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Unacknowledged LegislatorsThe Poet as Lawgiver in Post-Revolutionary France$
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Roger Pearson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198754473

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198754473.001.0001

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Words of Honour

Words of Honour

‘Les Destinées: Poèmes philosophiques’ (1838–1864)

Chapter:
(p.549) 22 Words of Honour
Source:
Unacknowledged Legislators
Author(s):

Roger Pearson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198754473.003.0023

Following discussion of Vigny’s comparison of the poet and the soldier in Servitude et grandeur militaires (1835), with particular regard to the concept of honour, this chapter examines Les Destinées, published posthumously. Vigny envisaged these poems as ‘words of honour’ derived from a lifetime’s experience and gifted to future generations by the poet-lawgiver as a precious legacy. The chapter considers the structure of the collection and its presentation of three different conceptions of destiny and its laws. It shows how particular images (the diamond, crystal, and pearl, the bottle and logbook) testify to Vigny’s new emphasis on poetic form as a vehicle for thought: clarity, durability, and memorability matter if knowledge is to be distilled and bequeathed as the elixir of poetry. The chapter ends by analysing Vigny’s contrasting use of terza rima and the seven-line stanza in the light of his comparison of the poet to a stonemason.

Keywords:   Vigny, honour, Servitude et grandeur militaires, Les Destinées, destiny, diamond, pearl, elixir, poetic form, esprit pur

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