Leonard Cohen's

Ballad of the Absent Mare

©Leonard Cohen, released on Recent Songs (1979)


Say a prayer for the cowboy

His mare's run away

And he'll walk til he finds her

His darling, his stray

but the river's in flood

and the roads are awash

and the bridges break up

in the panic of loss.


And there's nothing to follow

There's nowhere to go

She's gone like the summer

gone like the snow

And the crickets are breaking

his heart with their song

as the day caves in

and the night is all wrong


Did he dream, was it she

who went galloping past

and bent down the fern

broke open the grass

and printed the mud with

the iron and the gold

that he nailed to her feet

when he was the lord


And although she goes grazing

a minute away

he tracks her all night

he tracks her all day

Oh blind to her presence

except to compare

his injury here

with her punishment there


Then at home on a branch

in the highest tree

a songbird sings out

so suddenly

Ah the sun is warm

and the soft winds ride

on the willow trees

by the river side


Oh the world is sweet

the world is wide

and she's there where

the light and the darkness divide

and the steam's coming off her

she's huge and she's shy

and she steps on the moon

when she paws at the sky


And she comes to his hand

but she's not really tame

She longs to be lost

he longs for the same

and she'll bolt and she'll plunge

through the first open pass

to roll and to feed

in the sweet mountain grass


Or she'll make a break

for the high plateau

where there's nothing above

and there's nothing below

and it's time for the burden

it's time for the whip

Will she walk through the flame

Can he shoot from the hip


So he binds himself

to the galloping mare

and she binds herself

to the rider there

and there is no space

but there's left and right

and there is no time

but there's day and night


And he leans on her neck

and he whispers low

"Whither thou goest

I will go"

And they turn as one

and they head for the plain

No need for the whip

Ah, no need for the rein


Now the clasp of this union

who fastens it tight?

Who snaps it asunder

the very next night

Some say the rider

Some say the mare

Or that love's like the smoke

beyond all repair


But my darling says

"Leonard, just let it go by

That old silhouette

on the great western sky"

So I pick out a tune

and they move right along

and they're gone like the smoke

and they're gone like this song