Stranger Song – Unraveling the Enigmatic Poetry of Human Connection


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Leonard Cohen's Stranger Song at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. Dealers of Fortune: The Quest for Transcendence
  5. The Wistful Train of Thought: Escapism in Cohen’s Lyrics
  6. The Lovers’ Mirage: Intimacy Unveiled
  7. The Unseen Depths: The Hidden Meaning in Plain Sight
  8. Memorable Lines That Echo Through Generations

Lyrics

It’s true that all the men you knew were dealers
Who said they were through with dealing
Every time you gave them shelter
I know that kind of man, it’s hard to hold the hand of anyone
Who is reaching for the sky just to surrender
Who is reaching for the sky just to surrender

And then sweeping up the jokers that he left behind
You find he did not leave you very much, not even laughter
Like any dealer he was watching for the card that is so high and wild
He’ll never need to deal another
He was just some Joseph looking for a manger
He was just some Joseph looking for a manger

And then leaning on your window sill
He’ll say one day you caused his will
To weaken with your love and warmth and shelter
And then taking from his wallet
An old schedule of trains, he’ll say
I told you when I came I was a stranger

But now another stranger seems
To want you to ignore his dreams
As though they were the burden of some other
Oh, you’ve seen that man before
His golden arm dispatching cards
But now it’s rusted from the elbows to the finger
And he wants to trade the game he plays for shelter
Yes, he wants to trade the game he knows for shelter

Ah, you hate to see another tired man
Lay down his hand like he was giving up the holy game of poker
And while he talks his dreams to sleep you notice there’s a highway
That is curling up like smoke above his shoulder
It’s curling just like smoke above his shoulder

You tell him to come in sit down
But something makes you turn around
The door is open you can’t close your shelter
You try the handle of the road, it opens, do not be afraid
It’s you my love, you who are the stranger
It is you my love, you who are the stranger

Well, I’ve been waiting, I was sure
We’d meet between the trains we’re waiting for
I think it’s time to board another
Please understand, I never had a secret chart
To get me to the heart of this or any other matter
Well, he talks like this you don’t know what he’s after
When he speaks like this you don’t know what he’s after

Let’s meet tomorrow if you choose
Upon the shore, beneath the bridge
That they are building on some endless river
Then he leaves the platform for the sleeping car that’s warm
You realize, he’s only advertising one more shelter
And it comes to you, he never was a stranger
And you say okay, the bridge or someplace later

And then sweeping up the jokers that he left behind
You find he did not leave you very much, not even laughter
Like any dealer he was watching for the card that is so high and wild
He’ll never need to deal another
He was just some Joseph looking for a manger
He was just some Joseph looking for a manger

And leaning on your window sill
He’ll say one day you caused his will
To weaken with your love and warmth and shelter
And then taking from his wallet
An old schedule of trains, he’ll say
I told you when I came I was a stranger
I told you when I came I was a stranger
I told you when I came I was a stranger
I told you when I came I was a stranger

Full Lyrics

The haunting melody and evocative lyrics of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Stranger Song’ remain as enigmatic and affecting today as they were upon their release. Beneath the track’s folky guitar and somber vocal delivery lies a complex exploration of human relationships, loneliness, and the elusive search for meaning in a transient world.

The song acts as a vessel, carrying listeners through the vicissitudes of intimacy and detachment, serving stories of love sought and lost, and the burdens and freedoms of the inner lives we all harbor. Diving into Cohen’s lyrical treasure trove, we find that ‘Stranger Song’ is much more than a simple ballad—it’s a philosophical meditation on the human condition.

Dealers of Fortune: The Quest for Transcendence

Cohen’s lyricism regularly summons figures of wanderers, and in ‘Stranger Song,’ these are the ‘dealers’—metaphorically speaking to the transient players in our lives. They deal hands of fate and gamble on dreams, ever ‘reaching for the sky just to surrender.’ It’s a profound nod to the cycle of yearning and resignation that characterizes the human experience; a contention that we’re all seeking something grander only to accept our humbler lot.

In doing so, Cohen touches upon a universal truth: our shared desire to transcend the mortal coil, countered by our inevitable falling back to earth. The dealers leave, not with a triumphant exodus, but with a silent retreat, highlighting the anticlimactic nature of most goodbyes in life.

The Wistful Train of Thought: Escapism in Cohen’s Lyrics

The recurring motif of trains in ‘Stranger Song’ serves as a symbol of escapism. It is a representation of travel and change, of melancholic journeys, and the hope of new destinations. When the song’s subject speaks of schedules and trains, there’s the sense of temporal flux—a metaphor for the way we move through life’s emotional landscapes, perhaps too often as passengers rather than drivers.

Cohen imparts to us that our shared journeys are laced with escapes, from others and from ourselves. There is a certain allure to the unknown destinations of our lives, promising new directions, yet these too can become repetitive and predictable, like the timetables governing the steel tracks of our existence.

The Lovers’ Mirage: Intimacy Unveiled

Throughout the song, Cohen sketches a complex picture of intimacy, marked by both its depth and impermanence. Relationships come across as simultaneously profound and fleeting, a temporal shelter against the vastness of a stranger-filled world. The juxtaposition of the love and warmth offered by a partner against the inevitable role as ‘the stranger’ underscores the transient nature of connection.

It’s a haunting reminder that what brings us comfort often comes with an expiration date. ‘Stranger Song’ thus becomes a narrative of relationships in which the very act of ‘sweeping up the jokers’ left behind insinuates a recurring pattern of meeting, connecting, and ultimately parting ways with lovers who only offer ephemeral solace.

The Unseen Depths: The Hidden Meaning in Plain Sight

Cohen, ever the poet, weaves a tapestry rich in allegory and double entendre. ‘He was just some Joseph looking for a manger’ sings Cohen, evoking religious imagery to highlight a yearning for purpose or a place in this world. The search for a manger—suggestive of sanctuary and beginning—sits uneasily against the acumen of a card dealer, master of his game yet ever a stranger.

In this complex character, Cohen embodies the internal conflicts we all face: the craving for belonging and the simultaneous ferocity for independence. ‘Stranger Song’ is a mirror, reflecting not only a lover’s narrative but the inherent contradiction of seeking connection in a reality where individualism reigns supreme.

Memorable Lines That Echo Through Generations

The poignancy of ‘Stranger Song’ radiates from its lyrics which linger long after the music fades. Lines like ‘It’s you my love, you who are the stranger,’ reverberate with the startling recognition of alienation. Not from the world, not from the other, but from ourselves. It’s a chilling confession that the strangeness we often attribute to the world around us is also a reflection from within.

This striking lyrical moment captures the essence of what Cohen relentlessly mapped out through his career: the nuanced interplay between internal landscapes and external interactions. What becomes clear is that ‘Stranger Song’ is not just a narrative about elusive card players and train schedules—it’s about the very heart of human existence.

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