"Teachers" as written by and Leonard Cohen....
I met a woman long ago
her hair the black that black can go,
Are you a teacher of the heart?
Soft she answered no.

I met a girl across the sea,
her hair the gold that gold can be,
Are you a teacher of the heart?
Yes, but not for thee.

I met a man who lost his mind
in some lost place I had to find,
follow me the wise man said,
but he walked behind.

I walked into a hospital
where none was sick and none was well,
when at night the nurses left
I could not walk at all.

Morning came and then came noon,
dinner time a scalpel blade
lay beside my silver spoon.

Some girls wander by mistake
into the mess that scalpels make.
Are you the teachers of my heart?
We teach old hearts to break.

One morning I woke up alone,
the hospital and the nurses gone.
Have I carved enough my Lord?
Child, you are a bone.

I ate and ate and ate,
no I did not miss a plate, well
How much do these suppers cost?
We'll take it out in hate.

I spent my hatred everyplace,
on every work on every face,
someone gave me wishes
and I wished for an embrace.

Several girls embraced me, then
I was embraced by men,
Is my passion perfect?
No, do it once again.

I was handsome I was strong,
I knew the words of every song.
Did my singing please you?
No, the words you sang were wrong.

Who is it whom I address,
who takes down what I confess?
Are you the teachers of my heart?
We teach old hearts to rest.

Oh teachers are my lessons done?
I cannot do another one.
They laughed and laughed and said, Well child,
are your lessons done?
are your lessons done?
are your lessons done?

Lyrics submitted by phaethon

Teachers song meanings
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  • +8
    General Commenthe's searching for someone to teach him how to use his heart (cohen has battled depression throughout his life, so i take this as him seeking out some sort of cure to his chronic illness)

    the first two verses shows that he looked for the answer in women, to me symbolizing relationships or maybe just flings...

    neither worked out so he continues asking 'are you the teacher of my heart?'

    if you've read most cohen's work, the comforts of women is his weakness when bad, and his strengths when good... therefore i think these failed attempts with women leaves him to running into that 'lost man'

    in my opinion i believe the lost man is himself, i would think this would be the point of coming face to face with who he was becoming. he states 'had yet to find', therefore at that point he has yet to be completely wreck and looking for something else to cure himself for himself, he enters a mental hospital.

    "no one was sick" (physically) "but no one was well" (emotionally)

    but instead of helping him, it seemed to have dragged him more over the edge, and still seeking his cure, or just some sort of relief.. he beings self cutting.. and one of my favorite Cohen lines 'some girls wander by mistake, into the mess that scalpels make'.. the nurses walk in on him. the last lines always gave me a feeling of these places being so cold, and lonely... it's not what he's seeking, and if anything broke his spirit even more.

    after that i think when he says 'carve' it's more symbolic then literal. it seems that all else failed.. he begins just with negativity scraping away at himself..

    ....when he finally looks up to god for help, god tells him to eat (spiritually) to fatten him up emotionally and mentally. He starts 'spending' his hatred, meaning the further he went down this path the more those thoughts would disappear. For every good act it's as thought it cost him one of his angry thoughts. soon he learned to let others accept him and vice versa

    leaving him in the end to ask 'teachers are my lessons done' to what they laugh and reply 'well are your lessons done'..

    ..he was always looking for the answer in something else that when he ask the same question he asked time before, and redirect the question to him, as to pinpoint out that it was him himself that was his own teacher and he should be asking himself that.
    xpsychicheartsxon May 13, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe wierd vauge dreamlike lyrics are similar to Ballad of a Thin Man.
    practicepreacheron April 04, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song reminds me of Dylan's work. Especially his Highway 61 Revisited album. Am I the only one?
    Lithelon February 20, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti cant believe no one has commented on this. one of my favorite cohen songs. beautiful
    skyphilison December 16, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentfor some reason, it reminded me of self-injury (cutting). .. just because of these reasons:
    "Some girls wander by mistake
    into the mess that scalpels make. "

    The majority of self-cutters are girls, and scalpels are sharp...
    And later there's mention of whether or not the narrator has 'carved' enough.

    The emotions I can identify with are also proof, because I have this problem.
    borderlineon March 21, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is great.

    the line about the cutting kinda scared me the first time i went through the album though
    NYCGhosts&Flowerson February 09, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwell, in my opinion, except for blood on the tracks, dylan never expressed this amount of pain.
    molhoon July 09, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwell, in my opinion, except for blood on the tracks, dylan never expressed this amount of pain.
    molhoon July 09, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is the song that introduced me to Leonard Cohen. It hooked and held me. The infinite search for life's lessons and knowledge that will bring us peace and comfort. Instead, we find teachers and lessons that are for others or are not what they seem at all. I met a man who lost his mind, in some lost place I had to find. "Follow me," the wise man said, but he walked behind. A descent into madness, "led" by someone who egged on until ending up in a mental hospital "Where none are sick and none are well.. Some girls wander by mistake into the mess that scalpels make. "Are you the teachers of my heart?" "We teach old hearts to break!" The splatter of heartbreak from love, of being used and tossed aside with callous disregard. He's seeking something definite, while they (the girls) just wander by mistake. The song is just so incredible, so powerful, hitting on so many levels, it's impossible not to find a commonality.
    JukeBox903on September 01, 2011   Link
  • -3
    General Commentmaybe there's too much analysis for your own good, psychic. analysis is good, but i think this is one of cohen's simplest songs. "teachers = women" gets you about 95% of the song's meaning. i like your analysis of the men and hospital parts.

    here's where i come in. i don't think the teachers at the end are saying that he had the answers the whole time. i think they're laughing cruelly because they're playing a cruel game with him. they're the authority figures, he's a helpless child, and they're delighting in messing with him. i assume you're a woman from your name (does that make me sexist?), and i feel like there are some things in cohen's songs, specifically the bitter parts, that are clearer to a man.
    HansGoodmanon February 12, 2009   Link

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