Sorry, Andy, I got too busy for some days to craft a response to this. Joseph Campbell is one of my heroes (and I'm sure that Cohen must know him as well). I used to teach a classics course called "From Myth to Argument" in which Campbell had a prominent role in more than one lecture. But even with that in mind, I think the poem is about 'going home' in the sense of dying and returning from whence we came. It seems to me that that is a sufficient reading and adding layers for which we have no textual evidence might be fun but is not supportable.
Campbell's Hero undertakes the risks of the journey for the rest of us (he may not know this at the beginning, of course, but that's how the story has to finish). He must bring back a boon for mankind, sometimes a physical object (the golden fleece), other times some profound wisdom (Gilgamesh's discovery of what it means to be human). I don't think that either Leonard or Cohen are envisioning this.
Cohen, at any rate, has already left an immense boon. There's a line in one of his other new songs (also about dying) where he sings, "My head is hanging low." I hope he also knows how high he can hold it.
Best, Ursula On 12-01-19 9:59 PM, Andy wrote:
Ursula I think you're missing my meaning. Remember I said that this song is about where LC /was/. The Great Pretender is the Hero's Journey /not/ undertaken (Joseph Campbell). The poem is in fact about death, but it's the death of the false self and the birth of the true self. That is the Hero's Journey, Ulysses slaying his (internal) dragons and returning home. The Hero's Journey is the journey into the interior of one's soul, the slaying of the demons that keep us pretending we're something that we don't feel. It's the snake shedding its skin, the moth becoming the butterfly (trite but true). It's about Going Home. Home in dream symbolism is the self. He's standing outside of himself having a conversation with himself, about all the roles he's played and plays. He's a sportsman, a shepherd, a sage, he's wisdom, he's a suit, but ultimately he's the brief elaboration of a tube, an image on a screen. (John Berryman splits himself into two people outside of himself who carry on a conversation.) LC knows he's on the Hero's Journey, the most difficult, most heroic journey any person can undertake. And there's probably a realization that he will never arrive. But the point is always the journey, never the destination. I think in that sense John Wager's tube captures the mythology of the Hero's Journey that Joseph Campbell says all cultures have. And it is quite the Greek chorus, not schmaltzy at all, just echoing. The Hero's Journey, far from diminishing the poem, raises it. Plus it works on other levels, as you mentioned, there's no right or wrong in this case.Andy *From:* Ursula Stange <Ursula@xxxxxxxxxx> *To:* lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx *Sent:* Thursday, January 19, 2012 8:30 PM *Subject:* [lit-ideas] Re: Going HomeLike "Show me the place," this song is about what dying is about. The speaker could be God but, more likely, Leonard, himself, speaking for a God who doesn't exist. (For someone as thoughtful and full of words as Cohen, it probably comes to the same thing.) The phrase "Going home'" is obvious. The curtain is obvious. Going without the costume that he wore is obvious. Not having the freedom to refuse what needs saying is about the artist's enslavement to his muse. We like to think we have wisdom as we (s)age. But we can't help recognizing our puny stature in the mighty universe, hence the 'brief elaboration.' Verses 4 and 5 are about human nature and the artist's call to both notice and respond to the pain we cause each other. Verses 6 and 7 seem more difficult. Perhaps they point to the desire for simplicity and completeness before sticking our thumbs out for the last ride. Something is trying to tell him that he's readier than he thinks, but there's something about being human that makes us value our skin too much (a Buddhist lesson?). And then a reference to the lack of free will, perhaps a little band-aid to soothe our failures and disappointments. The chorus (especially the schmaltzy Greek chorus) is somewhat upbeat...a criticism of our fear of death?It's a beautiful song and, right or wrong, I shouldn't have done this to it. I'm going to go and wash my hands.On 12-01-19 7:19 PM, Andy wrote:I had a little time and I thought it might be fun to try something a little different. Rather than me tell you what I think is going on with this poem, I'm going to give you a great big huge hint, as in really really big. Below is a song that to me is what I think LC is leaving behind on his way home.He's not home yet.The home of course is metaphorical; think dream imagery. Think too a little of John Berryman.I have a feeling you all out there will instantly get it. If not and I need to make my case better, I'd be happy to hear where I went wrong. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwfmbXJEBtY&ob=av2n <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwfmbXJEBtY&ob=av2n>I love to speak with Leonard He’s a sportsman and a shepherd He’s a lazy bastard Living in a suit But he does say what I tell him Even though it isn’t welcome He will never have the freedom To refuse He will speak these words of wisdom Like a sage, a man of vision Though he knows he’s really nothing But the brief elaboration of a tube /Going home/ /Without my sorrow/ /Going home/ /Sometime tomorrow/ /To where it’s better/ /Than before/ /Going home/ /Without my burden/ /Going home/ /Behind the curtain/ /Going home/ /Without the costume/ /That I wore/ He wants to write a love song An anthem of forgiving A manual for living with defeat A cry above the suffering A sacrifice recovering But that isn’t what I want him to complete I want to make him certain That he doesn’t have a burden That he doesn’t need a vision That he only has permission To do my instant bidding That is to SAYwhat I have told him To repeat /Going home/ /Without my sorrow/ /Going home/ /Sometime tomorrow/ /Going home/ /To where it’s better/ /Than before/ /Going home/ /Without my burden/ /Going home/ /Behind the curtain/ /Going home/ /Without the costume/ /That I wore/ I love to speak with Leonard He’s a sportsman and a shepherd He’s a lazy bastard Living in a suit