The Spice-Box of Earth – Leonard Cohen (1961)


The Spice-Box of Earth has three main themes: love, poetry and Judaism, these topics are spread through out the whole book but we can see in the beginning that poetic concepts prevail, that in the middle are abundant love poems, and that in the end the Jewish tradition is the main concern of the poet. However, it is very difficult to say which of these themes is the most important because they are ‘hopelessly tangled’ (Leonard Cohen, 1961 The Spice-Box of Earth) in almost all of the poems. Besides, we can’t trust in a quantitative analysis because if we consider the number of love poems, we could believe that it is the most influencing theme, when it is important only in a superficial way; and paradoxically, the less recurring theme, Judaism, is the axis of The Spice-Box of Earth. Michel Ondaatje affirms: ‘for Cohen the term religious is later to be stretched to include social, poetic and amorous spheres.’ The fusion of these topics can be seen in the first poem, ‘A kite is a victim’, where a kite is the symbol of everything that we want to be, have or make: our own self, a poem, a lover etc. But, in order to achieve our goal, we have to pray to obtain the wind that will help us fly our kite. So, a kite is a victim because it does not only depend on us but on the wind (destiny, inspiration or faith). … It is necessary to point out that these three topics share one characteristic: all draw man to its essence. Love by transforming two individuals into one being, religion by unifying man with God, and poetry by giving man an opportunity to experience its spirit. But, since Cohen feels trapped in love and religion, he will consider poetry the best way to live and share eternity. So, we will see these topics evolve in a process that tends to be a divinization of poetry and love, and a rupture with the repressive aspects of his Jewish tradition. However, Cohen does not break with his religion but takes it’s deep aim (the reunion of man and the world) to poetry (and sometimes to love). Therefore, poetry assumes a religious goal, to give man the peace and strength he needs to face a dark reality. … With this world vision and without the pillars of love and religion to hang on, Cohen considers poetry the only real light because he thinks that its function is to give man, via an aesthetic revelation, the opportunity to feel his own spirit. …”
Analysis of Leonard Cohen’s The Spice-Box of Earth
W – The Spice-Box of Earth
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