Leonard Cohen lyrics to help bring you into the light

As we mourn the loss of one of Canada's greatest artists, let his words comfort us in their truth.

As we mourn the loss of one of Canada's greatest artists, let his words comfort us in their truth

Leonard Cohen reads poetry in a photo dated 1967. (CBC Still Photo Collection/Michael Reichmann)

It goes without saying that it's been an emotionally challenging week (and year) for a lot of people. And now, the news has come that iconic Canadian singer, songwriter, poet and novelist Leonard Cohen had passed away.

In dark times, Cohen's extraordinary body of work might not be the most obvious place to turn for enlightenment. Over the decades, his lyrics have given helped dub him the  "godfather of gloom," the "poet laureate of pessimism" and the "prince of bummers." But in the very examinations of darkness that gave Cohen that reputation, we can often find profound glimmers of hope. They are perhaps not the easiest glimmers to swallow, but these are not easy times. So as we mourn the loss of one of Canada's greatest artists, let his words comfort us in their truth.

"Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in."

"But I swear by this song / and by all that I have done wrong / I will make it all up to thee."

"We are so lightly here / It is in love that we are made / In love we disappear."

"O troubled dust concealing / An undivided love / The heart beneath is teaching / To the broken heart above."

"Dance me to the children / who are asking to be born / Dance me through the curtains / that our kisses have outworn / Raise a tent of shelter now / though every thread is torn / And dance me to the end of love."

"I've seen the nations rise and fall / I've heard their stories, heard them all / But love's the only engine of survival."

"Now I greet you from the other side of sorrow and despair, with a love so vast / And so shattered, it will reach you everywhere."

"And the sun pours down like honey on our lady of the harbour / And she shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers."


Peter Knegt (he/him) has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada and nominated again this year) and hosting the video interview series Here & Queer. He's also spearheaded the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag, variety special Queer Pride Inside, and interactive projects Superqueeroes and The 2010s: The Decade Canadian Artists Stopped Saying Sorry. Collectively, these projects have won Knegt four Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films, the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights and the host of the monthly film series Queer Cinema Club at Toronto's Paradise Theatre. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.


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