In Dress Rehearsal Rag Leonard cohen includes the lines ,“I thought you knew where / all of the elephants lie down.”
Having tried Google the only thing reminiscent of an explanation was something to the effect of “there are myths about elephants going to a secret holy place to die.” Which didn’t seem to me a satisfying answer.
So I turn to the Dopers. Is this a specific reference to a real or mythical phenomenon or is it just a throw-away type line that Cohen thought sounded cool?
If it is an actual reference then details and cites (for my own edification not because I doubt your veracity) would be muchly appreciated.
Oh yes he does! Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of Field Commander Cohen’s most loyal and devoted grunts but every writer has throwaway bits and he is no different.
“Like a worm on a hook / like a knight from some old fashionned book / I’ve saved all my ribbons for thee” Bird on a Wire I’d say that the worm line - as it makes no sense in the context of the rest of the stanza - is a throwaway
I could dig up others but that’s the one that sprang to mind.
I liked the story about Dylan and Cohen. Thanks for that.
I believe that’s from a conversation they had in the eighties when Dylan – as so many others – was impressed by *Halleluja * (1984) and asked him how long it took him to write. (The song actually has about thirty verses, by the way, though he never sings them all.) “Eight years” (?), Cohen answered, which surprised Dylan a lot, himself being a person who never lingers with a song or a sound, it seems.
Cohen, on his part, was found of the recently published (1983) I and I by Dylan, and asked him in return how long it took him to write it. “Fifteen minutes”, he answered, which of course surprised Cohen.
I will give you that the worm / torn connection (if one existed) likely refers to the fish biting the hook and being “torn” I’ll concede that and give you a nod. However…
The structure of the song is not such that the 1st line of one stanza ties into the last line of the next stanza. Nowhere in the song does that happen. Each stanza is essentialy a stand alone. So, while I grant that a worm on a hook could be said to tear a fish the song is not set up in such a way the two stanzas link.
Somewhat of an aside, I don’t believe that the beast with his horn refers anymore to a unicorn than it does to the devil (not at all). It is, I believe, a line that can be taken at face value with no added interpretation being needed or, truly, desirable.
I hope this thread isn’t too stale to be brought up again. (Also, isn’t it more fitting for Café Society?)
Lately, I’ve been finding myself often listening to this song. (I just had a birthday and somehow it’s resonated with me fairly hard.) To me, it’s fairly obvious the song is about an aging has-been actor facing the end both in terms of his career and his life. However, does anybody else have an alternate interpretation?
I always assumed it was about Len himself, getting depressed about life on the road as a touring musician, and afraid his creativity was running out.
An aspect of the Elephants Graveyard myth that has not been mentioned, but that seems relevant, is that if you knew the secret location of the graveyard, you would be able to go there, collect all the ivory, and get rich. The song continues: “I thought you were the crown prince / of all the wheels in Ivory Town.” Thus, it is saying that the protagonist once had the secret of success and riches (although I suspect it is more spiritual, or perhaps sexual, success and riches, rather than just money), but has now lost, or feels himself to be losing, it.
I could see that too even though Cohen was only in his early 30s when he wrote the song. Maybe he was projecting himself 20+ years down the line when he’d be in his 50s and burnt out going from one pissant gig to another (not that it actually turned out that way).
The reason I thought it was more about an aging actor was the title, “Dress Rehearsal Rag.” Dress rehearsal is something you associate more with theater than with someone performing music live.