"Night Comes On" as written by and Leonard Cohen....
I went down to the place where I knew she lay waiting
Under the marble and the snow
I said, Mother I'm frightened, the thunder and the lightning
I'll never come through this alone
She said, I'll be with you, my shawl wrapped around you
My hand on your head when you go
And the night came on, it was very calm

I wanted the night to go on and on
But she said, go back, go back to the world
We were fighting in Egypt when they signed this agreement
That nobody else had to die
There was this terrible sound, my father went down
With a terrible wound in his side
He said, try to go on, take my books, take my gun
Remember, my son, how they lied
And the night comes on, it's very calm
I'd like to pretend that my father was wrong
But you don't want to lie, not to the young

We were locked in this kitchen, I took to religion
And I wondered how long she would stay
I needed so much to have nothing to touch
I've always been greedy that way
But my son and my daughter climbed out of the water
Crying, Papa, you promised to play
And they lead me away to the great surprise
It's Papa, don't peek, Papa, cover your eyes
And they hide, they hide in the world

Now I look for her always, I'm lost in this calling
I'm tied to the threads of some prayer
Saying when will she summon me, when will she come to me
What must I do to prepare?
When she bends to my longing like a willow, like a fountain
She stands in the luminous air
And the night comes on, it's very calm
I lie in her arms and says when I'm gone
I'll be yours, yours for a song

Now the crickets are singing, the vesper bells ringing
The cat's curled asleep in his chair
I'll go down to Bill's Bar, I can make it that far
And I'll see if my friends are still there
Yes, and here's to the few, who forgive what you do
And the fewer who don't even care
And the night comes on, it's very calm
I want to cross over, I want to go home
But she says, Go back, go back to the world


Lyrics submitted by 16996602

"Night Comes On" as written by Leonard Cohen

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Night Comes On song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentThis song is a journey of loss in the singer's life...
    >A child who has lost his Mother... he fears he won't make it alone but she (his Spirit Mother says, "I'll be with you, Go back tot he world."
    >Next, he loses his Father, who warns him to "remember,my Son how they lied."
    Deeply wounded by loss and abandonment issues as he arrives at romantic relationships, takes to religion (he actually worked in the kitchen at a monastery for years)
    >he "I wondered how long she would stay (will I lose her too?). "I needed so much to have nothing to touch (lest I lose that too), I've always been greedy that way."
    How will he navigate the relationship possibilities with his children?
    >(reacting to his reticence, they cry, "Papa you promised to play."
    As they lead him away to their great surprise, "Papa don't peek, Papa cover your eyes!" ...and they hide, they hide in the world. This is the same world his departed Mother keeps telling him to stay in, to go back to each time he joins her in his reverie, his wakeful dreaming world where he connects with her.
    It could be his Mother or his relationship / wife who may also have departed that he refers to,
    "Now I look for her always, I'm lost in this calling, I'm tied to the threads of some prayer..."
    He wants to follow her / them to the other side; Saying, "When will she summon me, when will she call to me, what must I do to prepare?"
    >He finds her (his departed wife or his muse) there, in his wakeful dream where he hangs out with her and make love with her, "when she bends to my longing like a willow, like a fountain, she stands in a luminous aire"
    He meets her there, in the same etherial place he's met his Spirit Mother, his Spirit wife says, "When I'm gone, I'll be yours, yours for a song."
    The last verse brings the tragic journey to a full circle, present-time:

    Now the crickets are singing
    The vesper bells ringing
    The cat's curled asleep in his chair
    I'll go down to Bill's Bar
    (he's pretty wasted in this life, but he can make it to the corner bar)
    I can make it that far
    And I'll see if my friends are still there
    Yes, and here's to the few
    Who forgive what you do
    And the fewer who don't even care
    (a comment on the connections of the other alcoholics / friends in the bar... these are all that's left to hime now in this stage of his life)
    ...but his life-long connection to his Mom, who has been there with him through it all in the Spirit world...
    "I want to cross over, I want to go home" to her, to God...
    But she says, "Go Back, go back to the world"
    ...You're not done on this journey...
    URGOD2!on December 30, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI reckon the second verse ("We were fighting in Egypt..".) is a reference to the Yom Kippur war, specifically the ceasefire imposed by UN resolution 338, which was broken by the Egyptian armed forces.
    I know Cohan toured and played shows for Israeli soldiers during the war. Stands to reason.

    In any case, it's a very good song. The last two lines really get to me sometimes.
    It seems to me as being about dealing with the world, with reality, and with growing up and aging.
    I'd love to read other interpretations, though.
    Banekeeperon October 29, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe first verse sounds like the singer is visiting his mothers grave. He is thinking about suicide, but his mother reminds him that it is wrong. In the second verse his father encorages him to choose life. By the third verse his children have made an apperance making his thoughts of suicide appear to be selfish, which of course it is. In the final verse the mood of the song changes. The melody becomes brighter. Our hero wanders down to the bar and seems to be enjoying life. He's taken to heart the advice given to him by his mother. This is a great song. I love how Leonard's voice had deepened on this album.
    bhoover247on June 20, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Commentlove this song....i don't know why im drawn to depressing songs but i just seem to be..anyway this song is about suicide imo...i like it though..there is a bit of hope at the end..but not too much!!!!
    thefreewheelingirlon April 29, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI can't believe nobody has commented on this song. It's been my most recent obsession with Cohen, and particularly that line that he needed so much to have nothing to touch, which is really a type of greed, an envy for defying gravity. A greed for something that is nothing. Great stuff. Now somebody else write something
    aleiaon September 04, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentit sounds like he is depressed and wants to die but finds reasons to continue living
    it reminds me of a robert frost poem
    "stopping by the woods on a snowy evening"
    acesson March 21, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentfirst time I ever heard this song I was reminded of Frost's "Stopping by woods" also. I certainly get the impression that death, the calm night, is appealing to Cohen but he is moved to stay in the world.

    There is lots of imagery in here which I would shy away from trying to disect too much. I get the feeling from the verse about the children that he is speaking of being drawn to death but thoughts of his love and duty to his children keep him. But then his children grow and move out to the world where in a way they are lost to him, so still the calm night calls him.
    spbroomon April 01, 2008   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningThe song is obviously about suicide, or suicidal thoughts. The first verse is about him visiting his mother's grave and her mother preventing him from committing suicide. The second verse is about his father, and him preventing him from committing suicide. The third verse is about his children preventing himself from committing suicide. The fourth verse is about his wife preventing him from suicide. And the fifth verse is he himself preventing himself from suicide, and the realization of gifts of life.
    a37on September 10, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMen of previous generations did call their wives "Mother", so it's a little ambiguous. But I suppose he probably does mean his mother.
    inverarityon January 11, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFor me, he's singing about a lot of things - he's brilliant at writing in layers; listening to his music is like peeling an onion. I hear references to Nazi Germany, to sex, to the Yom Kippur war, to sadness and grief, to the pain of loss, to religion, and even - ultimately - to hope. And I always feel there's more to be heard.
    I'm not sure I'll ever get enough of this song.
    camabeluon March 22, 2013   Link

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