Quebec Studies

The Poetics of Reversal: Nelligan's "Chateaux en Espagne"

Quebec Studies (1989), 8, (1), 57–64.

Abstract

Québec Studies, No. 8, 1989 THE POETICS OF REVERSAL: NELLIGAN'S "CHATEAUX EN ESPAGNE" by Emile ]. Tedbot A repeated feature of Nelligan's poetry consists in the reversal of the opening of a text by its closure. About ten Nelliganian poems, including "Le Vaisseau d'or," "Devant le feu," "Premier remords," "Le Jardin d'antan," "Rui­ nes," "Amour immaculé," "Potiche," and "Chateau rural," employ this structure. In all of these poems, closure is determined by a thematic structure which produces an antithetical relation between opening and ending. In none of his poems is this feature more prominent than in his sonnet, "Chateaux en Espagne," which becomes thereby an exemplar of the reversal poem: Je rêve de marcher comme un conquistador, Haussant mon labarum triomphal de victoire, Plein de fierté farouche et de valeur notoire, \krs des assauts de viL· aux tours de bronze et d'or. Comme un royal oiseau, vautour, aigle ou condor, }e rêve de pianer au divin territoire, De brûler au soleil mes deux ailes de gloire A vouloir dérober le céleste Trésor. Je ne suis hospodar, ni grand oiseau de proie; A peine si je puis dans mon coeur qui guerroie Soutenir le combat des vieux Anges impurs; Et mes rêves altiers fondent comme des cierges Devant cette lükm éternelle aux cent murs, La väk de /'Amour imprenable des Vierges'. (76) Unlike any of Nelligan's other reversal poems, "Chateaux en Espagne" displays a title which has no literal relationship with the body of the poem. Castles are not mentioned in the text, and Spain is evoked only by the word conquistador. Yet, the reader does not look for Spanish castles since his cultural competence permits him to read this title and thereby this text as refering to unrealizable projects. By preceding the text and by being set off spatially from its body, the words of the title gain a supremacy that signifiers within the poem proper cannot achieve. Semes of the unrealizable hover over this text from the

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Author details

Talbot, Emile