"Suzanne" as written by and Leonard Cohen....
Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by, you can spend the night forever
And you know that she's half-crazy but that's why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her that you have no love to give her
Then he gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer that you've always been her lover

And you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you've touched her perfect body with your mind

And Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him
He said all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them
But he himself was broken, long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human, he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

And you want to travel with him, and you want to travel blind
And you think you maybe you'll trust him
For he's touched your perfect body with her mind

Now, Suzanne takes your hand and she leads you to the river
She's wearing rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters
And the sun pours down like honey on our lady of the harbor
And she shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed, there are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love and they wil lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds her mirror

And you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she's touched your perfect body with her mind


Lyrics submitted by typo, edited by heidismells, Striglit, smallwonderrobot, HouseStark, TharpaPawo, yankl

"Suzanne" as written by Leonard Cohen

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Suzanne song meanings
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  • +9
    General CommentLike many of Mr. Cohen's songs it doesn't have one specific meaning but is many things and can actually change from verse to verse. It's sort of stream-of-consciousness meanings and interpretations. He often spends months and years writing songs and has been known to change songs long after they've been recorded. To me part of this song is about his longing for personal peace and happiness during his long battles with depression. Suzanne was a real person but in the song she's more of a symbol of the obliviousness that people in general have towards his desires and despair. Faith has eluded him, love has eluded him and happiness has eluded him but the only people who understand that are just as lost as he is.
    cubbyjoon June 22, 2010   Link
  • +5
    General CommentTo me this song is about how love and faith works in the same way. Love is represented by Suzanne and faith by Jesus. They both make you want to:

    And you want to travel with him/her
    And you want to travel blind
    And you know that you can trust /himher
    For he`s/she's touched your perfect body
    with his/her mind

    Which basically means that both love and faith are irrational, but that does not mean that they are not real, it is just the nature of love and faith to be irrational.
    Lurtzon November 10, 2007   Link
  • +5
    General CommentI would actually rather think about what this song means than know for certain. My mom sang this song to me when putting me to bed for years along with "Sweet Sir Galahad" by Joan Biaz. I am now 26 and have been singing the same two songs to my children for 7 years. I think both songs give a really peaceful mind set.
    loglalmomon July 18, 2011   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI cut and paste from a message I sent to a leonard cohen forum:

    "Of course Suzanne goes beyond simple "I wanted her,I couldn't get her" thing.I always thought it was about mystical experience,and the similarity between love/sex and love/god.Mystics are said to have some kind of orgasm feeling when they reach god.Better when they feel the energy of god flowing through them.Body and mind overlap.Maybe I'm just stating the obvious,I'm new to this group,but that's the first thing that this song suggested to me.
    The water symbolizes feelings and subconscious,so it's associated with Suzanne (=someone you dismiss as "crazy" with your rational intellect)and Jesus (because faith is not a rational thing,but only "drowning men could see him",that could mean "only those who are in distress",but also "only those who dive deep into the subconscius mind)...it's kind of Jungian: it's a song about Anima,I guess.About the feminine part who nurtures ("feeds you tea...") and is deeply associated with water and water-like objects (like the mirror)..."
    dorareeveron June 13, 2003   Link
  • +3
    My Opinioni cried the first time i heard this song.
    heidismellson May 23, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis song brings love as a door to connect with divinity. It's god see through love, so you can recognize there salvation and mysticism When Suzanne has a mirror, then the children can love. This could refer to the discovering of the beauty of self soul through love. Suzanne is a reflection of Cohen's love and it works in both directions. You discover and you are discovered. When you realize the power inside your love you recognize God. Jesus is the spiritual explanation of love between them and, in last instance, is through life and nature and god that we feel love. And maybe, only through pain and suffering begins the looking for meaning.
    Maritereon April 14, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is definitely, most certainly Leonard Cohen's song.
    karma-politicson July 05, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThanks for these insights, LeatherApron and dorareever especially!

    I wonder why the poet interweaves Jesus and this very attractive, but 'half-crazy' woman together in the song (beyond the surface connection of the Montreal setting).

    It strikes me that he is musing on the imponderables of faith and on attraction. Despite what he says in his interview, there is more than 'just' his physical attraction to Suzanne that apparently puzzles him. He seems at pains to make it clear that Suzanne does not have a 'perfect mind', but *that is 'why you want to be there (as opposed to, or in addition to, her beauty?) - presumably because her behaviour, though hard to grasp, is compelling and intriguing, like the blindness of faith, and ultimately the poet is touched by her mind, whereas it had been the other way around at some earlier time (as in the first stanza).

    I simply don't know. It's nice to know that the 'tea and oranges' was actually a brand of tea that had pieces of dried orange in it, though.
    mcgubliganon November 04, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI understand that the first stanza is about a woman, but I'm gonna try to interpret the second.

    He has a vision in his head of what Jesus was. His metaphor is this:

    Jesus watched over his people like a spotter in a crow's nest. But there's a double meaning obviously, as his wooden tower is the cross.
    As he's in his nest, he noticed that dying men turn towards him, which is true for the most part as people tend to seek religion out of desperation.
    So Jesus made us all miserable, but instead of a collective turn towards religion, people are rejecting it, and Jesus seeks beneath our (broken) wisdom.

    And as for the "perfect body" phrase, humans tend to neglect their spiritual self for their superficial body. I take it as a mock to people who "find" Jesus. He touches your "perfect body," and made you realize that you're just human.
    njadams10on July 30, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAnd when he knew for certain
    Only drowning men could see him
    He said "All men will be sailors then
    Until the sea shall free them

    This, to me, is the most touching part of the song. I think there are levels of meaning behind these lines, as there are with several others in the song... But to me this is the kind of analysis of faith that most preachers and ministers are hesitant to make... We humans so often come to faith through crisis. God notes this and allows us to suffer because it helps us initiate our relationships with him.

    I also want to note that the two most beautiful songs (in my opinion) that refer to Jesus are both by Jewish men- "Jokerman" by Bob Dylan and this song.
    lindseymccolmon November 01, 2010   Link

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