QuÃ©bec 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," "RuiÂ
nes," "Amour immaculÃ©," "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 rÃªve de marcher comme un conquistador,
Haussant mon labarum triomphal de victoire,
Plein de fiertÃ© farouche et de valeur notoire,
\krs des assauts de viLÂ· aux tours de bronze et d'or.
Comme un royal oiseau, vautour, aigle ou condor,
}e rÃªve de pianer au divin territoire,
De brÃ»ler au soleil mes deux ailes de gloire
A vouloir dÃ©rober le cÃ©leste TrÃ©sor.
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 rÃªves altiers fondent comme des cierges
Devant cette lÃ¼km Ã©ternelle aux cent murs,
La vÃ¤k 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