The Poem titled “A Kite is a victim” written by Leonard Cohen contains multiple tropes. Through my own analysis I propose that the author’s central focus concerns life. Cohen discusses the relationships and accomplishes that we make throughout our lifetimes. In my opinion, the kite is a metaphor for the essence of life and living. Each of the four stanzas in the poem begins with a trope. In every case the tenor is the kite. These tropes will be analyzed with regard to the central theme of the poem.
The first tenor that I will discuss can be found in the first line of the first stanza. Cohen writes:
“A kite is a victim you are sure of”.
This is personification. Leonard Cohen uses a human quality “victim” to describe an inanimate object. The tenor would be the kits and the vehicle is clearly victim. The first stanza presents the qualities of life and love. The kite is a victim like life is a sacrificial and sometimes inevitably painful. As much as we have happiness we must also experience sadness and hurt. You are sure of it because it is part of everyday. You know that you must experience these hard ships in order to move forward.
Cohen describes it as being tempting because it pulls. Life is interesting because you cannot control it completely. There are ups and downs just like a kite in the wind.
The next tenors that I will identify can be found in the first stanza in the third and fourth lines. Both of these lines provide an example of personification. Much like the initial line of the poem, these lines characterize the kite with human qualities:
“Gentle enough to call you master,
strong enough to call you fool.”
In these examples the tenor is the kite and the entire lines represent the vehicle. A kite cannot be neither gentle, nor strong or call you anything.
These tenors represent the full spectrum of emotions and strength in life. It is as if he is discussing god and the life you have been given. It is gentle enough that you often feel strong and powerful but also strong enough to humble you.
The sixth line of Cohen’s poem is a simile. Leonard makes a direct comparison between a falcon and the kite:
“like a desperate trained falcon.”
In this case the tenor is once again the kite. The vehicle is the “desperate trained falcon”. “A desperate trained falcon” would be a strong bird whose desperation has altered his independence. The kite or one’s livelihood is like a desperate trained falcon in that life involves freedom and great strength but each individual must be trained as they conform to society’s expectations. .
“In the high sweet air,
and you can always haul it down”
It is always yours to control and possess.
In the last trope in the first stanza is located in the ninth line:
“to tame it in your drawer.”
This line represents a metaphor. The tenor is the taming of the falcon and the vehicle is the drawer. In my interpretation I believe that the drawer represents the confines of society. You cannot actually tame a falcon in a drawer but if the author is referring to the falcon as a person’s independence and freedom in life then the drawer represents the natural conformity within society.
“A kite is a fish you have already caught”.
This is a metaphor. Once again he makes an interesting comparison. The kite, being the central subject is the tenor of the trope and the fish already caught is the vehicle. In this case the kite is continuing to represent life. Cohen describes it as being something you already have, something you can never replace. There will never be another one coming along so you must take advantage of the one that you have been given. Cohen continues this stanza with positive advice.
“so you play him carefully and long,
and hope he won’t give up
or wind die down.”
In other words, you live your life to the fullest. You don’t give up. One must be careful and live as long as possible. The twelfth line in this stanza is also a trope. In this particular case, the tenor is the fish and the vehicle is play. This trope is another example of personification: A fish cannot be played. This line emphasizes the importance of living a full and playful or happy life.
The third stanza contains another metaphor. Like every other stanza, Leonard Cohen begins with a metaphor. The tenor is the same as the other tropes: the kite. The vehicle in this line is “the last poem you’ve written.” Life and accomplishments are like the last poem you have written: Your most recent accomplishment in life is likely your most precious. It is difficult to let go of the past until there is something waiting in the horizon. In this stanza life’s accomplishments and the past are described as being very important, sentimental but everyone must move on towards new things.
The beginning of the fourth stanza is the same as the others. It begins with a distinct metaphor that refers to the kite as the tenor. At this point in the poem, Leonard Cohen refers to the kits as a “contract of glory”. The vehicle is that contract of glory. He uses a metaphor to describe life. Life is the contract of glory. It is the desire to live and the push to make accomplishments. It is the law, the natural human push for life. The second line establishes the sanctity of life:
“It must be made with the sun”.
The agreement must be made with a higher power to live and then to die and to participate in the process of life. It is an impermanent situation. But you accept the path of life. People age
“you make friends with the field the river and wind”.
You find friends and accept your surroundings. You accept what you have been provided with, and prepare for your own time.
“You pray the whole cold night before”
The twenty-fourth line refers to the night before you succumb to death. You cleanse yourself of sins through prayer.
Finally, the fourth stanza also contains another example of personification in line 25:
“under the traveling cordless moon.”
In this case the kite is not the tenor. Cohen describes the moon with distinctively human qualities. The moon cannot be cordless and some would also argue that it cannot be traveling. Therefore the vehicle is cordless. This tenor describes the moon, the light in the darkness. It moves forward without any restraints unlike the kite. It is a freeing experience. It is time to let go and move toward death. Finally death and the acceptance of it provides a person with purity. Often with death comes more fame. You die but not without leaving memories and worthiness behind. You become completely pure and important through your legacy.
Leonard Cohen illustrates some incredibly deep and powerful perspectives on life in this poem. He makes clear connections between his metaphors and the overall theme of the poem. Each tenor represents another metaphor that is open to scrutinizing interpretation. The theme of life and living is a powerful one. Cohen has provided effective examples of tenors within the text of a profound poem.