A Rondeau for Leonard Cohen

You chant again the telling charm

You chant again the telling charm

Today, on the anniversary of Leonard Cohen’s death I am reposting the poem I composed for him last year.

King David is the archetypal sacred singer, the psalmist in whom and through whom every passion can be lifted into poetry, and lifted through that poetry to God. His psalms sound Praise and Lament together, the wounds and glories of Eros and the wounds and glories of  Agape. It has often seemed to me that Leonard Cohen was a latter day David, as he too addressed the Lord and said

‘From this broken hill,

all your praises they shall ring

if it be your will

to let me sing.

I composed this poem about his passing in the mediaeval Rondeau form. The Rondeau is also the form used in the poem In Flanders Field and it seems a fitting form for this occasion. As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the play button.

This poem, originally posted on this blog last year, was published in February of this year in The Christian Century.

A Rondeau for Leonard Cohen


Like David’s psalm you named our pain,

And left us. But the songs remain

To search our wounds and bring us balm,

Till every song becomes a psalm,

And your restraint is our refrain;


Between the stained-glass and the stain,

The dark heart and the open vein,

Between the heart-storm and the harm,

Like David’s psalm.


I see you by the windowpane,

Alive within your own domain,

The light is strong, the seas are calm,

You chant again the telling charm,

That names, and naming, heals our pain,

Like David’s psalm.


Filed under Music, Poems

12 responses to “A Rondeau for Leonard Cohen

  1. Thanks Malcolm. I preached on Cohen years ago – https://vimeo.com/53903427 (and it seems we share a publisher along with our love for Leonard)

  2. Deborah Smyth

    This is amazing! Bob and I LOVED it!

    So good to see you in Oxford – all the best,

    Deborah Smyth

    Deborah Smyth Associate Artistic Director Lamb’s Players Theater

    Now Playing! Smoke on the Mountain Oct 6 – Nov 19


  3. Just checking my emails and found your post. At the same time my husband, having just listened on Catch Up to Jeremy Paxman’s appreciation of Leonard Cohen, found his old 1966 album ‘The Songs of Leonard Cohen’ and ‘So long, Marianne’ came wafting down the corridor. Haven’t listened for a long while, and it took us both back. We both find your response to Cohen’s poetry and his passing very moving. Thank you. A little more listening rather than more emails I think. Val Gibbons

  4. Reblogged this on Pastor Michael Moore's Blog and commented:
    Well done, Malcolm!

  5. Helen Glover

    Thank you Malcolm, One of your best poems I think. But then I’ve always loved Leonard, and the poem reflects his ethos and words so well. My husband isn’t keen on Poetry, but he liked this. Thank you again. Do you know that the concert in Montreal, held to celebrate his life on November 6th, features Adam Cohen with the Webb sisters singing So Long Marianne? It may be available on utube?

    Regards, and thank you for all the thoughts and poems you publish.

    Helen Glover

    Sent from my iPad


  6. Thank you, Malcolm! I only recently discovered your poetry through “The Work of the People” and really appreciate your gift.

  7. Pingback: Q Marks The Spot – Treasure Map 112 (December 2017) – Quaerentia

  8. Avid fan of Leonard for many years…beautiful tribute. Hard to believe he is gone still, so alive is his music and poetry. I still cry for the loss.

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