Anthem

Leonard Cohen

Ring the bells that still can ring

For a fairly introspective 17 year old the music of Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) drew me with a fascination bordering on obsession; I can still remember sitting alone in my bedroom listening to ‘Bird on a Wire’ on repeat. The phase soon passed, and I only recently came to appreciate the depths of this song ‘Anthem’, from Cohen’s 1992 album ‘The Future’. 

‘The Future’ contains references to traumatic historical events, including Hiroshima and the Second World War. The massacre of students in Tiananmen Square and the fall of the Berlin wall both happened in 1989; it was a time of massive upheaval and uncertainty in the world. 

Listening again in late 2019 you have to ask, has much has changed? Just thinking about our own country (quite apart from the rest of the world!) Britain is facing a bewildering parliamentary election, Brexit is unresolved, the country has more Foodbanks than McDonalds….. there surely still is ‘a crack, a crack, in everything’, but Cohen leaves us with a note of hope, ‘that’s how the light gets in’. We need the light, in our national and our personal lives, as never before. 

Currently it is Advent, traditionally the time for preparing for the coming of Christ. For me this song provides a kind of transcendence, bringing hope into the apparent hopelessness of our world. The parallels are obvious I hope. 

© Dorne Watson

The true light that shines on everyone was coming into the world. The Word was in the world, but no one knew him, though God had made the world with his Word.

John 1.9-10