Leonard Cohen's

The Traitor

©Leonard Cohen, released on Recent Songs (1979)


Now the Swan it floated on the English river

Ah the Rose of High Romance it opened wide

A sun tanned woman yearned me through the summer

and the judges watched us from the other side


I told my mother "Mother I must leave you

preserve my room but do not shed a tear

Should rumour of a shabby ending reach you

it was half my fault and half the atmosphere"


But the Rose I sickened with a scarlet fever

and the Swan I tempted with a sense of shame

She said at last I was her finest lover

and if she withered I would be to blame


The judges said you missed it by a fraction

rise up and brace your troops for the attack

Ah the dreamers ride against the men of action

Oh see the men of action falling back


But I lingered on her thighs a fatal moment

I kissed her lips as though I thirsted still

My falsity had stung me like a hornet

The poison sank and it paralysed my will


I could not move to warn all the younger soldiers

that they had been deserted from above

So on battlefields from here to Barcelona

I'm listed with the enemies of love


And long ago she said "I must be leaving,

Ah but keep my body here to lie upon

You can move it up and down and when I'm sleeping

Run some wire through that Rose and wind the Swan"


So daily I renew my idle duty

I touch her here and there -- I know my place

I kiss her open mouth and I praise her beauty

and people call me traitor to my face