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I understand that some of Cohen's songs have religious context, so when I heard the lyrics of this song that stated, "You strike my side by accident," I thought it could be symbolism of Jesus being stabbed in his side on the cross. Does Cohen have a specific speaker for this song, or is it left to individual interpretation? If there is no specific speaker, what are some speakers that make sense with the symbolism in the song?

A significant piece of the lyrics:

Well I stepped into an avalanche
It covered up my soul;
When I am not this hunchback that you see
I sleep beneath the golden hill
You who wish to conquer pain
You must learn, learn to serve me well

You strike my side by accident
As you go down for your gold
The cripple here that you clothe and feed
Is neither starved nor cold;
He does not ask for your company
Not at the centre, the centre of the world

  • 2
    This is a great question. Welcome to the site. We hope you stick around. – user111 May 7 '17 at 21:44
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I'll try tackle this one, though I should preface that Cohen's lyrics are often impressionistic, combining different motifs without one specific meaning. For example, "Hallelujah" - perhaps his most famous song - combines different Biblical stories (David, Samson) freely, not being easily mapped to one single character.

This song combines different motifs, too. Your interpretation of "you strike my side by accident" could well be correct. This song appears to be partly in the voice of the soul entering the world (the "Avalanche"), partly in the voice of the Deity, and partly in the voice of a scorned lover.

Here is a good thread discussing these and other aspects of the song, such as Gnosticism. Here is some more from Quora. This is an academic paper discussing, inter alia, Cohen's original poem that this song was based on. (I've tried to summarise these sources in this answer, but they are worth reading for further depth.)

  • I have not run across the academic paper yet, so I will check that out. Thank you! – Kristina L May 8 '17 at 13:41

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