"Alexandra Leaving" as written by Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson....
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Alexandra Leaving song meanings
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  • +10
    General CommentThis song is based on Constantine Cavafy's Poem 'The God Abandons Antony' (users.hol.gr/~barbanis/cavafy/…). 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 03, 2007   Link
  • +3
    General CommentIt'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)
    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 CommentIt 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 13, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis 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
  • +2
    General CommentSorry 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"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
  • +1
    General CommentI normally don't like the new-ish stuff, but this is good.
    werechickon June 21, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI can't place what it's about but this song is so beautiful that the melody made me cry when i listened to it for the second time, and i don't cry over songs
    my_sharonaon February 23, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthespianphryne has nailed it, and everyone else has got it wrong, simple as that. The song is about how to behave when your lover stops loving you and leaves. Death doesn't enter into it (for once).
    losttangoon November 05, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThey 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

    And you who were bewildered by a meaning;
    Whose code was broken, crucifix uncrossed

    The last two lines above explain every lyric of L. Cohen. The meaning is not in the words themselves. The words are intended to transport the listener beyond the boundaries of material experience, beyond the imprisonment of ego. The symbolism in the lines evoke a transcendent vision of what we truly are.
    woodshadowon December 27, 2008   Link

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