What does Bird on the Wire mean?

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Leonard Cohen: Bird on the Wire Meaning

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Song Released: 1969


Bird on the Wire Lyrics

Like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
Like a worm on a hook,
like a knight from some old fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee.
If I, if I have been unkind,
I hope that you can...

  1. anonymous
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    Jul 12th 2021 report

    Struggling with the deepest dilemmas in the human psyche, commitment, freedom, vulnerability, strength of character, it all comes down to the dichotomy given by the woman in the doorway and the beggar with his crutch, ask for more, you must not ask for so much, but as Cohen often does, he offers a comforting assurance that his ribbons have been saved for you and infidelities were not done to you. After all, he will make it all, up to thee.

  2. anonymous
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    Jun 26th 2019 report

    A person who put his heart and soul in this song who didn’t ask for much.just asked to be loved. It is a beautifully written song!!!

  3. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    May 26th 2015 report

    Leonard Cohen – Bird On The Wire Lyrics

    Like a bird on the wire,
    Like a drunk in a midnight choir
    I have tried in my way to be free.

    Like a worm on a hook,
    Like a knight from some old fashioned book
    I have saved all my ribbons for thee.

    If I, if I have been unkind,
    I hope that you can just let it go by.
    If I, if I have been untrue
    I hope you know it was never to you.

    Like a baby, stillborn,
    Like a beast with his horn
    I have torn everyone who reached out for me.

    But I swear by this song
    And by all that I have done wrong
    I will make it all up to thee.

    I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
    He said to me, "You must not ask for so much."
    And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
    She cried to me, "Hey, why not ask for more?"

    Oh like a bird on the wire, etc.


    LC here is describing the human condition.
    We all have felt the vulnerability of the bird on a wire,
    the drunken expression of singing out our joy and sorrow, our eternal pursuit and sometimes vain striving to be free.

    Then he describes how one is when one is in love. A worm on a hook, wanting to give everything he has to the beloved.However, he lacks the ability to love fully, and always ends up hurting those he loves, so he spend the rest of the song apologizing and promising to do better.

    In the last verse, he describes the difficulty of figuring out right from wrong for oneself with all the shades of gray in between.

    Songwriters: COHEN, LEONARD


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