the essay 'What I believe' by E.M. Forster (spichtinger.net/otexts/…) which goes:

    "The more highly public life is organized the lower
    does its morality sink ; the nations of today behave to each other
    worse than they ever did in the past, they cheat, rob, bully and
    bluff, make war without notice, and kill as many women and
    children as possible; whereas primitive tribes were at all events
    restrained by taboos. It is a humiliating outlook - though the
    greater the darkness, the brighter shine the little lights, reassuring
    one another, signalling: "Well, at all events, I'm still here. I
    don't like it very much, but how are you ?" Unquenchable lights
    of my aristocracy! Signals of the invincible army ! "Come along
    - anyway, let's have a good time while we can. "I think they
    signal that too."

    And when you put it like that it doesn't seem so bad, after all. Things are crap - of course they are, they always have been - but oh well, never mind. Carry on regardless: make the most of it. The crack is how the light gets in. You'll be hurt, you'll be screwed over, everything that is sacred will be rendered profane - but remember the words of the wise man. This too shall pass. And when you're tired, cold, ready to surrender - that's just when love will come to you. To make it all worthwhile. It is a tremendously hopeful message. In spite of all this adversity, well, there's still beauty. There's always something worth living for.
    tcoboon April 29, 2012   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaning:Leonard Cohen once explained the meaning of the song as follows:

    That is the background of the whole record, I mean if you have to come up with a philosophical ground, that is “Ring the bells that still can ring.” It’s no excuse… the dismal situation.. and the future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your job and your love. “Ring the bells that still can ring”: they’re few and far between but you can find them. “Forget your perfect offering”, that is the hang-up, that you’re gonna work this thing out. Because we confuse this idea and we’ve forgotten the central myth of our culture which is the expulsion from the garden of Eden. This situation does not admit of solution or perfection. This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither in your marriage, nor in your work, nor anything, nor your love of God, nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect. And worse, there is a crack in everything that you can put together, physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.
    – from Diamonds in the Line
    liminaon March 05, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:While some of Leonard Cohen's songs may be a little pessimistic and concerned with the trivial pursuits of the flesh, this one is lyrically optimistic and I like that. I think Cohen has some insight into spiritual things but struggles with hope. So this song it quite refreshing in it's hopefulness.

    There are some really good lines, aside from the crack in everything, which is a great line I like;

    "while the killers in high places
    say their prayers out loud. "

    It is Christian to say your prayers in private(Matthew6:5-6), so this line highlights the fact that those in 'high places' or positions of power in the world are acting in a hypercritical way when they pray out loud to be seen as righteous people.

    "Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering "

    We need to get active spreading the truth now, and not to worry that we have to first become perfect to do so. If we wait for perfection we will never get round to it.

    "every heart
    to love will come
    but like a refugee. "

    Everyone that desires love (the divine type, not romantic) will come together to the truth, but they will be like refugee's in a foreign land. As the place of Truth (with a capital T) is very foreign to the way the world is.

    That is just the way I take the song anyway.
    bobuon April 16, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:Where the heck do these credits come from:
    "Anthem" as written by Alex Harvey, Hugh Mckenna
    ??
    I'm pretty sure Cohen wrote this song!
    qsilentqon December 09, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:My humble critique to this song Anthem by Leonard Cohen is really quite simply put -for there is a crack in everything, thats how the light gets in. I believe that for those who have, and acknowledge their own limitations and at times when we are somewhat low in ourselves we can appreciate there is that lifeline to which we cling.And within that light that does get in we feel a love so pure and outreaching,and healing within itself.
    oldcrowon December 31, 2013   Link

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