Leonard Cohen's

The Captain

©Leonard Cohen, released on Various Positions (1984)


Now the Captain called me to his bed

He fumbled for my hand

"Take these silver bars," he said

"I'm giving you command."

"Command of what, there's no one here

There's only you and me --

All the rest are dead or in retreat

Or with the enemy."


"Complain, complain, that's all you've done

Ever since we lost

If it's not the Crucifixion

Then it's the Holocaust."

"May Christ have mercy on your soul

For making such a joke

Amid these hearts that burn like coal

And the flesh that rose like smoke."


"I know that you have suffered, lad,

But suffer this awhile:

Whatever makes a soldier sad

Will make a killer smile."

"I'm leaving, Captain, I must go

There's blood upon your hand

But tell me, Captain, if you know

Of a decent place to stand."


"There is no decent place to stand

In a massacre;

But if a woman take your hand

Go and stand with her."

"I left a wife in Tennessee

And a baby in Saigon --

I risked my life, but not to hear

Some country-western song."


"Ah but if you cannot raise your love

To a very high degree,

Then you're just the man I've been thinking of --

So come and stand with me."

"Your standing days are done," I cried,

"You'll rally me no more.

I don't even know what side

We fought on, or what for."


"I'm on the side that's always lost

Against the side of Heaven

I'm on the side of Snake-eyes tossed

Against the side of Seven.

And I've read the Bill of Human Rights

And some of it was true

But there wasn't any burden left

So I'm laying it on you."


Now the Captain he was dying

But the Captain wasn't hurt

The silver bars were in my hand

I pinned them to my shirt.