Leonard Cohen – Take This Waltz

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I remember this song quite well from its time of release, considering I was still a child. The lyrics are an adaptation of Lorca’s Little Viennese Waltz, and most of the imagery comes from there. Cohen makes the poem his own by adapting it to a rhythm and making it slightly more personal. The setup is the same, but Cohen’s version is making more connections between the images and the poet’s passion for the woman. I find this adaptation more enjoyable than Cohen’s other songs or poems, but it’s also better than the original poem, something that’s very difficult to pull off.

Lorca’s poems often feature the simultaneous presence of love and death, creating drama out of impermanence and unpredictability. We must dance now while it’s possible, for darkness is looming behind us, it’s all around us, the night is approaching. Just keep on dancing amid the garlands, through the crowd of onlookers, passers by.

The music is smooth as if there’s no care in the world, creating a bubble in which it’s safe to dance, even when the images imply the presence of poverty, infidelity, and death. In the end the waltz is everything. Does it mean that the dance is all that matters or that nothing else remains? The thought can be either romantic or terrifying. There’s love that is surrendering, love that is continuous support that lasts when everything falls, and there’s love that consumes everything it touches, taking over the world in a destructive way.

Similarly, when we think of the saying “Love conquers all,” it may mean that everything can be overcome and turned good by love, or it could mean that something we call love, an unhealthy obsession, dims the light of everything else around it until it seems there is no way out, nothing worthwhile in the world except this one thing we hold on to as the final hope.

Or maybe it’s a connection between love and movement. Let us keep moving through the night, holding each other even if nothing else is left. It is our hope in the darkness, gentle music of our mouths and fingertips, echoes around us. The contrast between Viennese dance halls and beggars on the roofs, the dancers and children playing in the attic. Let the music play as long as humanity lasts, for what else can we do? We must keep searching for something, that feeling present when holding each other, since in the end nothing remains, there will be only silence. The waltz that drags its feet, its tail, that dies in my arms and lives by this passion, not for the partner alone but existence itself.