Alexandra Leaving is the third song from Leonard Cohen in the music library project and is the seventh song on his 2001 record Ten New Songs. Alexandra Leaving is based on “The God Abandons Antony“, a poem by Constantine P. Cavafy. This is another one of his songs which just gets better the more you listen to it. It’s like drinking from a wellspring and each time you take another sip it becomes more blessed, more enriching for the soul.
In contrast to the intensely direct Aint No Cure For Love, Alexandra Leaving is a quietly understated poetic meandering about the ebbs and flows of romance and divine inspiration. Leonard Cohen beset to his spiritual axiom postulates when something so divine touches us we should not take it for granted nor should we try and grasp for it when it decides it’s leaving.
Even though she sleeps upon your satin
Even though she wakes you with a kiss
Do not say the moment was imagined
Do not stoop to strategies like this
And you who were bewildered by a meaning
Whose code was broken, crucifix uncrossed
Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving
Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost
You can read more about the interpretations of the song at songmeanings.com which includes the following:
This song is based on Constantine Cavafy’s Poem ‘The God Abandons Antony’. The same Antony from ‘Julius Caesar’ and ‘Antony and Cleopatra’. The original poem itself is based on Plutarch’s story that Antony heard a ghostly, musical procession the night before he lost the siege of Alexandria to Octavian. The procession – among other things, signified the desertion of his God protector, Bacchus. The departing procession could thus signify the loss of love, glory, fame, fortune, love….
Leonard Cohen changes Alexandria to Alexandra, making the loss more firmly that of love. The song, in Cohen’s hands, becomes about how to face the loss of a lover and all the accompanying promises and expectations. The warrior’s exhortation to face up to the loss of life on the eve of battle transforms into the lover’s counsel to be strong and accept the loss of a relationship.
– thespianphryne songmeanings.com
Interestingly Ten New Songs is dedicated to Joshu Sasaki (see image above) a Buddhist monk and rōshi (venerable teacher) who Cohen regularly visited at Mount Baldy Zen Center in California. He served him as personal assistant during Cohen’s period of reclusion at Mount Baldy monastery in the 1990s. Leonard Cohen speaks about his life as a Buddhist monk here.