Please Don’t Pass Me By (A Disgrace)

J.L. Wall

J.L. Wall is a native Kentuckian in self-imposed exile to the Midwest, where he teaches writing to college students and over-analyzes Leonard Cohen lyrics.

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5 Responses

  1. Jonathan says:

    I find Cohen pretty hit and miss, but this is a solid song, and quite appropriate. Thanks for sharing it.

    (By the way, a friend put a Cohen poem to music,  with legal permission from Cohen. It might interest a Cohen fan.)Report

  2. Jason Kuznicki says:

    I’m a heartless bastard.  So here goes.

    One almost never becomes homeless unless one has the type of problem that spare change ain’t gonna solve.

    Okay, sure, you’ve all got your anecdotes about homeless people without such problems.  I’ll grant them all as being perfectly true.  And still.  The way to help isn’t to give spare change.  If they are the true exceptions — if they are homeless and without that kind of really serious problem — then they are also the best-positioned by far to avail themselves of the charity offered to the homeless.Report

  3. BlaiseP says:

    How much can anyone know about why a songwriter writes his songs?   Leonard Cohen seems to have wrestled with depression all his life.   Auden said of Yeats:  mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.

    From the same poem:

    Intellectual disgrace
    Stares from every human face,
    And the seas of pity lie
    Locked and frozen in each eye.

    Follow, poet, follow right
    To the bottom of the night,
    With your unconstraining voice
    Still persuade us to rejoice;

    With the farming of a verse
    Make a vineyard of the curse,
    Sing of human unsuccess
    In a rapture of distress;

    We curse ourselves for our faithlessness, our lack of courage, our unwillingness to stand up for what’s right.   It seems to resolve to our inability to see ourselves as what Christ called shining lights in the darkness, a light the darkness can never understand.

    I was molested as a child.   When I took it to the authority figures at the boarding school, I was not believed.   I have come to believe they didn’t want to believe it, that punishing my rapist would bring the entire school into disrepute.   The fearful, faithless observers who wouldn’t take this matter to the cops, preferring to send it up the food chain, they knew what would happen if this incident got out and chose to suppress it, hoping it would simply go away and it did, for many years.

    It’s easy for me to see why Leonard Cohen stopped singing this song.   At first glance it seems sorta preachy and mawkish.   It’s anything but.   It’s an explicit statement that we shall all say “Please Don’t Pass Me By” at some time.   Naked and crying and helpless we enter the world and we usually leave it the same way.    We warehouse our old people and little children, the insane and the criminals.   To exist is to suffer.Report