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Take This Waltz -- Leonard Cohen

Guest poem sent in by M. Karki
(Poem #1447) Take This Waltz
 Now in Vienna there's ten pretty women
 There's a shoulder where Death comes to cry
 There's a lobby with nine hundred windows
 There's a tree where the doves go to die
 There's a piece that was torn from the morning
 And it hangs in the Gallery of Frost
 Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay
 Take this waltz, take this waltz
 Take this waltz with the clamp on its jaws

 Oh I want you, I want you, I want you
 On a chair with a dead magazine
 In the cave at the tip of the lily
 In some hallways where love's never been
 On a bed where the moon has been sweating
 In a cry filled with footsteps and sand
 Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay
 Take this waltz, take this waltz
 Take its broken waist in your hand

 This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz
 With its very own breath of brandy and Death
 Dragging its tail in the sea

 There's a concert hall in Vienna
 Where your mouth had a thousand reviews
 There's a bar where the boys have stopped talking
 They've been sentenced to death by the blues
 Ah, but who is it climbs to your picture
 With a garland of freshly cut tears?
 Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay
 Take this waltz, take this waltz
 Take this waltz it's been dying for years

 There's an attic where children are playing
 Where I've got to lie down with you soon
 In a dream of Hungarian lanterns
 In the mist of some sweet afternoon
 And I'll see what you've chained to your sorrow
 All your sheep and your lilies of snow
 Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay
 Take this waltz, take this waltz
 With its "I'll never forget you, you know!"

 This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz ...

 And I'll dance with you in Vienna
 I'll be wearing a river's disguise
 The hyacinth wild on my shoulder,
 My mouth on the dew of your thighs
 And I'll bury my soul in a scrapbook,
 With the photographs there, and the moss
 And I'll yield to the flood of your beauty
 My cheap violin and my cross
 And you'll carry me down on your dancing
 To the pools that you lift on your wrist
 Oh my love, Oh my love
 Take this waltz, take this waltz
 It's yours now. It's all that there is
-- Leonard Cohen
Note: This is Leonard Cohen's adaptation of Lorca's "Pequeño Vals Vienes"
  ("Little Viennese Waltz"). An ordinary English translation of the poem,
  along with Cohen's version, can be found at:
  http://www.webheights.net/speakingcohen/waltz.htm

The best measure of translated work's worth, as it has often been pointed
out, is to see how well it holds up as a poem in the translated language. By
that yardstick this poem should be counted among the very best ever.

Unfortunately, Cohen's reputation as a poet seems to have suffered much for
his taking up singing as a profession... Cohen manages to preserve both
Lorca's vision and form while taking many liberties with the words
themselves, and the end product is not only the best translation of Lorca in
English, but also a song/poem that is not only faithful to Lorca's original
but also uniquely Cohen's. Cohen's admiration of Lorca is, of course, quite
well known... I always like to think of this poem as Cohen's tribute to his
"master".

Cheers,
Manan.

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wayne2002@msn.com said...

Yes, it think it's a meta poem, a poem about Lorca's poem, not merely a (free form) translation. The Vienna that Cohen imagines is not the Vienna that Lorca was longing for, but none the less, Cohen paints it in the style of Lorca where the river meandering through Vienna grows a monstrous body, and them tranforms to a waltz through Vienna and it's environs. That, and it's also Lorca's poetry waltzing through Cohens mind, and it's also Cohen's poem/song waltzing down the page, dancing with Lorca's original.

When Cohen says, "And I'll yield to the flood of your beauty/
My cheap violin and my cross/
...
Take this waltz, take this waltz/
It's yours now. It's all that there is," he is talking Lorca directly.

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