Suzanne Lyrics - Leonard Cohen



Review The Song (13)


Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she's half crazy
But that's why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you've always been her lover
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you've touched her perfect body with your mind.
And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said "All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them"
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you'll trust him
For he's touched your perfect body with his mind.

Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters
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
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she's touched your perfect body with her mind.




Writer: COHEN, LEONARD
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC



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Perfectly written | Reviewer: Cathy | 1/17/14

I know that Leonard Cohen wrote this poem leaving it open to interpretation, and for that it is a tremendous success; he wrote it masterfully in all aspects and tied it all together perfectly so that any serious interpretation would work. I couldn't get enough of the song and always wondered what the jumps from Suzanne to Jesus and back again could mean. I'm not sure Leonard Cohen even knew- he was just going with the flow and created a masterpiece that won't crack. Mystery for some is liberally taken as poetic license, but clarity is needed for others or the beauty is lost in the midst of going "huh?" because they think in prose. Some poetry just doesn't make any sense unless the intent of the poet is revealed. Leaving the poem open to interpretation provides clarity on a personal level, with the mystery there at the same time. It has an allure like no other as a song because the melody alone is so amazingly beautiful; it's like hanging onto a wispy cloud as you drift out to sea.

perfect poetry | Reviewer: Steve | 12/19/13

I agree: Reviewer: Anonymous | 6/4/09

"this is simply what poetry is supposed to be. so simple and at the same time so complex you just want to swim in it...."

But it is as well, a unique and beautifull - metaphor -account for, why the gret flood came to the earth. Nobody had such a vision, and Suzanne, a real person was, who gave the inspiration for it.


God's Grace, Man's Blessings | Reviewer: Michael | 2/18/13

All of these interpretations are correct and wise. The simple truth is that most men are afraid to surrender to a true love. The world is a very dangerous place and fear isn't always a bad thing. Most marriages are more like "cutting a deal" rather than a union of love. That is why the divorce rate is so high. Business deals come to closure. Suzanne is just a woman in many kinds of love. She is unimpressed with herself or the ways of the world and extremely innocent. That is why she "sees" the flowers among the garbage. Many women would turn to a man and say, "Bring me where there are beautiful flowers with no garbage". I am a bit like Suzanne, kind of like a stray dog, I appreciate every good thing that comes my way. Any wise person would succumb to such a love. One more simple truth, neither of the people in this song are really in control. Neither have a goal in mind. They are just simply blessed. A gift to each other. They will go on blindly that way forever and together they will see heros in the seaweed which the passing boats have missed. Forever children in the morning. I too am blessed in this way with my lady. God Bless our simplicity.

the mirror | Reviewer: Cathie | 1/11/13

ah, she's admiring herself (wearing her creatively redesigned treasures from the Salvation Army) in her Siren's mirror, in keeping that she's a Siren, seducing him, a Sailor, to drown in the sea and know Jesus whom he'd dropped like a stone with his reason. In real life Leonard Cohen and Suzanne prayed together at a table with lit candles, sometimes to Jesus, and Cohen is the name of a Jewish tribe. Many of Leonard Cohen's songs involve religion. Sirens' seductions do make things seem unearthly beautiful and Suzanne showing where to look for hope, with the sun's first rays pouring down like honey on Our Lady of the Harbor (Church) and Our Lady's arms outstretched over the St. Lawrence, facing East, and the resulting submission to eternal love just blows me away.

{Revised} A Siren's Interpretation | Reviewer: Cathie Marie Waisvisz | 4/22/12

This poem is on levels not always parallel: Suzanne is a person Leonard Cohen knew; she is an Evangelist and a Siren (mythological creatures sailors are in fear of because Sirens lure sailors to their deaths with their beautiful singing from the waters, and are similar in appearance to mermaids). The river (in the landscape of the song the Saint Lawrence River) is Spirituality or the River of Life. “Suzanne” as a Siren (my job was Siren and there are other Sirens such as Paul) was, as Cathie (aka Donna Wilson-Tudor), absolutely like A Beautiful Mind out of touch with reality with no insight to that fact. "Just when you mean to tell her you have no love to give her" is the first logical kick to Christ’s heel that binds and makes you slave to yourself, asking “what kind of love?” with “no” in place. Before moving toward the mirror at the end of the third stanza, it should be noted that this "wavelength" of Spirituality, the River of Life answering, is non-physical and the words "perfect body" are word-play. Of course our bodies aren't perfect, the point being that one of the mirrors held in the third stanza is the mirror of Narcissism which leads sailors to their deaths. Sirens are known as always looking in their mirrors of vanity, but not so with the Siren here. This Siren is Evangelizing and holding her mirror TOWARDS all Sailors (all of you, male and female) and she is calling out from the Sea of Love (Mercy).

Jesus was a Sailor, in human form just like us, and is watching and waiting for the New Heaven and New Earth (Heaven) to be appreciated. However the Sirens’ (Evangelists) jobs have to be done during great trials and tribulations, and disciples made of ALL beforehand. The wooden tower is part of the landscape in Old Montreal, next to a church called "Our Lady of the Harbor" (in English) on the Saint Lawrence. Suzanne the Evangelist had done her work in the first stanza and you let the Spiritual River of Life answer, defying the logic that binds, and you think you can trust her and are testing the waters. In the second stanza Jesus can say "ALL shall be Sailors then so until the Sea shall FREE THEM", the same Sea of Love/Sin he sank in, the Sea of Love in which the Sirens wait, calling all out with three mirrors to be passed through (we'll save them for the end with the mention of the mirror(s)).

Jesus sank like a stone to the bottom of the Sea of Love/SIN, the DEAD SEA (metaphorically HELL until Easter) completely succumbing to Sacrificial and Unconditional Love (not erotic). In the Dead Sea, in the second stanza, as you hold onto murderous logic for Sailors (humans) you SWIM AND PLAY thinking love is erotic and kicking Christ on the heel, and since it is the DEAD SEA, you are FLOATING anyway (on one level the concentration of sea salt will not let anything sink) because of HIS MERCY although we’re born “sinners” (thinking we’re smarter). So our LOGIC (not eroticism) keeps us thrashing in water where we will not sink, and only Christ or someone who gives themselves to Him can succumb to Agape (a Greek word) Love without thinking, sinking in sin WITH LOVE when He previously WALKED ON THE FRESHWATER. There is progress in this poem about serious Evangelism: you think maybe you'll trust Him because a Siren’s having a blast (I called the dayroom the “workroom playroom dayroom”) and Rockford was relaxing when I couldn’t get a bunk and was sleeping in the brush, after being locked up so long.


In the third stanza we’re back to Suzanne picking up the ball of Trust again, and she actually takes your hand and leads you to the River of Life. The sun pours down first thing at sunrise from the East on Our Lady of the Harbor Church with Our Lady stretching her arms out over the Saint Lawrence, and there is the wooden tower with Jesus standing waiting in it (the backdrop of Suzanne’s actual home in Old Montreal). Suzanne shows where to look for hope and points up at the flower, Jesus, in the tower high above next to the church where He’s waiting for appreciation (when I realized that the Lord had taken me over completely I broke down sobbing, because I knew I had met my Maker right there at Alexian Brothers psychiatric hospital, able to tell heaven from hell [inspired by Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here]). Then things become wonderful for us with wavelengths of Spirituality, the Lord right there and not at the bottom of our sins and logic and in hell after all, and ALL wiped away clean. There are heroes in our darkness full of seaweed; there are children in our mornings as young as the youngest chick and it is sunrise right now, the sun pouring down like honey with soothing caresses. Heroes and children lean out for love forever as you, all Sailors gone on to the third stanza, see yourselves leaning out for love eternal while this Siren (“Cathie” since “Suzanne” had been chosen among several names) turns around 190 degrees all in her path and in her wake—an about-face flushing out Truth, teaching that Happiness is Contentment and is exponential 10: it builds on itself.

The three mirrors (all in one towards all directions) that a Siren tests Sailors with are:
1. The mirror of Narcissism (vanity) in which one admires oneself.
2. The careless Religious Truth; if one goes back and forth between narcissism and false religion, the Sea of Love is lost on them; back and forth to yourself and you always see your own reflection, "Lex Luthor" which is your own evil side reflected in the mirror. If you remember the 1960’s Batman with Adam West, Batman and Robin saw “Lex Luthor” whenever they were about to fight evil (the evil side of their own selves). Superman is the good side of us and Lex Luthor is our evil side.
3. Orpheus' mirror: the REAL Truth. Orpheus (myth) couldn’t resist looking and the mirror shattered. When our reflections shatter we see Truth and admit the Sea of Love (God’s Mercy), where a Siren (Cathie) was waiting in the midst of the Sea, sinking in DEAD SEA SALT because she completely gave herself to (as did her husband) and operated as did the Lord, seeing all through God’s eyes for others' sake. Having a look in the mirror of Truth, blowing on that old dandelion and sowing seeds, I too experience the Love I Preach instead of being a Desperado (Eagles) in a prison of my own making. Ringo Starr’s octopus in Shady Acres has been struck on the head by Christ, no longer grabbing innocent sea creatures with the strength of suction cups on all eight tentacles. All the creatures swim happily after ALL octopi are hit on the head with Maxwell’s Silver Hammer (Beatles). No more WHOLE ROAD OF ABBYS: played backwards, last to first song, we start with Paul McCartney singing Her Majesty and end with John Lennon singing Come Together (…right now, OVER me). Well Christ hit the more popular on the head already (Genesis 3).

A Siren's Interpretation from Experience | Reviewer: Cathie M. Waisvisz | 4/18/12

"Suzanne" as the first person is on three levels: the person Leonard Cohen knew, the Evangelist and the Siren.
The river, in fact of landscape the St. Lawrence, is Spirituality or the River of Life. Suzanne the Siren (as I experienced my work as a Siren in figurative terms)was, as Cathie,(aka Donna Wilson-Tudor)absolutely insane, perfectly out of touch with reality with no clue of that fact.
"Just when you want to tell her you have no love to give her" is the first kick-in of logic, the logic that binds you and makes you slave to yourself, drowning.
Before moving toward the mirror at the end of the third stanza, it should be noted that this "wavelength" of Spirituality, the river of life answering, is non-physical and the words "perfect body" is a play on the term. Of course our bodies aren't perfect, the point being that one of the mirrors held in the third stanza is the mirror of Narcissism which leads sailors to their deaths. Sirens, mythologically speaking, are purported to always be looking in the mirror of vanity. Not so with the Siren here. This Siren is Evangelizing to all Sailors (all of you, male/female)out to the Sea of Love.

Jesus was a Sailor, in human form just like us, watching and waiting for the New Heaven and New Earth to be appreciated. However the Siren's work needs to be done years ahead of time. The wooden tower is part of the landscape in Old Montreal, next to a church called "Our Lady of the Harbor" on the St. Lawrence. Suzanne had done her work in the first stanza and you had let the Spiritual River of Life answer and defied the logic that binds, and you think you can trust her.
Now in the second stanza Jesus can say "All shall be Sailors then so until the Sea shall Free Them", the Sea of Love in which the Siren waits and calls all out to Sea with four mirrors to be passed through (we'll save them for the end, with the mention of the mirror(s)).

Jesus has sunk to the bottom of the Sea of Love beneath your wisdom without fighting Sacrificial and Unconditional (agape, Greek)Love with any logic at all. That was the second kick-in of the logic that kills for Sailors. However, there is progress in this story of Evangelism: you think maybe you'll trust Him.

Back to Suzanne picking up the ball of Trust again...she actually takes your hand and leads you to the River of Life. The sun pours down first thing from the East on Our Lady of the Harbor Church with Our Lady stretching her arms out over the St. Lawrence, and there is the wooden tower with Jesus standing waiting in it...Suzanne shows where to look for hope, and points up at the flower Jesus in the tower high above, waving greeting. Things become wonderful with the wavelengths of Spirituality, the Lord right there and all wiped away clean. There are heroes in the past darkness of our seaweed, there are young children in our mornings as young as the youngest chick. They lean out for love forever as you, all Sailors, see yourselves leaning for love eternal.

The four mirrors testing Sailors are: the mirror of Narcissism and the mirror of one's own reflection, or Christianity's Truth. Back and forth between the two, and the Sea of Love is lost on you; back and forth to yourself and you always see "Lex Luthor". There is a third mirror that must be viewed to make it out here: Orpheus' mirror of shattering self. When our reflection shatters we see others and come out to Love, where the Siren (Cathie M. "Donna Wilson-Tudor" Waisvisz)waits in the midst of the sea, drowning for others' sake.

I, Cathie M., had to regain my sanity and look in the fourth mirror, the one that held my true self and in which my insanity shattered. Now I can experience the Love I preach instead of being the only one to drown.

Leonard Cohen is from Montreal | Reviewer: Nouki | 2/10/12

Leonard Cohen is from Montreal and he said in an interview that Suzanne was a French Canadian woman he met there. She lived in old Montreal- Canal Lachine (reference to the oranges that come all the way from China) by the Saint-Lawrence river. Just nearby on Notre-Dame street there's a salvation army counter and hippies used to buy their funky clothes there (rags and feathers from salvation army counter). I live by the Saint-Lawrence river and is transported by the magic poetry of Cohen singing the story of that half crazy Suzanne who transformed her environment into a mystical experience.

Its about a seagull - stupid! | Reviewer: guliverse | 11/20/10

Suzanne is obviously a seagull - Leonard is writing about seagulls and a love for a seagull called Suzanne - look at the references to seaweed, to feathers, to walking on water - the list is endless. Suzanne is even an anagram for seagull if you add a few letters and take some away....


Joyful | Reviewer: Byron Warner | 7/8/10

This is simply one of the most beautiful songs ever written. I am always profoundly moved by it, and inevitably find myself moving back to the very best part of myself whenever I hear it or even think of it for a moment.

Every time..... | Reviewer: Brian Rooney | 10/1/09

This song invariably takes be back to the late sixties when I was 18. I had a summer job at the Honey Harbour resort in northern Ontario (very much like the resort in the movie “Dirty Dancing”). The staff cabins were far removed from the main resort. Many evenings as most were drifting off to sleep, some one would play Suzanne on their record player.

To this day this evocative tune allows me to visualize the setting of the cabins on the hillside, the dream like music sifting the trees. Great stuff. Thanks Leonard.

bliss | Reviewer: Bill Nichols | 9/20/09

I listened to the song in two versions on YouTube just now and reread the lyrics and the review above. The odd, most moving thing was I burst into tears on hearing the song this time. Beyond reason, yes. Far out to sea in that ocean of love that the song alludes to, not romantic love in the usual sense but a serene, engulfing love of all that is and might be, an embrace of the garbage and the flowers, the lean outward toward love, forever, the prow of the great ship as Jesus walks upon the water or watches from his lonely wooden tower. Cohen seemed to channel the wisdom of his later years already in this song; there is none of the cute cleverness of a beginner performer strutting his stuff; the parallels with Dylan are all apt. they both sang from their heart in ways that defy reason and produce splendor and do so like that mythic troubador of love, Orpheus who descended yet could not quite trust the one who touched his perfect body and held the mirror; he had to look and it all shattered. cohen never looks (back?) but moves blindly on and in doing so sees more than we can hope to see with eyes and reason and the powers that sustain us for he has seen that even though he has no love to give her he he is hers for he has been her lover, forever.... could it be said, or sung, any better?


imho | Reviewer: Anonymous | 6/4/09

this is simply what poetry is supposed to be. so simple and at the same time so complex you just want to swim in it. it is ineffably beautiful. so beautiful that, should you ever tire of it, it just might be time to go.

Leonard Cohen's masterpiece | Reviewer: Steve Borrow | 9/29/08

This is a song about sailors, those of us set loose on the seas of chance and seeking to find meaning and love from all of the confusion. It is Leonard Cohen’s masterpiece, apparently inspired by a real woman.

Suzanne is presented as a mysterious woman who, at one level is a mystic who holds up a mirror to the narrator, the looking glass self that enables him to find truth. At another level she is a siren, a mythical being, half woman and half fish, thought to have drawn sailors to their death by the irresistible allure of their beauty and exquisite singing.

She draws our narrator to the edge of his journey, down to the harbour, a transit point where sailors pull into port to find emotional sustenance from time to time when on their life’s journey.

He finds her oddly irresistible, not withstanding her apparent imperfections and, when the rational begins to intrude, is overwhelmed by her exotic sexuality and aroma (“tea and oranges that come all the way from china”, orange pekoe perhaps?). He succumbs to that temporary madness only true romantics know about: the fusion of two selves into one. Or, perhaps, he succumbs to the power of a truth she reveals.

Jesus is also a sailor, a seeker of divine meaning who announces that: “all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them”. The allusion to Jesus is a commentary on the soul of man confined to its physical manifestation until death. Here, the metaphor of the sailor awash upon the seas of experience until the waters claim him or her at last (“Sea shall freed them”) is extended, and the soul – the pure manifestation of self – is freed at the time of death. Jesus was aware of his sacrifice and waited until “drowning men” or those in need of salvation could feel his love.

Then we return to Suzanne and perhaps the most beautiful verse the great man has written:-

“Now Suzanne takes your hand and she leads you to the river. She is wearing rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters, 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; there are heroes in the seaweed; there are children in the morning; they are leaning out for love; and they will lean that way forever; While Suzanne holds the mirror; and you want to travel with her; and you want to travel blind; and you know that you can trust her, for she's touched your perfect body with her mind”.

In her passion and the affect she is having on the narrator, Suzanne has made the mundane seem surreal and magical. Again, at one level she has a saintly quality, our Lady of The Harbour. She is able to find beauty and truth among the physical corruption thrown up and rejected on the shores of the harbour. In the context of the metaphor of the sailor, these have been overlooked by the narrator as he has journeyed through life. There are heroic deeds and the promise of procreation and rebirth in the discarded remnants of his path ("garbage" and "seaweed").

On the other level, Sirens were known to hold up mirrors and admire their own beauty, but here Leonard Cohen’s Siren is perhaps projecting a narcissistic vision of her own dreaming, and for the moment the narrator is seduced by it. He is temporarily blinded to the decadence of her clothing and physical surrounds. He has reached the place only drowning men have been: a place that can only be reached by surrender to profound sensibility and repudiation of reason. He wants to follow her because his being has merged with hers and he is no longer able to check his decent.

James Taylor has just released a new version of this song with Yo Yo Ma accompanying him on cello



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------ Performed by Leonard Cohen

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------ 04/17/2014

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