Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen Lyrics Meaning – The Soul-Stirring Lament that Transcends Time

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Leonard Cohen's Halleluljah at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning


Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Full Lyrics

With its haunting melody and searching lyrics, Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ stands as a towering achievement in the world of music. It’s not just a song; it’s an introspective journey that delves into the complex interplay of faith, love, and redemption. Few songs have ever managed the task of exploring the intricacies of the human spirit with such eloquence.

The ballad’s greatness lies not only in its lyrical depth and musical simplicity, but also in the ability to transform personal despair into a universal hymn of human experience. Cohen masterfully weaves biblical references with personal introspection, creating a tapestry of meaning that exudes both an intimate vulnerability and an epic universality.

Decoding the Sacred and the Profane

The opening verse introduces us to the story of King David and his divine music that ‘pleased the Lord’, juxtaposing it against the weary indifference of a listener – possibly a lover, or even ourselves – who ‘don’t really care for music.’ This sets the stage for an exploration of the sacred and the profane that runs throughout the song; the sensual vs the spiritual, the exalted vs the commonplace.

Cohen’s verse transitions into an analogy of love and faith, symbolized by biblical David’s voyeuristic sight of Bathsheba, which leads to his downfall. It is this intermingling of the divine and human desires, the battle between spiritual exaltation and earthly impulses, that makes the Hallelujah of the chorus resonate with a powerful blend of praise and pathos.

The Paradox of Human Longing

Cohen’s rendition of Hallelujah showcases human longing in its most unguarded form. When he sings about a lost love and the betrayal that follows, the listener faces the stark contrast between the ideal and the real; the ‘faith was strong but you needed proof’ exposes our fundamental desire for certainty in an uncertain world.

Through the vivid image of Samson and Delilah – ‘She tied you to a kitchen chair / She broke your throne, and she cut your hair’ – we encounter the juxtaposition of strength and weakness. It’s a narrative of how love can render us helpless, power stripped, commingling glory with defeat; in the end, all that is left to express is a vulnerable ‘Hallelujah’.

The Multifaceted ‘Hallelujah’

Leonard Cohen’s refrain is a chameleon, changing its colors with each intonation – from worship to despair, from ecstasy to resignation. The word ‘Hallelujah’ itself becomes a microcosm of life’s emotional spectrum, encompassing joy, sadness, defeat, and hope within its syllables.

It is a word that’s been passed through the ages, a traditional exaltation that Cohen strips down and rebuilds to convey a more personal confession: ‘I did my best, it wasn’t much.’ The dualism of ‘the holy or the broken Hallelujah’ serves as a testament to the song’s underlying premise that even in imperfection, there is beauty, and in the brokenness, there is something to be revered.

A Chorus of Echoes: The Song’s Hidden Meaning

Peel back the layers of ‘Hallelujah’, and what emerges is Cohen’s meditation on the nature of creativity itself. Like David, the ‘baffled king composing,’ Cohen confronts the turbid task of the artist – to forge meaning out of confusion, to find the right chords that will resonate with the divine and the human audience alike.

This creativity, in Cohen’s songwriting, is both a burden and a blessing, ‘a blaze of light in every word.’ It is here, in the appreciation of the creative process – messy, tumultuous, and often fraught with doubt – that Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ becomes a creator’s humble offering, a prayer of sorts, laid bare for all to witness.

Legacy of the Poet: ‘Hallelujah’s Memorable Lines

Cohen’s lyrical craftsmanship has rendered lines that have etched themselves into the collective consciousness. ‘The fourth, the fifth / The minor fall, the major lift’ – these lines about musical progression are not only about the construction of a song but also evoke the ups and downs of life’s journey.

Perhaps the most poignant line, ‘I’ll stand before the Lord of Song / With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah,’ encapsulates the artist’s ultimate surrender to his art. After all is said and done, after all the trials and tribulations, it is the music – the song – that stands, singular and pure. It is the Hallelujah that continues to echo, long after the song has ended.

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