If It Be Your Will


[By: Leonard Cohen]

If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will.

If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing.

From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing.

If it be your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will
To make us well.

And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will
If it be your will.

Direct to YouTube for this video is here.

22 thoughts on “If It Be Your Will

  1. This is very thought provoking…I don’t fully understand the last verse but I’m guessing he may be alluding to war – but all in all when I finished reading the words two or three times over, the two words that came to my mind were abandonment and resignation.

    And then that leads to prayer- doesn’t it? Because if we are saying to God that we are willing to fall in with His plans and do His will for us we need to listen very carefully, be well-tuned in so that we hear His voice and understand what His will for us actually is, only then can the prayer be sincere.

    The pictures are beautiful too, Gabrielle, and they speak as well don’t they?

    I’m pleased to read things are about to get going on your other blog, looking forward to that.

  2. “rags of light” Aw geez, I was crying even before I clicked! Isn’t it amazing that a man named Cohen can snap us like shared bread. The image in the eye of the person in the video is interesting, too.. Is it victorious Christ with his staff, or a Bishop with his shepherd’s crook.. is it a kneel-er, praying before the Cross.. all three? From God to us, us to one another, and back to God again? Thank you, Gabrielle.

  3. See what you’ve started, Gabrielle. Mondays for Merton…and now …..only kidding, only when you’ve got the time….and will someone please tell me what the last verse means?

  4. I think it is apocalyptic, Ann.

    The world, to some, has seemed a very long night –and rightly so. If it is His will that it now start spinning down to die, in other words, then let it come.. for it is His will. That’s why the middle verse is worth another glance:
    If it be your will
    If there is a choice
    Let the rivers fill
    Let the hills rejoice
    Let your mercy spill
    On all these burning hearts in hell
    If it be your will
    To make us well.

    It is, all in all, a laying down of ours, in favor of His.

    Funny, I had never heard of Leonard Cohen until I heard of Jeff Buckley, whom I’d not have heard except for JP II’s passing. Someone set Jeff’s “Hallelujah” to a JP II tribute, and it gave me chills. I looked into Buckley and saw that it was, rather, Cohen’s lyrics. Ah, the Lord gives us such gifts of artists. And it’s truly sublimely ironic to me, that this Leonard Cohen (not an Irish name, eh? Nor Canadian!), put me instantly in mind of that moment in Mass just before the priest elevates Him before the congregation’s eyes.

    Jesus has finely employed some cousins of His, and He shall not let His original family die.

    *sigh.. if only, “I Am The Walrus” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or even “Flatfoot Floogie With the Floy-Floy” had been half as deep as Cohen’s lyrics, many might not have been so danged delayed in their budding cause; there might’ve been much greater life lent to the living.

  5. Thank you, Justme, that line of yours ‘ a laying down of ours in favour of His’ has illumined the song for me.

    Now after this pointer from you, I think the important word in the last verse is the word bind= we are tattered, we are ragged, but only God has the power and the love and the mercy to take the ragged and to bind and make whole…

    I have heard of Leonard Cohen but I mix him up with Bob Dylan…is that understandable, and maybe even in Owen’s case, forgivable? I’ll plead ignorance if I have to…..

  6. As Paul says, Cathy, even while we were still in sin, we were Died for love of. If we can’t trust His will after such as that, He cannot help us. As quoted in Jeremiah (somewhere), “‘I know my will for you’ saith the Lord — to prosper you..'” On one hand, we believe that, but on the other, how often we give God a deadline, or the very thing to do, so that we actually play God to God, rather than be the true supplicant child! I myself am most thankful for His patience with that. Many many times I must remind myself that He is busy this whole time. This whole time, He is setting up a great good, even if it looks 100% otherwise!

    Oh heavens, Ann, Owen will surely speak well of Dylan, too– a lyricist who makes me want to shake him, usually, except for “The Mighty Quinn.” (Heh, it’s beginning to sound like I only like weird songs, huh?) Dylan doesn’t always fit God into his existential angst, and humorously reminds me of the deadly morbid Ernest Hemingway’s answer as to why the chicken crossed the road: “To die in the rain. Alone.”

    Cohen lets God have all the thunder and mystery He is accustomed to.🙂 I like that in a disciple.

  7. Hi all; sorry for the delay in responding to these wonderful comments. I’ll be back tonight, late, and will try to catch up a bit tomorrow. Have a wonderful day, everyone.

  8. Well, Mrs. Parkes, I am always the very last person to assess existential woe or the ravages of sin as if it were all some form or other of mental illness. Too easy, too dismissive, too lucrative a business, that. I’ve been alive a long time and have known many broken, and not least of all, have worked in a mental health facility. I saw that many of the nifty diagnoses were often rather simply human pain or need responding in its extreme ways. When someone is courageous enough to corral it or tame it into art, yea, even if Dylan, to make it work for the good of man, then I am thankful. Most all our artists throughout the world and time were in dire pain.

    One friend submitted her life to the mental health industry, as if it were her God. I’m afraid many do, because they really do not know or trust God. I watched her for 25 years (and counting!) work and pay for what free confession and commitment to her faith and loving herself might’ve righted. She is less well than ever for all the cascading meds and new diagnoses. It should’ve been a temporary thing. Very often, it becomes a permanent thing.

    I’m not saying mental illness isn’t a reality at times in some, but I am saying that life is very hard and unfair, and so maybe God, too, might just call a great deal of it a natural response or reaction to emotional sufferings or falls, or hiding from them, rather than an unnatural response. If true mental unperfectness is a valid cross, then it’s a valid cross, and I both compassionate and respect it, but I’ve no doubt that many folks also assessed our holy stigmatics, not to even mention victim souls and many martyrs, as being somewhat off their trolley. Too dismissive as well as too short-sighted, and hence, disrespectful.

  9. Well, my comment here may be a little disorganized – there’s so much here, in Cohen’s song and in all your comments, that I can’t really cover all the thoughts that came to me when I read them.

    JustWaitinForAJob: isn’t it funny that you commented on his last name and said you were put in mind of the moment at Mass just before the priest elevates the Host. Do you know what the name Cohen means? Priest. And Owen, I had completely forgotten that he was a Poet Laureate. Thanks for reminding me.

    Ann, prayer and abandonment is how I categorized the post, because I shared your interpretation of the essence of the song. I was struck by the depth of sincerity in the abandonment to God’s will.

    The song doesn’t speak to me personally in any apocalyptic way, though. I know there could be many different interpretations, many different levels, but I thought it might resonate with some readers/bloggers who are often anguished as to whether to continue blogging or not, and I think it can speak the same way to any creative person, or to any contemplative battling the Martha/Mary question (especially lay contemplatives) – to anyone, actually, trying to discern the will of God.

    A bit of the way I would relate to this song: From this broken hill that is my life, I will sing Your praises, if You allow me to, if it is Your Will. If You will it, I would desire to be able to see again the glories of your creation, so be merciful Lord, because we are here in a living hell when the beauties of Your creation are cut off from us because of our dark nights (whether as a result of depression, or a spiritual dark night of the senses or of the soul). Your light should be clothing us in beauty, but because of our spiritual poverty (or because of a dark night we are enduring) we walk in only rags of light.

    I am reminded very much of Lazarus in the last verse. He was bound tightly in rags, in the darkest of nights, death, in a tomb. But the Lord said to unbind his rags, for he was to rise from the dead, come back to the light, and live. It’s like a desperate effort to hang on, in the last verse, opposite to the Lazarus story, where we need to be bound closely to God so we won’t slip into the abyss (whatever the abyss may be for us), bound closely to Him with the rags that will hold a little bit of light in our dark night.

    Yes, it was Leonard Cohen who wrote “Hallelujah”; you can see his youthful performance of it on YouTube. Rufus Wainwright and K.D. Lang also do a superb job with the song. If you are interested in finding out more about Leonard Cohen himself, just look on YouTube for a 4-part documentary series (I think from the National Film Board of Canada).

  10. I think I have seen every version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah on YouTube. And how astounding that “Cohen” means “priest.” That comes as such a sweet surprise. Your parsing of this poem-song above resonates in many ways, more than a parsing by anyone of a Dylan song ever does with me; Cohen seems very humble and outward.. I look forward to reading more about him.

  11. Here’s a taste of Leonard Cohen at his apocalyptic best, in my opinion (brought to mind because of your mentioning repentance/love in your comment just now on the other post)

    The Future

  12. Holy mackerel. Yep. Extraordinarily honest. I may sleep with the lights on tonight! It led me to look at the lyrics of Anthem.. “there’s a crack in everything–that’s how the light gets in.” Oh, baby. That IS how the light gets in. Hearts, minds, theories, hopes, fears, weather, food, bodies.

    Being more of a mute than a poet, more of a mule than a brain, there are two artists who happen to have often been sweaty and messy and although brilliant in their own ways and venues, wouldn’t win any lyrics awards, but their songs have never needed words anyway. They could just make noises and I’d know and nod and be grateful for the good, bad, the ugly and the heartbreakingly beautiful that they both put into each 100% sharing. They sing my inside (Janis Joplin and Joe Cocker). Again, there’s that blessedness where there’s no duplicity in either one. Honesty. After peace is gone, after goodwill is gone, even after sobriety, sanity, looks, hopes, dreams are gone, there’s still hope, because even if it’s all we have left, honesty is a biggie. The funny thing is, that’s all we ever really want/ed: The Truth. There is only one Truth. And we want it because we live and move and have our being in It, just as Saul-nee-Paul said.

  13. Thanks, Gabrielle, for your reply and sharing your insight into the meaning, I’m with you and Justme on this. It’s always interesting how different people read things in different ways, no right, no wrong way just individually undestood and resonating within individual hearts.

  14. JustMe, Owen used to have that very quote from Anthem on his sidebar! I remember asking him about it. I like what you say about the good, the bad, the ugly and the heartbreakingly beautiful. It all speaks to the soul.

    Ann, that’s right, and so many times too, resonating with us differently at various points in our lives, or along our spiritual journey. I wonder how I would have interpreted this song twenty years ago?

  15. I’m so excited, and indeed, 20 years ago, this, too, would not have held me, but I found Leonard Cohen’s/Jeff Buckely’s/JP II’s Hallelujah again. I cannot tell you how many times I looked for it after losing the link, once, when I thought it didn’t do JP II justice. I knew it did – that is what scared me. The reality of love, since the Fall, is that it is a cold and broken Hallelujah. But it is always a hallelujah rising, since His ascension. Amen.

  16. I popped over and watched/listened. You know, you were the one who introduced me to that song, actually, when you first posted it on one of your blogs last year. I fell in love with it. I’m not sure who Jeff Buckely is, but that sounds like Rufus singing to me. Anyway, so glad you found it again!

  17. I first heard Leonard Cohen in the 70’s and bought his LP Leonard Cohen:The Best Of. The weekend that I bought it I was visiting a friend in Central PA who’s father-law-was a renowned psychiatrist. I was there to see him because I was in the midst of a big-time mental/emotional/anxiety crisis and my friend had arranged a sit down with the good doctor. I will forever be reminded of that time of suffering and healing by songs like Sisters of Mercy, So Long Marianne and Bird on a Wire. They have a downright spiritual significance for me.

    I, too, appreciate Cohen’s beautiful sentiments about surrender. However, I am accepting his lyrics at face value. Who really knows what is in the heart and mind of a poet?

    Also, it is Rufus on the JPII Hallelujah. I am a BIG Rufus fan but I really do prefer Jeff Buckley’s stark, sparse and beautiful version. Here is a link to You Tube if you want to give it a listen.

  18. Terry, Leonard is all mixed up with my youthful days as well, as stand-up comic, poet, musician, and dark, deep “older man “heart-throb. 🙂 Thanks so much for the link to Jeff Buckley’s version; I am not at all familiar with him.

    JustMe, do you remember the McGarrigle sisters (Canadian – Montreal) from the seventies onwards? To see something I posted around this time last year, JUST GO HERE.
    Rufus is the son of Kate McGarrigle and Louden Wainwright III.
    I have absolutely grown to love him since I discovered him this time last year, and apparently Cohen is like his artistic Godfather.

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