Travel Reference
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and coincidence of verse and syntax, propel, even compel, the narrator,
the poet also alludes to and explains the principles of his versification,
and once he has learned the vocabulary of the river and the syntax of its
banks ('la phrase'), it is he, the poet, who reinvents and renews the
landscape for the future ('j'invente un paysage pour chaque âge'; I in-
vent a landscape for each age), invention underscored by interior rhyme
('-age … âge'). By transcending the past to form the future ('J'éclaire
mon passé j'affirme l'avenir'; I illuminate my past I affirm my future)
the poet constructs a modern, multiple identity ('Multiple et nouveau
parmi le soleil'; Multiple and new under the sun) through his language,
reinvigorated by the river: 'Je descends sur la langue chaude et verte du
fleuve' (I descend on the river's warm, green language). For Lapointe,
the poet's struggle for identity is more than just an emblem and thus a
model for others, it must be forged by a direct link with humanity: 'Ma
maison fait face à tous les pays / Et toutes mes tables seront complètes
/Je vous nomme et je vous invite' (72; My house turns towards all
countries / And all my tables will be full / I name you and I invite you).
The use of the home, not as a personal refuge, but as a hosting place, not
just for one nation but for those of all countries, has a multinational
flavour that begins to emerge in the art of Quebe c 30 and will find per-
haps its full expression in Gilles Vigneault's 'Mon pays' (chapter ten).
The following verses suggest, however, that before reaching out to
humanity on an international scope, the French Canadian must find
and affirm himself on a national plane, and the imagery reattains geo-
graphic specificity: 'Ô mes amis de neige et de grand vent / … Nous
existons dans un geste instinctif / Naîtrons-nous dans une parole' (73;
Oh my friends of snow and high winds / … We exist by instinctive ges-
ture/Will we be born in language). In fact, what has formerly been
feeling ('instinctif') must be understood and articulated to achieve re-
birth ('naîtrons'), and it is precisely the role of the poet ('dans une pa-
role') to construct the national identity in order to accomplish that
rebirth. The fourth canto, the longest so far, begins by defining the po-
et's role in rebirth: 'D'abord je te baptiserai dans l'eau du fleuve / Et je
te donne un nom d'arbre très clair' (75; First I will baptize you in the
river's water / And I give you a very clear name like a tree's). The poet
not only cleanses the land in the waters of the river, he seeks to name it,
to define its identity while remaining faithful to its roots ('un nom
d'arbre'). It is precisely the question of identity, of finding a name, that
launches the poet on a furious quest, sustained by hope but beset by
doubt and the confusion of all beginnings: 'J'ai toute la confusion d'un
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