"Master Song" as written by and Leonard Cohen....
I believe that you heard your master sing
when I was sick in bed.
I suppose that he told you everything
that I keep locked away in my head.
Your master took you travelling,
well at least that's what you said.
And now do you come back to bring
your prisoner wine and bread?

You met him at some temple, where
they take your clothes at the door.
He was just a numberless man in a chair
who'd just come back from the war.
And you wrap up his tired face in your hair
and he hands you the apple core.
Then he touches your lips now so suddenly bare
of all the kisses we put on some time before.

And he gave you a German Shepherd to walk
with a collar of leather and nails,
and he never once made you explain or talk
about all of the little details,
such as who had a word and who had a rock,
and who had you through the mails.
Now your love is a secret all over the block,
and it never stops not even when your master fails.

And he took you up in his aeroplane,
which he flew without any hands,
and you cruised above the ribbons of rain
that drove the crowd from the stands.
Then he killed the lights in a lonely Lane
and, an ape with angel glands,
erased the final wisps of pain
with the music of rubber bands.

And now I hear your master sing,
you kneel for him to come.
His body is a golden string
that your body is hanging from.
His body is a golden string,
my body has grown numb.
Oh now you hear your master sing,
your shirt is all undone.

And will you kneel beside this bed
that we polished so long ago,
before your master chose instead
to make my bed of snow?
Your eyes are wild and your knuckles are red
and you're speaking far too low.
No I can't make out what your master said
before he made you go.

Then I think you're playing far too rough
for a lady who's been to the moon;
I've lain by this window long enough
to get used to an empty room.
And your love is some dust in an old man's cough
who is tapping his foot to a tune,
and your thighs are a ruin, you want too much,
let's say you came back some time too soon.

I loved your master perfectly
I taught him all that he knew.
He was starving in some deep mystery
like a man who is sure what is true.
And I sent you to him with my guarantee
I could teach him something new,
and I taught him how you would long for me
no matter what he said no matter what you'd do.

I believe that you heard your master sing
while I was sick in bed,
I'm sure that he told you everything
I must keep locked away in my head.
Your master took you travelling,
well at least that's what you said,
And now do you come back to bring
your prisoner wine and bread?

Lyrics submitted by Hosimosi

Master Song song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentI second that emotion ...Sorry... It is a massively under-rated song though, I can't understand why you never see it on the compilations. I just found this which might help: leonardcohenfiles.com/…
    Meeon March 25, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe song is clearly about a love triangle but I've often wondered if the master and the prisoner are actually the same person. It could be interpretated as being about the singers personality changing so he doesn't always identify with himself. Perhaps in a manic depressive way since there is such an obvious contrast between the two personas. The Master is wild, free but also destructive and in some ways broken while the prisoner is quiet, thoughtful, used to loneliness, sick but also in the end the one the lover actually cares about.

    If they are same person then when the Prisoner persona says that the Master persona told the lover everything he keeps locked away in his head which would could be taken quite literally as the Master telling all the Lover his secrets which the Prisoner then regrets.
    PersusNineon November 12, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthis is the most beautiful song i have ever heard
    chloe016on June 05, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI never heard this song, I just stumbled upon the lyrics. I think it's kind of a partner to Famour Blue Raincoat, like a sequel of a prequel (I don't know which was written first), but with a kind of "Story of O" thing going on. Both songs seem to be about a woman bouncing between two friends (like Sir Stephen and Rene?) who returns to her original lover a changed woman, longing more for the alternate than for the singer. While in the second to last verse, the singer seems confident that he will be the woman's preference, the question of the final line may mean he's not so sure where he affections lie anymore.

    Having never heard the song, I could be way off the mark. Now I'll have to track it down and listen to it, and maybe revise me opinoin.
    BlackEyedAngelson November 08, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti get a cyrano de bergerac vibe from it. the narrator taught the "master" everything he knew, such as how to seduce and talk beautifully and love a woman, and now he has stolen her away from him and he lies sick, waiting for her to return
    darksideofmoon87on March 05, 2008   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningThis has always been one of my favorites, and I've always understood it to be from the perspective of the person who was first left/sexually betrayed in a three-way relationship, using Cohen's wonderful way of mythologizing the small importances of an individual life. "You" have left me and followed your master, because you found ecstasy with him (been to the moon). And I here am still your prisoner, and now you know how it feels, because he has sent you away as well because he doesn't feel he has your complete loyalty, since part of you continues to long for me. But even so, you aren't coming back to me fully, so I will likely only get a bare level of sustenance from your return (I am sick in bed / your thighs are ruined/ and you only bring me wine and bread.)

    I agree with BlackEyedAngel that this song is in many ways a partner with Famous Blue Raincoat -- it asks the same essential question: What do you do/how can you feel when you are betrayed and then your lover returns?
    CompressedAireon October 30, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think the narrator is God, the master is mammon, and the subject is humankind. God taught humans everything, then humans turned from God and sought mammon and found it amazing, but God knew humans would come back once they learned the shallowness of mammon. Mammon is represented mostly by sex, but also by war, planes, cars and so on. The snowy bed that used to be polished (used a lot) is God being ignored - used to an empty room. In fact we learn that God sent humans to mammon just to learn that it's not all it's cut out to be - and he guarantees that no matter how we interact with it,m it will never be as good as God.
    webchaton February 08, 2017   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI think the master and the slave are one and the same. But the master is when he feels reciprocated love; he feels powerful, and even sometimes abuses his power. When love is lost, he is weak
    cathywon June 21, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General Commentoh my god. I just listened to this for the first time. and then 3 times in a row afterwards. stunned...
    layne1012on December 08, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt is about the clash, the ever continuing fight between knowledge and wiseness and the temptation that every single human being feels to know everything. The man who is " sick in bed " is the wise man who holds a knowledge that is not yet ready to be spread. The master is the man who is full of knowledge and is spreading it in order to gain personnal gratification - because he is unwise. He tells everything to his student even though the student is most probably not wise enough to handle the knowledge given to him. There is a strong religious side to this song, in my opinion. The roman catholic God is a symbol of wisdom while Satan is one of knowledge. Satan and his demons often offer knowledge in order to corrupt human beings. It's a warning about what might happen one day - or what has already happened. While knowledge is the prime tool towards evolution, it is also creating all sorts of evil in the process. Also, perhaps is it a hint, the " lady who went to the moon " is most probably the USA.
    Ex Abruptoon September 30, 2008   Link

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