Sunday, September 18, 2005

King David Had it Hard, but Held Fast

On my musical menu today, I'm serving "Halleluia" by Leonard Cohen. It is a beautiful song that has been covered by many, including Jeff Buckley, and K.D. Lang, who performed it at this past year's Juno Musical Awards.

"Halleluia" tells the story of the triumphs and pitfalls of love and power in the imperfect human soul. We are the masters and slaves of our own potential. What do people mean when they say "Halleluia"? This song hints at the truth about glory, and doubts it at the same time. Anyway, it's brilliant, and I think it should be a mandatory reading in English classes.

It also has parallels and allusions to Samson, who was betrayed and conquered by Delilah. To the biblical David, the warrior and servant who slayed Goliath, made his general, Saul, jealous, and ultimately took the throne to rule as Israel's adored king after Saul was killed in battle by the philistines. The song holds him up as an example to view whether his love was humble, steadfast, or honest. David never seemed to doubt that he would be successful, but always trusted God so much that he wrote this proclamation:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
And he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
out of the miry clay;
He set my feet upon a rock
and established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth-
...Blessed is that man
who makes the Lord his trust,
who does not respect the proud
nor such that turn aside to lies
(Psalm 40:1-2, 4)

To me, "Halleluia" sings a different tune that expresses the struggle and anxiety of accepting a plan that you cannot see the result of. Is a man that is trusting usually viewed as blessed or awarded with blessings, or more often than not, are they unmotivated, or an ignorant sheep that is disenfranchised because of his own irresponsibility within our current society? It exposes how painful love can be and how burdensome it is to be glorified. It questions the credibility of joy, when human emotions are called to praise. 'Halleluia' is tainted by various limitations and weaknesses that are built into our perceptual process of learning to love as a human.

I heard there was a secret chord, that David played and it pleased the Lord, but you don't really care for music do you? Well it goes like this the fourth the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift, the baffled King composes Halleluia, Halleluia, Halleluia, Halleluia, Halleluia.
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 her kitchen chair and she broke your throne and she cut your hair, and from your lips she drew the Halleluia....
Baby I've been here before, I've seen this room and I've walked this floor, I used to live alone before I knew you. And remember when I moved in you and the holy dove was moving too, and every breath we drew was Halleluia...
Maybe there is a God above, but all I've ever learned from love, is how to shoot somebody who outdrew you. It's not a cry that you hear at night, it's not someone who's seen the light, it's a cold and it's a broken Halleluia.

There can be a sad understanding that comes from break-ups or sacrifices we make for love. There can also be the sensation of euphoria and onness with the world that's experienced during love's heated phases. You may say "Halleluia" as an appropriate expression for the blessings in your life, yet you say it differently depending on what they are. That's what makes this word so inexplicably beautiful and equivocal. (If you want to use a Baktinian concept, it is "Heteroglossic")

Halleluia, Halleluia, Halleluia, Hallelu -u, ia!


Blogger Lavinia said...

"To me, "Halleluia" sings a different tune that expresses the struggle and anxiety of accepting a plan that you cannot see the result of."

I am so in that headspace right now. Thank you for sharing this song with us, I hadn't come across it before.

Your blog is really brilliant.

9:22 a.m.  

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