The lyrics for Leonard Cohen's song "Take this Waltz" are based on the poem Pequeno vals vienes ("Little Viennese Waltz") by Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. Cohen was influenced by Lorca, who was a major influence on his life and career. In fact, he named his daughter after Lorca and often references him in interviews and concerts.
Lorca's evocative, anti-establishment message resonates with Cohen's own. And though this song is about love, it is not afraid to depict Vienna through many different prisms.
A Viennese waltz is the first thing to come to mind when you hear this song, and it's easy to imagine the city with its Baroque splendour, grand palaces, chandelier-lit coffee houses, 900 windows and street hawkers selling tickets for the opera. The imagery is a mixture of the romantic, the haunting and the melancholic.
In addition to the main lyrics, there are several secondary themes that add a layer of depth and meaning to the song. These include hallways without love, children's laughter in an attic and Hungarian lanterns in the mist.
The narrator uses a metaphor of a 'clamp on its jaws' to represent the way love is rooted in us so deeply that we can't let go even when it hurts, and the images of hallways and Hungarian lanterns help evoke more of the pain and scars left behind from intense love.
The song is a great example of how lyrical imagery can have a strong and powerful effect on a song. In fact, the narrator uses numerous vivid and illogical images throughout the song to convey his thoughts and feelings. These images are accompanied by music that is light, airy and enticing.