Ballad of the Runaway Horse: Jennifer Warnes Sings Leonard Cohen

I had several other ideas for this week, based on music I’d been listening to this week, and the sort of mood I’m in. I had chosen another song from Famous Blue Raincoat, Night Comes On, but I needed to transcribe Leonard Cohen’s lyrics to match Jennifer Warnes’ haunting rendition. Next week, perhaps.

So, it’s another song from the Famous Blue Raincoat, 20th Anniversary Album: “Ballad of the Runaway Horse”. Interesting lyrics by Cohen; love the way Jennifer sings it. Compare it to Emmy-Lou Harris’ version.

It’s really almost like a spoken poem, rather than a song. But Cohen is a poet, and this is so evident in his lyric.

I’ve included two YouTube Versions. The first, from the 20th Anniversary of Famous Blue Raincoat, has some glitches. The second is from an album by Rob Wasserman, Duets (1989). I wasn’t aware of this album/version until the YouTube search.

Say a prayer for the cowgirl her horse ran away She’ll walk till she finds him her darlin’ her 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 nothin’ to follow nowhere to go He’s gone like the summer gone like the snow And the crickets are breaking her heart with their song As the day caves in and the night is all wrong.
Did she dream it was he who went galloping past And bent down the fern broke open the grass And printed the mud with the well hammered shoe That she nailed to his speed in the dreams of her youth.
And although he goes grazin’ a minute away She tracks him all night she tracks him all day And she’s behind to his presence except to compare Her injury here with his punishment there.
Then at home on a branch on a high stream A songbird sings out so suddenly And the sun is warm and the soft winds ride On a willow tree by the riverside.
Ah, the world is sweet and the world is wide He’s there where the light and the darkness divide And the steam’s comin’ off him he’s huge and he’s shy And he steps on the moon when he paws at the sky.
And he comes to her hand but he’s not really tame He longs to be lost she longs for the same And he’ll bolt and he’ll plunge through the first open pass To roll and to feed in the sweet mountain grass.
Or he’ll make a break for the high plateau Where there’s nothing above and nothing below It’s time for their burden the whip and the spur Well she ride with him or will he ride with her.
So she binds herself to her galloping steed And he binds himself to the woman in need And there is no space just left and right And there is no time but there is day and night.
Then she leans on his neck and whispers low Whither thou goest I will go And they turn as one and the head for the plain No need for the whip oh 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 it’s him some say it’s her Some say love’s like smoke beyond all repair.
So my darlin’, my darlin’ just let it go by That old silhouette on the great western sky And I’ll pick out a tune and they’ll move right along And they’re gone like smoke and they’re gone like this song.
Say a prayer for the cowgirl…

Song Lyrics Sunday, Helen @ This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time


4 thoughts on “Ballad of the Runaway Horse: Jennifer Warnes Sings Leonard Cohen

    • taleweavering January 18, 2016 / 1:32 pm

      Yes! I now have the remastered version on my computer. Still sounds so good.


  1. Helen Espinosa January 18, 2016 / 10:54 am

    I love songs that are more poetry than just words to music. The lyrics are lovely. Thank you for sharing! :)


    • taleweavering January 18, 2016 / 1:33 pm

      You’re so welcome. It’s been fun listening to others’ music, and rediscovering my music — what holds and what doesn’t.

      Liked by 1 person

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