Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
laquelle nous mîmes un écusson en bosse, à trois fleurs de lys, et au-dessus
un écriteau en bois, gravé en grosses lettres de forme, où il y avait VIVE LE
ROI DE FRANCE. Et nous plantâmes cette croix sur ladite pointe devant
eux, qui regardèrent la faire et la planter.' [147; We had a cross made thirty
feet high, which was assembled in the presence of a number of them [the
natural inhabitants], at the point of entry to this harbour, under the cross
bar of which we put a shield with three fleurs-de-lis in relief, and above it a
wooden board, engraved in large Gothic letters, was written LONG LIVE
THE KING OF FRANCE. And we planted this cross on that point in front of
them, and they watched it being made and planted.]
Here European 'culture,' in the form of the cross, a religious symbol,
itself enhanced by a French political symbol ('trois fleurs de lys') and
linguistic symbols (the written language in capital letters), is 'im-
planted' on 'nature' and in full view of the natural inhabitants ('devant
... eux'), as Cartier states twice, as if to rub it in. In Cartier's recounting
of the objections of the native 'capitaine' (148), Donnacona, who by
signs 'nous montrait la terre, tout autour de nous, comme s'il eût voulu
dire que toute la terre était à lui, et que nous ne devions pas planter la-
dite croix sans sa permission' (148; showed us the land, all around us, as
if he wanted to say that all the land was his, and that we should not have
planted that cross without his permission), we clearly detect a funda-
mental difference in the conception of the landscape: Cartier was fo-
cused on a specific place ('pointe') defined by cultural icons, Donnacona
was concerned with the vast surrounding space of nature ('toute la
terre'). Cartier managed, nonetheless, to impose his European vision
and to appease the chief by giving him a metal hatchet and taking two
of his sons to Europe.
Ever resourceful and always persistent, Cartier has also become an
adept reader of 'signs,' both natural and human (in his description of his
first encounter with natives, for example, the word 'signes' appears eight
times in three pages, 139-41), a prerequisite on this new continent. The
Europeans are anxious to understand the unfamiliar environment, but
verbal communication with the natives is impossible until Donnacona's
two sons return on the second voyage and serve as interpreters. Even
then, the deciphering of pictorial and natural signs remains a necessity
in the New World and a key to understanding its future writing and
painting (see Perron, 16).
Now that the cross, the ultimate symbol of Christian culture, has
been 'planted' on the North American landscape, Cartier expresses to
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