Suddenly the night has grown colder
The god of love preparing to depart
Alexandra hoisted on his shoulder
They slip between the sentries of the heart

Upheld by the simplicities of pleasure
They gain the light, they formlessly entwine
And radiant beyond your widest measure
They fall among the voices and the wine

It's not a trick, your senses all deceiving
A fitful dream, the morning will exhaust
Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving
Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost

Even though she sleeps upon your satin
Even though she wakes you with a kiss
Do not say the moment was imagined
Do not stoop to strategies like this

As someone long prepared for this to happen
Go firmly to the window, drink it in
Exquisite music, Alexandra laughing
Your first commitments, tangible again

And you who had the honor of her evening
And by the honor had your own restored
Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving
Alexandra leaving with her Lord

Even though she sleeps upon your satin
Even though she wakes you with a kiss
Do not say the moment was imagined
Do not stoop to strategies like this

As someone long prepared for the occasion
In full command of every plan you wrecked
Do not choose a coward's explanation
That hides behind the cause and the effect

And you who were bewildered by a meaning
Whose code was broken, crucifix uncrossed
Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving
Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost

Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving
Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost

Lyrics submitted by killingjuliet, edited by jensfiederer

Alexandra Leaving Lyrics as written by Sharon Robinson Leonard Cohen

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Alexandra Leaving song meanings
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  • +13
    General Comment

    This song is based on Constantine Cavafy's Poem 'The God Abandons Antony' ( The same Antony from 'Julius Caesar' and 'Antony and Cleopatra'. The original poem itself is based on Plutarch's story that Antony heard a ghostly, musical procession the night before he lost the siege of Alexandria to Octavian. The procession - among other things, signified the desertion of his God protector, Bacchus. The departing procession could thus signify the loss of love, glory, fame, fortune, love....

    Leonard Cohen changes Alexandria to Alexandra, making the loss more firmly that of love. The song, in Cohen's hands, becomes about how to face the loss of a lover and all the accompanying promises and expectations. The warrior's exhortation to face up to the loss of life on the eve of battle transforms into the lover's counsel to be strong and accept the loss of a relationship.

    The song as written carries no particular significance to specific biographical events in Cohen's life but is more of a symbolic dirge carrying many layers of meaning.

    thespianphryneon September 04, 2007   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    It's interesting to see people's opinions about this: they're so different to mine. I've alway thought it was about the end of a relationship, the moment when you accept it's really over but you have yet to go through the motions (and still feel something for your partner) Particularly As someone long prepared for the occasion; In full command of every plan you wrecked - Do not choose a coward's explanation that hides behind the cause and the effect.

    i.e. face the fact that you need to end things. I thought Alexandra leaving was metaphorical, your feelings for her are ending.

    Anyway this is one of my all time favourite songs, absolutely beautiful.

    tumblebiscuiton December 15, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    This is one of my very favorite songs. Thespianphryne has done his/her homework. I studied the same history when I first fell in love with the song. Leonard took a fallen leader's love for his city and made subtle changes in the original poem to remake it into a deep and gorgeous song about a lost lover. There are several lines that are almost identical, lifted from the original poem. I am not suggesting it is plagiarized, but rather it is genious.

    I believe that the love affair was a long one, however, like Antony with the city of Alexandria, not a short one. Leonard is capable of writing very explicit sex scenes from time to time, and I think if this was about a one night stand there would be more of that. Rather, he says things like:

    Even though she sleeps upon your satin; Even though she wakes you with a kiss. Do not say the moment was imagined;

    I interpret this to mean that that it is the simplest mundane scene such as her lying in his bed, or a single kiss, that in her absence has become such a powerful and painful image that he considers anaesthetising himself by forgetting it or even denying that it ever really happened.


    I believe the lover is dying or has died. The line "Alexandra leaving with her lord", suggests this to me. In the mind of the singer, she is ascending, rather than leaving with another guy. His constant exhortation to "say good-bye to Alexandra" also suggests to me that this is a final exit.

    Just out of interest, I'm pretty sure the line is "Your FIRST commitments, tangible again", not "FIRM commitments". I see it written as "firm" everywhere. I am a singer, and had been performing the song with the word "first", when I read "firm" on Cohen's website.

    I like "first" because it conjures up an image of a guy looking back on the earliest days of this beloved relationship, and recalling the promises they made to each other.

    Of course I listened to it again to see if my interpretation changed, but it still sounds like "first" to me. That line is another reason why I think the relationship is not a one night stand.

    I've enjoyed reading everyone's comments. This is my first!

    andyhillon January 19, 2008   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    It can be interpreted many ways. But cohen chose words refering to the love of a woman which is about to leave. The explicit is also important, not only the implicit.

    She will go, you are prepared to what will happen to you since you've been through this experience, but you will suffer anyway as the first day. And if you don't suffer the loss of love, you have not fallen in love.

    "As someone long prepared for the occasion; In full command of every plan you wrecked - Do not choose a coward's explanation that hides behind the cause and the effect".

    You are prepared, but there are no excuses, face the fact and suffer what you have to suffer. You will suffer anyway.

    "It's not a trick, your senses all deceiving, A fitful dream, the morning will exhaust"

    There is no way out, no trick, you have loved with all your senses, wisdom will not help here, the light of the morning will make as real in all your flesh.

    "Do not say the moment was imagined; Do not stoop to strategies like this"

    Don't fool yourself. Again the same message.

    "And you who were bewildered by a meaning; Whose code was broken, crucifix uncrossed - Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving. Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost"

    Don't ask for a meaning. Just say goodbye. Don't mix with explanations, don't stayed linked to the past, even if it was an epiphany, . Mourn it as much as you need, assume it, code broken (no words to explain it), no religion to relieve it (crucifix uncrossed), reality is there with its full power, whatever yoe ito with your mind.

    Face it: It's the only way to be redeemed.

    Beautiful words chosen by Leonard to say this.

    trackon November 14, 2009   Link
  • +3
    My Interpretation

    "Alexandra Leaving" is wonderful precisely because it evokes a range of interpretations. When I first heard it, it was a man losing his lover. Then after my daughter was born, I began hearing it as a man farewelling his daughter at her wedding. Both times I cried, but both times illuminated my own life experience. Parts of the lyrics suit one interpretation but not another; some parts I may never comprehend. The greatest works of art allow endless reinterpretation over years or decades, as one's viewpoint changes with experience and knowledge.

    My daughter is three. At the most bizarre hours she wakes me with a kiss, joins us in our bed, smashes me in the nose with a hardback storybook, and penetrates my armoured cynicism. The love of a father for his daughter is not sexual, but it is sensual in a non-rational and innocent way. When she told me she had a "boyfriend," my momentary impulse was jealousy: "who is this punk?" It turns out he was a younger man: only two. But a punk nonetheless, I say!

    Losing her to another man, or to death (likely my own) is something that will be heartrending -- but natural and of course inevitable. I hope to face that moment with love, compassion and dignity; I will probably blub like a baby. That's what "Alexandra Leaving" says to me.

    michaelbarryon June 02, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    Sorry my bad english, I´m not from english speaking country. Alexandra Leaving is song, which Cohen composed with Sharon Robinson. All their common songs are magic, soft and beautiful. I think, that AL is about feeling, that you get when you have to leave some beloved person. But it is not braking up, there is no fight, no argument, no bitterness. Of course, I was thinking of death. Especially when you read the poem, that inspired Cohen- The God abandons Antony by Constantine P. Cavafy. But it´s Alexandria, the town, that is dying.

    The god forsakes Antony

    When suddenly, at midnight, you hear an invisible procession going by with exquisite music, voices, don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now, work gone wrong, your plans all proving deceptive–don’t mourn them uselessly. As one long prepared, and graced with courage, say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving. Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say it was a dream, your ears deceived you: don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these. As one long prepared, and graced with courage, as is right for you who were given this kind of city, go firmly to the window and listen with deep emotion, but not with the whining, the pleas of a coward; listen–your final delectation–to the voices, to the exquisite music of that strange procession, and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

    But what about the last strophe? "You, who were bewildered by a meaninig, whose code was broken, crucifix uncrossed....." In this point of view it seems to me, that these two people are lovers and one of them, I suppose the man, has to get back to family, becouse of duty, becouse of illness, who knows. Once he vowed to stand by a woman-his wife, even though his heart is no more with her. He didn´t mean to be unfaithfull, but something happend (his moral code was broken). But maybe (probably) Cohen didn´t mean some particular situation, he just used the poem, turn it a little bit to some other and slightly mysterious meaning just to make us feel the way we feel, when listening to it. The inevitable lost of something beautiful, of somebody deeply beloved, that will never come back.

    woman2010on May 18, 2010   Link
  • +2
    My Interpretation

    By interpreting, everyone tells the story of his/her life ;-)

    To me, Alexandra is a lady who doesn't find the love she wants/needs with her partner, so she chooses true Love.

    Her name alone: Alexandra, a name for queens! it's not (f.e.) Penny leaving...and: A leaves with her (not: 'a') lord, so she must be a lady. And she is sophisticated: evenings with her are an honor, there is company, wine and exquisite music. It's not about the nights, it's all about the magic evenings. She brings beautiful things in his life and she is sweet: she wakes him with a kiss. What more could a man want?

    And now: what is his input? She sleeps upon his satin so that means luxury. I think that's not what she wants. He is a broken man, his honor is gone or damaged (how? when? why?) : not a solid base for a relationship. He wrecks every plan, not by accident but in full command: he is destructive and he doesn't keep of remember his first commitment, only when it is too late. He clearly is no lord, the code is broken and the crucifix uncrossed. I think it is his doing the relationship doesn't work out. It is not: A left (her doing) no it's A lost (by him and his doing). He didn't return the gifts she brought him.

    No wonder she concludes: I have tried everything, now move on, and leave with Love itself. She doesn't believe anymore in this man, but still believes in love. Impossible to force someone to love or keep loving you, not even by putting sentries near the heart! Love will slip through.

    The man realizes what is happening and although he saw it coming he is in denial: this can't be real, this is too awful to be real, when I wake up I'll find it was a nightmare... only now he remember his first commitments but alas: too little, too late.

    But even in leaving A is gracious. She does it in the open, she gives him the opportunity one last time to hear the music of her laughter and to say goodbye with some dignity.

    I feel sorry for the man, but I understand A: a girl's gotta do what a girl 's gotta do

    Meryamon November 27, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    actually if you read further into the lyrics you will find out it is far more powerful than just a one night stand.

    i personally believe this song is about two lovers which have been separated due to the main character being imprisoned for something and alexandra his lover who comes to visit him on his last night."They slip between the sentries of the heart" suggests that they are being guarded yet alexandra manages to get in.. they spend the night with each other... and the next morning the main character is trying to contemplate whether tha evening actually did take place.

    Matt, 15

    (yes i know i may be only 15 but perhaps you should try reading between the lines)

    Matrix_Matt89on January 09, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I think its about his daughter leaving home with her boyfriend...Take another look at the lyrics.

    Almost Realon October 30, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I normally don't like the new-ish stuff, but this is good.

    werechickon June 21, 2006   Link

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