...this waltz, this waltz
with its very own breath
of brandy and death,
dragging its tail in the sea.
"Take This Waltz" is the dreamlike fifth song on Leonard Cohen's 1988 album I'm Your Man. Filled with evocative imagery and deft wordplay, the song's lyrics were adapted from "Pequeño vals vienés" (Little Viennese Waltz), a poem by Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. Cohen so admired Lorca that he named his daughter Lorca Cohen.
Federico García Lorca was an influential avant-garde poet, killed in 1936 by Nationalists at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Irish punk band The Pogues retold the story of his murder in the song "Lorca's Novena," and British punk pioneers The Clash also mentioned his death in their song "Spanish Bombs." Recently, the Spanish Government re-opened an investigation into crimes against humanity relating to Nationalist violence during the Spanish Civil war, including Lorca's abuction and murder.
Prior to the release of I'm Your Man, "Take This Waltz" reached #1 on the Spanish charts, as a single off the 1986 Federico García Lorca tribute album Poets in New York. Coming full circle, the song would later be covered by spanish singer Enrique Morente, who used the original words to "Pequeño vals vienés," in his 1996 version.
You can compare the lyrics to "Take This Waltz" and the English translation of "Little Viennese Waltz," side-by-side. Some may prefer a more academic take on the musical significance of "Take This Waltz." Or you can read Cohen's thoughts on "Take This Waltz," in his own words.
Of course, you can just listen to the song online:
Take This Waltz - Leonard Cohen