Most of the Leonard Cohen’s lyrics for Night Magic (see A Brief Introduction To Night Magic By Leonard Cohen & Lewis Furey + Video Clip) are written in Spenserian stanzas.1 He addresses this in the following excerpt:
I’ve always been interested in form, maybe because I don’t trust my own spontaneous nature to come up with anything interesting, and form imposes a certain opportunity to get deeper than your first thought. There’s a school of poetry that believes first thought, best thought. That would have condemned me to an inauspicious superficiality if I had followed that, because I don’t have any ideas. Irving Layton once said to me, ‘Leonard is free from ideas.’ I don’t have an idea and I don’t trust my opinions. I think my opinions are second-rate, but when you submit yourself to a form, then something happens and you’re invited to dig deeper into the language and to discard the slogans by which you live, the easy alibis of language and of opinion. And if you’re looking in the Spenserian stanza, for instance—which is a very, very intricate verse form—you have to come up with many rhymes of the same sound; you’re invited to explore realms that you usually don’t get to in ordinary, easy thought. I’ve considered my thought stream extremely uninteresting, and it’s only when I can discard it that I find I can say something that I can get behind.
From An Interview with Leonard Cohen by Shelagh Rogers (Brick: Summer 2006 – This interview was originally broadcast on Sounds Like Canada in February 2006, produced by Carole Warren.)
I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted Mar 22, 2017.
- The Spenserian stanza is a fixed verse form invented by Edmund Spenser for his epic poem The Faerie Queene (1590–96). Each stanza contains nine lines in total: eight lines in iambic pentameter followed by a single ‘alexandrine’ line in iambic hexameter. The rhyme scheme of these lines is ABABBCBCC. [↩]