"You Want It Darker" as written by and Patrick Leonard Leonard Cohen....
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


Lyrics submitted by bloodangel

"You Want It Darker" as written by Patrick Leonard Leonard Cohen

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

You Want It Darker song meanings
Add your thoughts

6 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +3
    My InterpretationCohen was almost certainly thinking of the Abraham/Isaac story, where he responds "hineni" to G-d at the beginning when he is called. He's used that story many times in his songs.

    "Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name,
    vilified, crucified, in the human frame"
    are two lines, that are from two different sources. The first part does not have anything to do with Christian themes.

    "Magnified, Sanctified be thy holy name" is a straight English translation of the first four words of the Kaddish, a Jewish prayer. and while all versions of that prayer start this way, he is no doubt in context referencing the Mourner's Kaddish that is said by close relatives of a deceased person after their burial.
    However, "villified, crucified, in the human frame" is certainly a reference to Jesus.

    He's flowing between different traditions here taking from each what fits his litany of suffering that he addresses to G-d in this song.
    iceboxon November 13, 2016   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThere's no question that Leonard wrote this preparing for death. It's an element that hangs heavy over the rest of the album as well. He's alluding to quite a few Jewish and Christian concepts relating to death, sacrifice, and salvation. Most striking is his use of "hineni" a Hebrew word that essentially means "behold" but is often used as a marker of personal willingness as in "here I am" (which Leonard translates for us in the next line). Hineni is scattered throughout the Hebrew text and it especially found when a father is calling to a son, i.e. in Genesis 27 Isaac calls to Esau for a before-death request. Hineni also figures heavily into the story of the binding of Isaac where the word is used 3 times: Once for Abraham responding to God who is going to ask for Isaac to be sacrificed, once for Abraham responding to Isaac who is questioning where the sacrifice is (it's you, kid!), and once when God calls out of heaven and tells Abraham to stop the sacrifice.
    Along with this use of hineni, Leonard alludes to the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. "Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name, vilified, crucified, in the human frame" evoke the sense of the Christian belief of Jesus Christ (God's "name" in Trinitarian thought, the member of the Trinity that human beings best comprehend) dying "in the human frame" which then results in the magnification of God - the worship of Him.
    So what's the point? It's tough to say for sure. There's a lot that makes it seem like this song is simply Leonard saying he's had enough of seeing the pain of human kind and that he is ready for Resurrection or afterlife of some kind. However, it may be deeper - and if it is, it is actually preparing himself for death by considering his own death the ultimate sacrifice that also in turn results in his own sanctification (being made holy) and magnification (being made great).
    jwinterscomon November 13, 2016   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is a powerful song on it's own, but knowing he recorded it shortly before his death makes it that much more meaningful.
    kathy10154on November 17, 2016   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationLeonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
    I believe he may be referring to the SHOAH = Holocaust and ages-long persecution of the Jews:

    "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"

    "Magnified, Sanctified be thy holy name" is a straight English translation of the first four words of the Kaddish, a Jewish prayer for the dead
    "A million candles burning for the love that never came" - 6 million were were not saved - at the Jerusalem memorial 1 1/2 million candles are burning to commemorate the murdered children.
    LouiseLailahon April 08, 2017   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationNo question whether Leonard knew this will be his swan song - 'twas why the song was published on the Net before the album came out. He had wanted it out there before he died, and waiting for the entire album might have turned out too late. He also wrote a farewell letter to his old love Marianne Ihlen when she was dying, saying: "Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine." So, now doubt there - he knew.

    Nor is there any question whom he's talking to in the song.

    Question is, however, what exactly does "You want it darker" mean. Who wants it darker? The person he's talking to? God? Or if not, who else then?

    Also *what* does this subject want darker - and most important, *WHY*?

    You might ask: What difference does that make? Why would a single "You" be so important to the meaning of the whole song?
    Well, because it changes everything!
    It turns the whole thing upside down.

    Namely, I don't see that Cohen is making peace with God here.
    Quite the contrary in fact. I think, he's proclaiming a mighty grudge against God!

    Why?

    Well, most obviously because of these verses:
    A million candles burning for the help that never came
    A million candles burning for the love that never came

    I can't think of any other interpretaion to these than: millions of people are asking (praying) for help, but God never listens or answers. God is supposed to guide, help and love humans, however none of that help, nor love are ever there. Worse yet - when Cohen says:

    You want it darker
    We kill the flame

    it's of utmost importance to know whom this "You" refers to.
    I think it still refers to God, and if so, these two verses can be interpreted as:

    It's God that wants us to do bad things ("*You* want it darker") and we tend to always obey that ("We kill the flame"). Not a very merciful and loving God then, is it?

    When you view it like this, then verses:

    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

    suddenly make much more sense as well. In this case they mean: "I have enough of being a game peon - a mere toy to a god, whom lets people sufer, yet churches and priests still sing glory to HIM and assign all the shame to those same suffering people."

    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

    can be interpreted as:
    if God is so loving ("There's a lover in the story"), then how come what The Book ("The story") says is nothing but a "lullaby for suffering" - suffering that the whole human history actually is. This doesn't make sense - it's a paradox. Though the priests/churches don't see it that way (they just apportion the blame to people instead). And it isn't just how they *interpret* those books (Torah, Bible, etc.) - it's what's actually written: God wants us only to suffer, and a loving creature would never do that.

    Then there's:
    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

    First two verses I understand either as: "My time has come and I know I'm about to die" or "There's always some killing done in the world, justified by whatever reasons" (I'm leaning a bit towards second interpretation, but knowing Cohen, it might very well be that he meant both at the same time.)

    Next three verses I understand as: "I know I've done some bad things in my life, however nothing as bad as some much more influential people do, namely they murder and maim - justifying it as that they have the authority and permission for it".

    And then again it is: "*You* want it darker..."

    When you see it like that, then:
    Hineni, hineni
    I'm ready, my lord

    doesn't mean simply: "Here I am, kneeeling down, bowing my head and begging for mercy",
    but proud: "Behold! Here I stand. I'm ready to go. But not because I blindly accept what I was told, but because I don't want to take any of this crap any more. I want out of the game. It never was my game anyway."

    That is how I understand it.
    And believe how it was meant to be understood.

    Kudos Leonard!
    One of your most powerful songs ever.
    And you've certainly created more than your fair share of those.
    Hlloygeon January 04, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYeah its a lot of jiddisch and the best possible explanation is thats it about him dying etc.

    I listened to this song while being on the verge of breaking up with my then "nagging" wife. You want it darker I thought... then im out of here.

    We managed to talk it through though
    fordablesockon March 19, 2017   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain