"Seems So Long Ago, Nancy" as written by and Leonard Cohen....
It seems so long ago
Nancy was alone
Looking ate the Late Late show
Through a semi-precious stone

In the house of honesty
Her father was on trial
In the house of mystery
There was no one at all
There was no one at all

It seems so long ago
None of us were strong
Nancy wore green stockings
And she slept with everyone

She never said she'd wait for us
Although she was alone
I think she fell in love for us
In nineteen sixty one
In nineteen sixty one

It seems so long ago
Nancy was alone
A forty five beside her head
An open telephone

We told her she was beautiful
We told her she was free
But none of us would meet her in
The house of mystery
The house of mystery

And now you look around you
See her everywhere
Many use her body
Many comb her hair

In the hollow of the night
When you are cold and numb
You hear her talking freely then
She's happy that you've come
She's happy that you've come


Lyrics submitted by Hosimosi

"Seems so Long Ago Nancy" as written by Leonard Cohen

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Seems So Long Ago, Nancy song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentI believe I read about Mr. Cohen's friend who killed herself, so I think most of the song can be about her and Leonard's reflections on her.
    When I first heard this song, it sounded a lot like a female acquaintance of mine, who was later diagnosed with Bipolar disorder (manic depression) and I believe she had histrionic personality disorder as well.
    Histrionic personality disorder with mania: We've all met these girls or crossed their paths at one time. They make you feel that you're the most intelligent, insightful and desirable person on the planet, and they even take it right to the bedroom with you. Then they find the next man and repeat the process. This is not sustainable. If the pattern isn't broken, and left untreated, suicide is very common. ("many of you use her body...", but then she ends up alone, with no one calling, when she really needs it)
    I agree that the "father on trial" bit is a bit ambiguous, but some kind of molestation or early damaging manipulation seems reasonable.
    mjenki3on January 23, 2010   Link
  • +1
    Lyric CorrectionThe song is about a Nancy who was a friend of Cohen's. Here is the full background: challies.com/articles/…
    BrianPon January 18, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAgain, I thought it was about Marilyn Monroe. The open telephone is definitely her. Not to mention 1961...
    And this is the right title..
    Sarahluvsu182on December 09, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti had another thought, a complex one, but ill do my best trying to explain that.

    Nancy represents honesty which is also a mystery, kind of a god.
    when he says there was no one at all - he means no one was honesty.
    she slept with everyone - she belongs to everyoone - not only 1 religion.
    she fell in love for us - she(god) loves us for for our's sake.
    nancy is alone, she never said she's wait for us- god wont wait for us people to be honest.
    we told her she was beautiful, free but none of us would meet her - religous people are hypocrite.
    and now you look around you, see her everywhere - now after you've heard all this you see her, "nancy", god.
    many used her body - many used god's name
    in the hollow of the night when you are all alone... - when you are alone, at your most "with yourself", thinking , time you can see her, you know the truth.

    i hope you liked my point of view :)
    vpereson October 27, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt seems like i was wrong.
    recently i read that leonard had a friend called nancy who shot herself after her parents made her deliver her son to a foster family.
    vpereson November 05, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentNancy's father molested her. Reread the lyrics.
    BeneathTheSkinon December 18, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentNancy was a former muse...her alleged promiscuity is bandied about.
    annazoffon December 20, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commentmuch of the lyrics are fairly self-explanatory (to me at least). Nancy was a girl who the young Cohen and his friends could not resist. For some reason or other, despite the pleas of her friends, she ended up shooting herself.

    But what's he significance of the Houses of Honesty & Mystery, her father being on trial? What does he mean when he says she fell in love for them in 1961? And the last verse ... is this simply a dream where he remembers her as he used to know her?
    mermozon January 21, 2010   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningI haven't read much about Leonard Cohen's life. Even before I knew that he was depressed or knew that he did know a Nancy that killed herself, I thought that this song must have been about a specific event that occured. However, I also interpreted it as having a double meaning- with Nancy representing a collective vision of idyllic, innocent pre-1960's womankind- and here "self destruction" during the cultural revolution. Her "father on trial" representing the counterculture's disdain for the previous generation. House of mystery = love. No one would actually love her- just sleep with her... and now, much later, he see's some of that in every woman he see's. Anyway, maybe I'm way too young or read into things too deeply ;0) Interesting stuff though. Peace
    jonibolognion April 24, 2010   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningThe first time I heard this song it made me cry so much, the thought of her being alone, in the house of mystery. I hope that my interpretation of this song can shed some light for others on what it truly means or at least what I think it means.
    First of all, Cohen did say she killed herself in 1961 but it was actually in 1965 according to the article written by her nephew. Cohen and Nancy knew each other through a mutual friend. However going along with what he said, the year that she took her life was the year that her baby was taken away. He says 1961.

    It seems so long ago,
    Nancy was alone,
    Looking at the Late Late show
    Through a semi-precious stone.

    To me this sets the mood of the song, that throughout it, and throughout her life, she was alone. She was awake very late that night, seeing things unlike others-through a semi precious stone, a haze, some sort of mental distortion. Her thoughts were precious secrets.

    In the House of Honesty
    Her father was on trial,
    In the House of Mystery
    There was no one at all,
    There was no one at all.

    Now it seems with research that her father was in fact, a judge. He also took his life a few years after her. His standing in society would have been very prestigious and obviously a pregnant 21 year old would not have fared well with him. Miserably though, in carrying out the justice of keeping his family name clean by forcing her to give up her baby, he did her a grave injustice. So in the house of honesty, her father was on trial, doing the opposite of serving justice as he as a judge was supposed to do.

    The house of mystery. It's obvious...isn't it? It is her head, her mind, the beautiful/horrible/scary/euphoric and inconceivable mind of the manic depressive Nancy. In her mind, there was no one at all, she felt completely alone, even with people around her. In the house of mystery, there was no one at all :(

    It seems so long ago,
    None of us were strong
    Nancy wore green stockings
    And she slept with everyone.

    Simply enough, Nancy wore green stockings. A fact Cohen must have recalled about her. Men could not resist her, they were not strong. But was she sleeping around for validation? To find love? Most likely it was to find someone who might finally join her in the house of mystery and alleviate her eternal inner loneliness.

    She never said she'd wait for us
    Although she was alone,
    I think she fell in love for us
    In nineteen sixty one,
    In nineteen sixty one.

    She was a free spirit, she was always so lonely in her mind anyway that having company made no difference. So she never waited for anyone. She fell in love for us in 1961 when she finally produced something, someone that had to love her, someone that she felt an instant connection with, that had lived inside of her and shared her body for 9 months. Naturally, she fell in love with her baby and for the short time she had him, she felt that she had company in the house of mystery.

    It seems so long ago,
    Nancy was alone,
    A forty five beside her head,
    An open telephone.
    We told her she was beautiful,
    We told her she was free
    But none of us would meet her in
    The House of Mystery,
    The House of Mystery.

    With her brother's shotgun she took her life, a 45 beside her head. The open telephone with someone on the other end telling her that she was beautiful and free. But none of them could meet her in the house of mystery. No one could imagine the goings on inside her head. The longing and emptiness she must have felt having her only true companion taken from her. No one could reach her in there, no one’s words had the potency to break through the thick fog that blocked her from seeing how much people loved her, and blocked them from seeing what she was thinking.

    And now you look around you,
    See her everywhere,
    Many use her body,
    Many comb her hair.

    You see these women everywhere, especially in that day and age where women were so harshly judged for satisfying their biological urges. Women who had deep souls and dreams. Who experienced pain and suffering but appeared nothing more than a beautiful body, combed hair. A beautiful, well groomed woman similar to Nancy, whose inner turmoil was either ignored or hidden for the sake of reputation.

    In the hollow of the night
    When you are cold and numb
    You hear her talking freely then,
    She's happy that you've come,
    She's happy that you've come.

    Now this verse was possibly what I found the most profoundly, devastatingly beautiful verse of the song. You've entered the house of mystery, because you know even fleetingly, how she felt. Cold and numb. All of her thoughts make sense to you because you feel the way she did, walking the halls of her mind. And now she has someone who can relate to her, she talks freely and she's happy that you've come, as no one but her son ever did.
    poet88on May 21, 2013   Link

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