"Nightingale" as written by and Henry Leslie Thomas Weelkes....
I built my house beside the wood
So I could hear you singing
And it was sweet and it was good
And love was all beginning
Fare thee well my nightingale
'Twas long ago I found you
Now all your songs of beauty fail
The forest closes 'round you
The sun goes down behind a veil
'Tis now that you would call me
So rest in peace my nightingale
Beneath your branch of holly
Fare thee well my nightingale
I lived but to be near you
Tho' you are singing somewhere still
I can no longer hear you

Lyrics submitted by softasfire

"Nightingale" as written by Leonard Cohen Anjani Thomas

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Nightingale song meanings
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    General CommentThe symbolism of the nightingale is obvious; the nightingale is the bird of love. "I built my house beside the woods, So I could hear you singing" suggests that he went out of his way to access this love, perhaps the woods are a symbol that he isolated himself for the sake of love?

    Or perhaps "I built my house beside the woods so I could hear you singing" shows that true love is found in nautre; the world around him in all its beauty and wildness inspires greater love than any earthly being will.

    A family member also suggested this song may be about suicide - "The forest closes round you". "Rest in peace...beneath your branch of holly" obviously describes the wreath placed on her grave, but the holly may be deliberate as it is an evergreen plant, symbolising the unending nature of his love.

    Or perhaps Cohen is saying that all good things must come to an end? "Now all your songs of beauty fail" - also suggesting a kind of disillusionment with romantic love as a whole. It could be that Cohen, once optimistic in his youth -"Love was all beginning" may have become disillusioned and even cynical about life as he grew older, but retains a faint note of hope that the goodness in life still exists somewhere - "Though you are singing somewhere still, I can no longer hear you".

    His nightingale may have left him for another man - "I lived but to be near you, Though you are singing somewhere still, I can no longer hear you" - she may be singing, in other words sharing the gift of her love, with someone else. He is unable to access this and it leaves him feeling detached. However I feel that Cohen is mourning the loss of his love who has died,whose once beautiful songs fail to comfort even him as he grieves, such is the intesnity of his love and greif. Memories of his love provide no real comfort - "All your songs of beauty fail".
    I am aware that I have many conflicting interpretations here, but that is the beauty of the song, it is so rich and multi-layered. Cohen is a genius!
    Megan121on July 12, 2011   Link

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