"Sisters of Mercy" as written by and Leonard Cohen....
Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can't go on.
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song.
Oh I hope you run into them, you who've been travelling so long.

Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control.
It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.
Well I've been where you're hanging, I think I can see how you're pinned:
When you're not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you've sinned.

Well they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them.
They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem.
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn
They will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.

When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon.
Don't turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon.
And you won't make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night:
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right,
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right.


Lyrics submitted by Hosimosi

"Sisters of Mercy" as written by Leonard Cohen

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Sisters of Mercy song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentPer leonard cohen (1979): "The Sisters Of Mercy were actually two young women that I met during a snow storm in Edmonton, Alberta. And they came to my Hotel Room and there was something oh, very agreeable about their company. And they had no place to stay and they fell asleep on my bed, and I stayed up and I remember there was a full moon. And I felt like having something to say to them when they woke up, and that was one of those rare and graceful occasions when I was able to write a song from beginning to end in the space of a few hours. And while they slept I worked on this song. And when they woke up I sang it to them. It was compleetely full and finished, and they liked it. Barbara and Lorraine were their names."
    moikon November 07, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love this song it's one of the best lyrics I have heard. I especially like the line "And you won't make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night:
    We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right"
    Cohen is saying that obviously they had no real personal connection but just had these passionate moments, it wouldn't matter if the 'sisters of mercy' went off with other men because that's how they make a living. Another perfect line is "don't turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon" again showing that they were ladies of the night!
    The 60's and 70's were some of the best decades for song writing as spectacular as this. We need some more song writers like Cohen, Dylan and Tim Buckley for this era. Rocked up or whatever the fashion but really meaningful and inspiring lyrics.
    "If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn
    they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem"
    annashelson February 19, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentyeah the last lines are brillant,the fact that you cant make him jealous because he is a free human being,especially in the 60s where there was much less restrictions,and i agree the problem these days is that songwriters are writing ringtones instead of having balls and writing stuff like this
    goldendawnon September 05, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentweird that its about prostitutes, i always thought the song was about nuns, at least on a literal level. the 'sisters of mercy' being a large catholic order of nuns which has a strong presence in french speaking canada where cohen is from.

    There's religious references throughout: 'when your not feeling holy...', 'made my confession to them'.

    The second verse seems particularly seems like a description of the sisters sacrifices for their faith:
    'It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.'

    In general the sisters are decribed as being kind of nice and kind. I always picture the two nuns in 'catcher in the rye' that holden meets at the train station, when i hear the song.

    Then by the last verse when he goes on to talk about sweetening their night it kind of implies that there's more to the song than that... strange how people interpret stuff differently
    lajoon March 20, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentProstitutes? Who said they were prostitutes?
    dharbigton May 17, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYou know when your young,you make all kinds of crazy interpretations of songs...& I really did think this was about prostitutes!....whatever,all I know now is that the lines "if your life is a leaf......"are one of the most profoundly beautiful things I've ever heard.
    oldfogeyon June 01, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI don't think it's about prositutes at all. If Moik (first comment) is quoting a real interview, then I think that makes the most sense. He was affected by a real experience, and did what poets did, i.e. wrote aout it. The last bit "We weren't lovers like that, ...." is a lovely line, which demonstrates a really good attitude to life. He appreciated his experience with these women, but understands that other people's experience might be different.
    Linmartinon August 09, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI always had assumed that maybe they were prostitutes, but so what? He encuntered the "sisters" in tenderness, no-one hurt or exploited anyone, just lost and lonely people helping each othr out with mutual respect. If you meet a prostitute, just remember they're a human being too! with more to give than a quick screw, and more needs as well.
    jimqukon October 13, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis is one of my favourites, lyrically...but I never thought 'prostitutes' at ALL, or nuns, for that matter. I never thought it was about anything other than about him comming out of depression.....telling us that if we have hope, the "sisters of mercy" which i thought was metaphorical will finaly find us and give us the love and luck that we need to keep on. I was sort of dissapointed when i read what it was really about, even though its still really sweet. I thought it was a very hopeful song and it makes me feel like everything will be alright.
    my_sharonaon February 24, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe idea that they were prostitutes comes from the fact that "Sisters of Mercy" is one of the Leonard Cohen songs featured in "McCabe and Mrs Miller" ,where prostitutes play a major role.
    kenkcon April 05, 2007   Link

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