A playlist of Leonard Cohen’s songs to help you make sense of the world

I’ve seen the nations rise and fall / I’ve heard their stories, heard them all.
I’ve seen the nations rise and fall / I’ve heard their stories, heard them all.
Image: Reuters/Eloy Alonso
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The world can be cruel, and few people could express this more eloquently than Leonard Cohen.

On Nov. 7, the Canadian poet, singer, songwriter, and author passed away at the age of 82. His words have helped many through dark times in their lives, and his wryly macabre sentiment has been a comforting solace for others. After a year of the world being sent further and further into that inky abyss, never have we more needed creative voices such as Cohen’s than we do right now.

Much of Cohen’s music can make you feel as if the world is crumbling in around you, suffocating you with an absolute yet gentle embrace. But as there’s enough of that sentiment floating around this week as it is, we’ve instead put together a rare collection of his hopeful lyrics. It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth.

UPDATE: Thank you to my fellow Cohen devotees for digging up more positive affirmations from the ”godfather of gloom.” If you tweet me your suggestions to @georgiafrancesk, I’ll add them here over the course of the day so that we can collate a collection of hopeful, uplifting lyrics from Leonard.

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There’s a crack in everything—
that’s how the light gets in.

“Dance Me To The End of Love”

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin.
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in.
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove.
Dance me to the end of love.

“The Future”
I’ve seen the nations rise and fall,
I’ve heard their stories, heard them all.
But love’s the only engine of survival.
Your servant here, he has been told
to say it clear, to say it cold:
It’s over, it ain’t going
any further.

“Closing Time”
And I loved you when our love was blessed.
And I love you now there’s nothing left
but sorrow and a sense of overtime.
And I missed you since the place got wrecked.
And I just don’t care what happens next—
looks like freedom but it feels like death.
It’s something in between. I guess
it’s closing time.

Now, Suzanne takes your hand and she leads you to the river.
She’s wearing rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters.
And the sun pours down like honey on our lady of the harbor.
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 wil lean that way forever
while Suzanne holds her mirror.

“Sisters of Mercy”
Yes, you who must leave everything that you cannot control.
It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.
Well, I’ve been where you’re hanging, I think I can see how you’re pinned.
When you’re not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you’ve sinned.

“Joan of Arc”
‘Then fire, make your body cold.
I’m going to give you mine to hold.
Saying this she climbed inside
to be his one, to be his only bride.

You who wish to conquer pain,
you must learn what makes me kind;
the crumbs of love that you offer me,
they’re the crumbs I’ve left behind.

“Chelsea Hotel #2”
And clenching your fist for the ones like us
who are oppressed by the figures of beauty.
You fixed yourself, you said, “Well never mind,
We are ugly, but we have the music.”

“Recitation / A Thousand Kisses Deep”
The ponies run, the girls are young,
the odds are there to beat.
You win a while and then it’s done,
your little winning streak.
And summoned now to deal
with your invincible defeat,
you live your life as if it’s real,
a thousand kisses deep.

“I Tried to Leave You”
Goodnight, my darling, I hope you’re satisfied.
The bed is kind of narrow, but my arms are open wide.

Correction: owing to an autocorrect error, an earlier version of this story described Leonard Cohen as the “grandmother” of gloom instead of the “godfather”. We regret the confusion.