cohen walz

granada la bella

where anything is possible

ABOUT LEONARD COHEN, LORCA, AND THE LITTLE VIENNESE WALTZ

Left: a portait of "Jikan", the name LEONARD COHEN went by after retiring to the Mt. Baldy Zen Center in Los Angeles, California  in 1994. The name Jikan means normal or ordinary silence. ---he was ordained as a monk in 1996.He left the monastery after five years because, he said, it turned out to be another “Boogie Street,” a place with no privacy and not free of personal frictions.

In 2011 he received the Spanish Prince of Asturias Award, granted to "individuals, entities or organizations from around the world who make notable achievements in the sciences, humanities, and/or public affairs".

Left: Poet in New York; Lorca's self-portrait.


Right: A Viennese walz, of course:

"And I'll dance with you in Vienna..."

This page has been updated in February 2020. It is a revised version of a page I created on geocities that I hadn't touched since 2008. Do you want to contact me? Here. Do you want to go (back) to the Lorca's Poetry page? Click here.

Cohen’s Take This Waltz was originally released as part of the 1986 Lorca tribute album Poet in New York and as a single. (Number 1 in Spain that year.) It was later included in a rather more elaborately arranged version on his 1988 studio álbum I’m Your Man.

The year 1986 also found Cohen in Granada, where, apart from posing in front of the Alhambra, he of course visited the casa-museo, Lorca's birthplace, in Fuente Vaqueros.


To the right: a picture of New York, dated 1932.

The poem Pequeño vals vienés comes at the end of the collection Poeta en Nueva York, written mainly during his stay there in 1929-30 but published posthumously in 1940, in Mexico and the USA.

It represents a flight from the brutal chaos and confusion of the big American city back to “civilisation” and is one of two “waltzes”.  

Flamenco singer Enrique Morente and experimental rock band Lagartija Nick included the song,  with Cohen's music and Lorca's original verse, on the album Omega in 1996. In 1998, the poet's centenery year, Ana Belén recorded it, with Lorca's original verse, for her album Lorquiana. Most recent are the versions of Sílvia Pérez Cruz, with Raúl Fernandez Miró in 2014 for their album Granadaand with Andrés Herrera 'El Pájaro'  in 2017. Below

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Leonard Cohen's song Take This Waltz is inspired by and is a fairly free translation of Lorca'sthe original poem.


Side by side below you have here

1) Lorca's original poem in Spanish,2) my fairly literal translation, to compare it with 3) Cohen's free translation. 


Following that, there are a handful of quotes in which Cohen explains the importance of Lorca in his life, and the genesis of his song.

Pequeño vals vienés

En Viena hay diez muchachas,
un hombro donde solloza la muerte
y un bosque de palomas disecadas.
Hay un fragmento de la mañana
en el museo de la escarcha.
Hay un salón con mil ventanas.
¡Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Toma este vals con la boca cerrada.

Este vals, este vals, este vals, este vals,
de sí, de muerte y de coñac
que moja su cola en el mar.

 

Te quiero, te quiero, te quiero,
con la butaca y el libro muerto,
por el melancólico pasillo,
en el oscuro desván del lirio,
en nuestra cama de la luna
y en la danza que sueña la tortuga.
¡Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Toma este vals de quebrada cintura.


En Viena hay cuatro espejos
donde juegan tu boca y los ecos.
Hay una muerte para piano
que pinta de azul a los muchachos.
Hay mendigos por los tejados,
hay frescas guirnaldas de llanto.
¡Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Toma este vals que se muere en mis brazos.

Porque te quiero, te quiero, amor mío,
en el desván donde juegan los niños,
soñando viejas luces de Hungría
por los rumores de la tarde tibia,
viendo ovejas y lirios de nieve
por el silencio oscuro de tu frente.
¡Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Toma este vals, este vals del «Te quiero siempre».

  

En Viena bailaré contigo
con un disfraz que tenga
cabeza de río.
¡Mira qué orillas tengo de jacintos!
Dejaré mi boca entre tus piernas,
mi alma en fotografías y azucenas,
y en las ondas oscuras de tu andar
quiero, amor mío, amor mío, dejar,
violín y sepulcro, las cintas del vals.

Little Viennese Waltz

In Vienna, there are ten girls,

a shoulder death is sobbing on

and a wood for stuffed pidgeons.

There’s a fragment of the morning

in the museum of frost.

There’s a hall with a thousand windows.

Ay ,ay, ay, ay!

Take this walz with the closed mouth. 

This walz, this walz, this walz,

of its own self, of death, and of brandy

dipping its tail in the sea.

 

I love you, I love you, I love you,

with the armchair and the dead book,

down the melancholy hallway,

in the dark attic of the lily,

on our bed of the moon

and in the dance the turtle dreams. 

Ay, ay, ay, ay!

Take this walz with the broken waist.

 

In Vienna there are four mirrors

where your mouth and the echoes play.

There’s a death for piano

that paints the boys blue.

There are beggars on the rooftops.

There are fresh garlands of tears.

Ay, ay, ay, ay!

Take this walz which is dying in my arms. 

For I love you, I love you, love of mine,

in the attic where the children play,

dreaming old lights of Hungary

through the buzz of the cool afternoon,

seeing sheep and lilies of snow

through the dark silence of your forehead.

 Ay, ay, ay, ay!

Take this “I’ll love you forever” walz.

 

In Vienna I’ll dance with you

in a disguise that has

a river head

Look at the banks I have of hyacinths!

I will leave my mouth between your legs,

my soul in photographs and tiger lilies,

and in the dark waves of your walk

I want, love of mine, love of mine, to leave,

violin and grave, the ribbons of the walz.

 

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 900 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 walz, take this walz

Take this walz 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 hallway 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 walz, take this walz

Take its broken waist in your hand

 

This walz, this walz, this walz, this walz

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 walz, take this walz

With its “I’ll never forget you, you know”

 

This walz, this walz, etc

 

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 walz, take this walz

It’s yours now. It’s all that there is

 

 Vienna 11/05/88

Last year I had the great honour to translate into English a poem by the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca,a man who effectively ruined my life when I was fifteen. I found a book of his in a secondhand bookstore. I read the lines, "I want to pass through the arches of Elvira to see your thighs and begin weeping." And for the next thirty years, I was looking for the arches of Elvira, I was looking for those thighs, I was looking for my tears. I'm glad I've forgotten all that and I could revenge him with this act of homage, by translating one of his great poems into clumsy English. Take this Waltz,take this waltz.

 

 Reijkavik 24/06/88

Here of all places I don't have to explain how I fell in love with the poet Federico Garcia Lorca. I was 15 years old and I was wandering through the bookstores of Montreal and I fell upon one of his books,and I opened it,and my eyes saw those lines "I want to pass through the Arches of Elvira,to see her thighs and begin weeping". I thought "This is where I want to be"... I read alone "Green I want you green "I turned another page "The morning threw fistfulls of ants in your face" I turned another page "Her thighs slipped away like school of silver minnows". I knew that I had come home. So it is with a great sense of gratitude that I am able to repay my debt to Federico Garcia, at least a corner, a fragment, a crumb, a hair, an electron of my debt by dedicating this song, this translation of his great poem "Little Viennese Waltz", "Take This Waltz".

 

London May 1993

Thank you very much friends for this very warm reception this evening, we really appreciate it. You know, I named my daughter Lorca, after the great Spanish poet. I was really pleased when she put a ring in her nose. I was delighted at the age of 18 when she dyed her hair blue. Later on it was.... you can understand a father's pride....when she put a stud through her tongue.....(laughs)...She lives within the true spirit of the poet. and I love her for it. It was with a great sense of anxiety and trepidation that I began to translate one of the great poems of Federico Garcia Lorca and it has been a great source of pleasure to me to receive a letter from his sister congratulating me on my tiny homage to this great poet's work. Take This Waltz.