“I like Isaiah … I love the Psalms” Leonard Cohen On The Inspiration For By the Rivers Dark

I like Isaiah,’ he says, ‘especially the first chapters. I love the Psalms.’ Cohen explains that one of his new songs, ‘By the Rivers Dark,’ was inspired by Psalm 137, the one that begins, ‘By the rivers of Babylon.’ Suddenly, the poet of pleasure is quoting the scriptures of exile: ‘If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right arm forget its cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I set not Jerusalem above my deepest joy.’ But I say the opposite,’ he continues. ‘Be the truth unsaid and the blessings gone, if I forget my Babylon.’



Leonard Cohen


Exile on Main Street by Brett Grainger (Elm Street: Nov 2001). Photo by Trounce – Own work, CC BY 3.0, Wikipedia Commons



The Leonard Cohen Reading List

This is the latest entry to the Leonard Cohen Reading List, a compilation of books commended by the Canadian singer-songwriter.

All entries in the Leonard Cohen Reading List can be found at

The Original Leonard Cohen Reading List


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 July 13, 2016.

Leave a Reply