Leonard Cohen is an artmonk

Posted by on Sep 27, 2010 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
[part of the “__ is an artmonk” series]

Cohen, who once spent five years in a Zen Monastery, mentions the Cloud of Unknowing in his 1979 song “The Window”:

Why do you stand by the window
Abandoned to beauty and pride
The thorn of the night in your bosom
The spear of the age in your side
Lost in the rages of fragrance
Lost in the rags of remorse
Lost in the waves of a sickness
That loosens the high silver nerves
Oh chosen love, Oh frozen love
Oh tangle of matter and ghost
Oh darling of angels, demons and saints
And the whole broken-hearted host
Gentle this soul

And come forth from the cloud of unknowing
And kiss the cheek of the moon
The New Jerusalem glowing
Why tarry all night in the ruin
And leave no word of discomfort
And leave no observer to mourn
But climb on your tears and be silent
Like a rose on its ladder of thorns

Oh chosen love, Oh frozen love…

Then lay your rose on the fire
The fire give up to the sun
The sun give over to splendour
In the arms of the high holy one
For the holy one dreams of a letter
Dreams of a letter’s death
Oh bless thee continuous stutter
Of the word being made into flesh

Oh chosen love, Oh frozen love…

Gentle this soul


  1. Peter Doane
    October 13, 2010

    Beautiful, reminds me of something William Blake might write, and I wonder about his father being a priest and how that might have informed his process. Blake would be pleased with what the Art Monastery project is doing. On another note, I literally lived across the street from the Mt. Baldy Zen Center where Leonard stayed, inspiring place up there.

    • Nathan Rosquist
      October 14, 2010

      Thanks Peter! I would be proud (and maybe a bit scared) to show Blake or Cohen what we’re up to.

      I was reading the marriage of heaven and hell a few months ago. The proverbs of hell would make for an interesting monastic rule! Not sure how sustainable that community would be, though…

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