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Seeing Things: literature and the visual

Peter Vernon

Framing Charles Peguy: Visualization in Geoffrey Hill’s The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Peguy

Jennifer Kilgore

Texte intégral

1In his Mellon Lectures on Poetry and Painting (1992), published in On The Laws of The Poetic Art, Anthony Hecht suggests that the frame:

may constitute one of the most challenging parts of the painter’s achievement, since nothing in our visual experience is framed; and yet a good painting persuades us that everything relevant is contained within the borders of the painting itself, and whatever remains outside is either more of the same or is trivial by comparison. (Hecht, 1995)

  • 1 Jean-Paul Lucet’s adaptation of Péguy’s text was translated by Jeffrey Wainwright

2Geoffrey Hill’s ten-part, 100 quatrain long poem The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy (1983) provides a frame for Péguy in its title, which alludes to Péguy’s poetic creation, “Le Mystère de la charité de Jeanne d’Arc” (1910).1 From the very first contact with the text, the reader’s recognition is expected. The poem presents the interaction of carefully chosen visual images in an effort to contain the subject, providing as Hecht put it: “everything relevant”.

  • 2 Romain Rolland’s Péguy (1944) also mentions the assassination of Jaurès in the opening chapter.

3The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy addresses the problems of interpretation which concern Charles Péguy and have cast doubt on his reputation. As Alain Finkielkraut aptly described in Le Mécontemporain, no body of literary work has been subjected to as many misinterpretations as Péguy’s (1991, 15ff). Just two years before The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy was published, Henri Guillemin’s book Charles Péguy (1981) took a negative view of Péguy, finding him to be filled with anger, and motivated only by self-interest. Péguy was framed, so to speak, by Guillemin, and by Hans Schmidt before him, and Hill’s poem objects by taking those accusations seriously (Schmidt, 1967). It begins with Jaurès assassinated at the Café du Croissant on July 31, 1914, as a kind of rejoinder to Guillemin’s suggestion that nothing can shed more light on Péguy than a study of hisrelationship with Jaurès. (Guillemin, 1981, 63).2 The poem asks, “Must men stand by what they write?” but there is still a difference between pulling a gun’s trigger and writing, as Péguy had done a year earlier, that the political position he desired, “la Convention nationale” would require that Jaurès cease speaking, as Hill translated into the 4th section of his poem: ‘let us have drums to beat down his great voice.’“... la politique de la Convention nationale, c’est Jaurès dans une charrette et un roulement de tambour pour couvrir cette grande voix” (Péguy, 1992, 924). Yet, the performative possibilities of the creative act are also present in the poem’s questioning of Péguy’s responsibility, as Jeffrey Wainwright has shown (Wainwright, 1985, 101).

4Péguy died “on the first day of the first Battle of the Mame in September 1914” says Hill’s note to the poem which fleshes out some of the relevant context. And it would seem that Hill’s poem itself is also largely concerned with context as a means of framing Péguy. It is worth remembering that 1914 could be considered the year of the vortex. The first issue of BLAST, Review of the Great English Vortex, was published on June 20th, 1914. The second issue of BLAST, published in late July 1915, was entitled “War Number” (Figure 1). It contained poems by T. S. Eliot and Pound, and Gaudier-Brzeska’s personal manifesto, with his adjoining obituary, “Mort Pour La Patrie,... killed in a charge at Neuville St. Vaast, on June 5th, 1915” (1915,34).

Figure 1: Cover of Blast

5The reprint edition of BLAST 1 and BLAST 2 appeared in 1981, published by Black Sparrow Press. It is probable that Hill took renewed interest in these issues during the same period he was writing the Péguy poem. In the first issue of Blast, there were pieces by Pound and by Gaudier Brzeska entitled “Vortex” Both artists wrote about what this concept meant for their art. Pound situated imagism as the foundation upon which the Vortex was built: “An Image is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.” (Pound, 1914, 154). Of poetry, he added:

The vorticist will use only the primary media of his art.
The primary pigment of poetry is the IMAGE.
The vorticist will not allow the primary expression of any concept or emotion to drag itself out into mimicry (Pound, 1914, 154).

6For Pound, “The vortex is the point of maximum energy...” (Pound, 1914, 153). Hugh Kenner described the Vortex as “a circulation with a still center: a system of energies drawing in whatever comes near” (in BLAST, vi). In the Hill poem, the still center is the narrator’s (and reader’s) visualization of Péguy’s corpse, the man addressed by the narrator in a visually striking enjambment between the 4th and 5th sections of the poem: “fallen flat on your face // among the beetroots”. The beets are a key image for the poem, which repeatedly emphasizes Péguy’s death, so that it is the central fact of the text: the untimely death of the promising poet in his early 40’s is recurrent (in sections 2, 4-5, 7, 10).

7The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy has imagist, even vorticist elements, in keeping with the period it calls to life. Its construction is based on the clever juxtaposition of images, which often as not contain appealing word play as well. Hill’s poem makes us see things: paintings, drawings, photographs, visual images, places (landscape), text quotations, a comma or an absence of a comma (in the first stanza of the 6th section), and French words (over 150 are contained in the text). The overall technique is one of collage. The mental images allow Péguy and the period to come alive again, and provide stimulus for the reader to become aware of the historical controversies surrounding Péguy’s reputation. T. S. Eliot’s preface to his translation of Atiabase by St John Perse (1924, translated 1930) might well serve as appropriate advice to readers of Hill’s poem:

... any obscurity of the poem, on first readings, is due to the suppression of ‘links in the chain’, of explanatory and connecting matter, and not to incoherence, or to the love of cryptogram. The justification of such abbreviation of method is that the sequence of images coincides and concentrates into one intense impression... The reader has to allow the images to fall into his memory successively without questioning the reasonableness of each at the moment; so that, at the end, a total effect is produced.
Such selection of a sequence of images and ideas has nothing chaotic about it. There is a logic of the imagination as well as a logic of concepts. People who do not appreciate poetry always find it difficult to distinguish between order and chaos in the arrangement of images; and even those who are capable of appreciating poetry cannot depend upon first impressions. (St. John Perse, 1930).

8Or perhaps Péguy’s description of how the logic of the imagination works in his Eve (1913), would be better applied. Writing a favorable review of his own poem under the pseudonym “J.-A. Durel”, Péguy insists that idea and image are materially linked:

  • 3 There is no evidence of a coating, no impression that the image is there to save the idea, nor tha (...)

Nulle trace de placage, nulle impression que l’image vienne jamais au secours de l’idée, ni non plus l’idée au secours de l’image: l’image et l’idée ensemble jaillissent de la même fécondité. Il était particulièrement nécessaire que dans une œuvre dont la matière est précisément la liaison mystérieuse du charnel et du spirituel, le charnel et le spirituel de la pensée ne fussent pas plus déliés que le charnel et le spirituel de la foi. (Péguy, 1992, 1222).3

9The physicality itself of Hill’s volume, as published in 1983, recalls the covers of Péguy’s early works: ivory-beige covers with red and black lettered titles. The first stanza contains several examples of word and image play:

Crack of a starting-pistol. Jean Jaurès
dies in a wine-puddle. Who or what stares
through the café-window crêped in powder-smoke?
The bill for the new farce reads Sleepers Awake.

10The “starting-pistol” would suggest the opening gunshot at the races. But in this case, the onomatopoeic “crack” of the pistol signals the beginning of a war. “Wine-puddle” is used metonymically for blood, just as the word “stares” suggests the dead man’s open-eyed gaze. But this wasn’t a “toy gun” and soon the armies are moving to battle, as in the 7th and 8th stanzas which capture the mechanical aspect of war as conveyed by early cinema montage:

Violent contrariety of men and days; calm
juddery bombardment of a silent film
showing such things: its canvas slashed with rain
and St Elmo’s fire. Victory of the machine!

The brisk celluloid clatters through the gate;
the cortège of the century dances in the street;
and over and over the jolly cartoon
armies of France go reeling towards Verdun.

  • 4 Emmanuel Mounier collected money for the statue while he was writing La Pensée de Charles Péguy (1 (...)

11The second part of the poem evokes several memorials of Péguy: a well near Villeroy and a bust of Péguy commissioned by his admirers, which was inaugurated in Orléans on June 22, 1930 (Figure 2).4

Figure 2: 1930-Buste de Charles Péguy par Paul Niclause

‘Rather the Marne than the Cahiers.’ True enough,
you took yourself off. Dying, your whole life
fell into place. ‘’Sieurs-’dames, this is the wall
where he leaned and rested, this is the well

from which he drank.’ Péguy, you mock us now.
History takes the measure of your brow
in blank-eyed bronze, brave mediocre work
of Niclausse, sculpteur, cornered in the park

12Hill’s admiration of Péguy would center rather, I think, on his sacrificial enterprise at the Cahiers de la Quinzaine, as a stanza from the 4th section of the poem suggests:

This is no old Beauce manoir that you keep
but the rue de la Sorbonne, the cramped shop,
its unsold Cahiers built like barricades,
its fierce disciples, disciplines and feuds...

13Of interest here is the conflation between two well-known portraits of Péguy. One is a painting by Pierre Laurens completed in 1908 when Péguy was 35. It shows him wearing a long hooded cape. His gaze is intense. The viewer of the painting feels him to be somehow present. The other is a photo of Péguy taken by Dornac for “Nos contemporains chez eux” in 1913 where we see him wearing his pince-nez glasses and standing in front of the unsold Cahiers in the cramped shop (Figure 3).

Figure 3: 1913-Charles Péguy dans la boutique des Cahiers

14Péguy started this enterprise in 1900 and sank his wife’s entire dowry and all the other money he could muster into it. It was a perpetual struggle of all sorts. This is the essential Péguy: man of intense struggle, and willing to sacrifice all for the just cause, as the long passage of the opening of the 6th section reminds the reader. Here the poem provides a strong verbal evocation of the illustrations of the degradation of Captain Dreyfus (January 5, 1895). Even the visual placement of a comma is emphasized in the first stanza because of the change in meaning its absence brings.

To dispense, with justice; or, to dispense
with justice. Thus the catholic god of France,
with honours all even, honours all, even
the damned in the brazen Invalides of Heaven.

Here there should be a section without words
for military band alone:'Sambre et Meuse’,
the ‘Sidi Brahim’ or ‘Le Roi s’Amuse’;
white gloves and monocles and polished swords

and Dreyfus with his buttons off, chalk-faced
but standing to attention, the school prig
caught in some act and properly disgraced.
A puffy satrap prances on one leg

to snap the traitor’s sword, his ordered rage
bursting with ‘cran et gloire’ and gouts of rouge.
The chargers click and shiver. There is no stir
in the drawn ranks, among the hosts of the air,

all draped and gathered by the weird torm-light
cheap wood-engravings cast on those who fought
at Mars-la-Tour, Sedan; or on the men
in the world-famous stories of Jules Verne

or nailed at Golgotha. Drumrap and fife
hit the right note: ‘A mort le Juif! Le Juif
à la lanterne!’ Serenely the mob howls,
its silent mouthings hammered into scrolls

torn from Apocalypse. No wonder why
he fall to violence out of apathy,
redeemed by falling and restored to grace
beyond the dreams of mystic avarice.

  • 5 We are the last ones. Almost those who come after the last ones. Right after us begins another age (...)

15This passage concerning the Dreyfus affair should be linked to the French epigraph Hill chose for the poem from Notre Jeunesse, published by Péguy in the Cahiers de la quinzaine on the 17th of July 1910: "Nous sommes les derniers. Presque les après-derniers. Aussitôt après nous commence un autre âge, un tout autre monde, le monde de ceux qui ne croient plus à rien, qui s’en font gloire et orgueil" (Péguy, 1992, 10).5 Twelve years after Zola’s “J’Accuse!” (January 13, 1898) and in response to Daniel Halévy’s apology for his youthful pro-Dreyfus militancy, Péguy wrote Notre jeunesse, in this seminal text, Péguy shows himself to be a fighter for justice, for a republican mystique that can combat the dusty, degenerating routine of habit, negatively denoted by the word politque in the text. Dreyfusism brought out the best of the Jewish, Christian and French mystiques. Péguy’s position is unwavering. He would not do anything different if he had to do it all again. Hill’s focus on justice in the 6th section of the poem places the emphasis on the Péguy of Notre Jeunesse. Péguy’s personal struggle in his attempt to defend the ideal of justice is seen as one of integrity.

  • 6 Tous ces fiers enfants de la Gaule
    Marchaient sans trêve et sans repos
    Avec leur fusil sur l'épaule
    C (...)

16The drums of the degradation ceremony and of the military marches of the second stanza are heard through the use of repeated /s/ /t/ and /p/ consonants in the first stanza. The historic and literary allusions are familiar to Péguy, and place him squarely in his period. The military song “Sambre et Muse” represents a type of colonial conquest that may be more politique than mystique.6 Victor Hugo’s play, Le Roi s’amuse, was first performed and censored in 1832, but the dramatic story drew popular appeal with Verdi’s Rigoletto (1851) in which a jester loses the treasure of his only daughter to his nobleman employer’s lust and carelessness. The corruption of the ruling elite has tragic consequences. “Here there should be” sounds like directions for filmmaking, as though Hill were staging a film (or an opera?) of the event, based on the known illustrations of what happened. One senses the “section without words” has to do with the discrepancy between the military glory of “Sambre et Muse” and the treatment Captain Dreyfus received.

17The “wood-engraving” so essential to the comprehension of The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy is by Henri Meyer. It was used as the cover illustration for the supplement of the Petit Journal dated January 13, 1895 with the caption: “Le Traître: Dégradation d’Alfred Dreyfus” (Figure 4)

Figure 4: LE TRAITRE
Dégradation d’Alfred Dreyfus

Dégradation d'Alfred Dreyfus

  • 7 The original photograph of Dreyfus later in the day on January 5, 1895 is found in the Musée de la (...)
  • 8 The antisemitic illustrations Musée des horreurs can be seen in L'Affaire Dreyfus et le tournant d (...)
  • 9 There was an Epinal print of a Catholic hymn composed by Théodore Botrel (1868-1925) to be sung in (...)
  • 10 “L’Affaire d'un seul est l'affaire de tous” This is quoted by Hannah Arendt to counter the cliché, (...)

18The poem has performed ekphrasis. The “white gloves and monocles and polished swords” emphasize the visual details found in the illustration so as to contrast them with Dreyfus’s uniform, which was stripped of its buttons, as the buttons on the pavement indicate. His humiliation was total — a photo taken of him later on the same day, without his buttons, makes him appear to be somewhat “chalk-faced”7. The “monocles” draw attention to Dreyfus’s own use of corrective lenses. “Standing to attention” must be an ironic description of Dreyfus who received the injustice honorably and can be contrasted to the “stand by” of the beginning of the poem. In the Petit Journal illustration both Dreyfus and the troops who observe the event can be seen at attention. “A puffy satrap prances on one leg” describes the officer who rips off Dreyfus’s stripes and buttons and breaks his sword. Hill’s poem exacts attention from the reader concerning the Petit Journal illustration as well as his description of it. The word “satrap”, which signified a function in Persian monarchy, with its tyrannical connotation, is well chosen as it describes the posture of this officer who, in his excitement to execute the verdict against Dreyfus, seems to prance a bit more than the horses! The “gouts of rouge” designate the colors found in the Petit Journal illustration on the soldiers’ kepis and on the ground. The red, metaphoric color of blood, is also a figurative way of signaling that the Jew has been killed, as the following stanzas suggest. The half-rhyme gives a jolt: “rage/rouge”. Since “there is no stir... among the hosts of the air”, one is also aware of the God who does not save Dreyfus from this injustice. The “cheap wood engravings” of the following stanza came into being around 1820 in Geneva to illustrate newspapers. In France, the technique reached its apogée in the Illustration and the Petit Journal. The same technique was used to produce the Images d’Epinal and the anti-Semitic illustrations in La Libre Parole which presented a series of caricatures of Jewish people called the Musée des Horreurs8 Jules Verne is left suspended by an enjambment, and subtly associated with the following stanza, which expresses the most violent anti-Semitism. The present tense of “howls” suggests the song is playing still. The irony of “hit the right note” delineates the role this turn-of-the-century and all preceding anti-Semitism had in preparing the acceptance of massive nazi deportations of Jews. For Hannah Arendt, the Dreyfus Affair was merely an early rehearsal of nazi policies. The phrase “ ‘A mort le Juif!’” reminds the reader of French translations of the gospels of Luke and John where the crowd’s cries of “A mort! A mort! Crucifie-le!” indicated their wish that Jesus be substituted for Barabbas. The Catholic Church termed this deicide and declared the Jews “anathema” in the liturgy preceding Easter until the Vatican II text of 1965, Nostra aetate, absolved them. The sentences occur in French in Hill’s poem, visual reminder of this anti-Semitic episode in French history, as well as of the French Revolution, which is conflated in the quotation, “Le Juif à la lantern”. The French Revolutionary song, La Carmagnole, with its refrain, “Ah ça ira, ça ira, ça ira, les aristocrates à la lantern” was sung during the Belle Epoque as an act of opposition to Catholic extremism.9 Yet the Republican ideals of the Revolution had been lost in the Dreyfus Affair. The Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen had been compromised as Clemenceau commented: “One person’s affaire is everyone’s affaire”.10 The italicized Apocalypse of the following stanza may allude, in an oblique way, to the Apocalypse tapestry of Angers. Though it contains no scene of Jewish crowds shouting for Christ’s crucifixion, it does depict the horrors of the Apocalypse in tremendous detail. Perhaps this is a reminder of humanity’s lot during war and Europe’s torment during the wars of the twentieth century.

19In keeping with Péguy’s enthusiasm for the philosophy of Henri Bergson, the poem clearly opposes the mechanical to the organic, emphasizing the machinery that propelled the Great War. The Triumph of the Machine, according to D. H. Lawrence, or “Victory of the machine!” in the poem’s first section, has devastating effects on nature, reflected in the 9th section where even the terms used to describe flowers take on a military cast, with the use of the word “canisters” which can be defined as the encased shot for close-range artillery fire or as the perforated metal box for gas masks:

How the mood swells to greet the gathering storm!
The chestnut trees begin to thresh and cast
huge canisters of blossom at each gust.
Coup de tonnerre! Bismarck is in the room!

20In this case, the natural image has succumbed to the mechanical. But near Péguy’s corpse, nature thrives, as presented in section 10:

Down in the river-garden a grey-gold
dawnlight begins to silhouette the ash.
A rooster wails remotely over the marsh
like Mr Punch mimicking a lost child.

At Villeroy the copybook lines of men
rise up and are erased. Péguy’s cropped skull
dribbles its ichor, its poor thimbleful,
a simple lesion of the complex brain.

Woefully battered but not too bloody,
smeared by fraternal root-crops and at one
with the fritillary and the veined stone,
having composed his great work, his small body,

for the last rites of truth, whatever they are,
or the Last Judgment which is much the same,
or Mercy, even, with her tears and fire,
he commends us to nothing, leaves a name

for the burial-detail to gather up
with rank and number, personal effects,
the next-of-kin and a few other facts,
his arm over his face as though in sleep

or to ward off the sun: the body’s prayer,
the tribute of his true passion, for Chartres
steadfastly cleaving to the Beauce, for her,
the Virgin of innumerable charities.

  • 11 Henri Bergson, “Introduction à la métaphysique” a portion of which Péguy printed in Les Cahiers de (...)

21The natural, pastoral images present here might best be linked to Rimbaud’s 1870 poem, “Dormeur du val” about a dead soldier who seems to be only peacefully sleeping in the sunshine. This is very similar to the description of the deceased Péguy, “his arm over his face as though in sleep”. Bergson’s opposition between the organic and the mechanical comes to mind here, but then, so does Bergson’s view that knowledge can be analytical or absolute only if it enters the thing known.11 Blast I had listed Bergson as someone to be blasted, suggesting how far-reaching his influence already was. Péguy was a disciple of Bergson; they met early in his years at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, and when he was named lecturer at the College de France, Péguy attended every lecture he possibly could. In such a lecture, T. S. Eliot may very well have had his first glance at Péguy about whom he would later write (Eliot, 1916, 20).

  • 12 The single passage from Gaudier’s notebooks which Pound included is entitled “La Question Juive” a (...)

22Gaudier Brzeska also had intended to write an essay on “The Need of Organic Forms”, but he was killed before it was written. So Pound explained in his volume, Gaudier-Brzeska, A Memoir by Ezra Pound. Like the covers of Péguy’s works, and like Hill’s cover for the published volume of the poem, the cover to the Gaudier Memorial volume has letters in red for Gaudier’s name, and in black for the second part of the title. There are numerous photos of Gaudier, pieces written by Gaudier, photos of his sculptures and drawings, other artists’ comments on his work, and excerpts from his letters. The memory Pound was driving at was a visual one: the book represents a type of collage of the different aspects of Gaudier.12 But Pound modestly finds that the photographs are superior to the words, because they suggest active life: “Mr Benington’s camera has the better of me, for it gives the subject as if ready to move and to speak, whereas I can give but diminished memories of past speech and action” (Pound, 1916, 35). Yet in another passage, words seem more powerful than a statue. Pound finds the poetry of Villon a superior record for memory than Rodin’s statue of “La Vieille Heaulmière”:

If you measure art by its emotional effect scarcely anyone will deny that Villon’s poem is more efficient than the statue. It calls up an image no less vivid. And it is easier to carry about in one’s pocket, or in one’s memory, for that matter. The words are, in fact nearly unforgettable, while it is very hard to conserve more than a blurr or a general impression of the bronze figure (Pound, 1916, 115).

23Just so, one could add that Geoffrey Hill’s poem The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy gives a more vibrant and living Péguy than the Niclausse bust. Exactly what would the ideal sculpture of Péguy be like? Rather than the adequate statue, Hill associates Lurçat’s tapestry La Poésie from Le Chant du Monde with Péguy in the first stanza of the second section of the poem, as his note to the text indicates. This suggests that Lurçat’s tapestry might be a work of art that matches Péguy’s own artistic mastery and commitment.

Rage and regret are tireless to explain
Stratagems of the out-manœuvered man,
the charge and counter-charge. You know the drill,
raw veteran, poet with the head of a bull.

24In the tapestry La Poésie (Figure 5), the “poet with the head of a bull” is the largest figure who seems to direct the actions of the others. It is interesting that this comparison occurs in the context of allusions to Péguy’s endurance, and in a section where Péguy is addressed as “you” which makes him seem quite alive.

Figure 5: La Poésie-1961-4,40 m x 10,40 m-Atelier Tabard, Aubusson

  • 13 For an overview of Péguy’s role in inspiring the French Resistance see Bastaire, 2000

25Pound said about the collage construction of his memoir for Gaudier, “That is the way memory serves us, details return ill assorted, pell mell, in confusion”(Pound, 1916, 39). Even without having had the benefit of knowing Péguy personally, Hill could probably say the same about his poem. Through a collage of luminous details, he has constructed a living form which contains them. We have already noted that The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy was published in 1983. Just afterward, in 1984, Blast 3 appeared. It was a homage to the magazine and to Wyndham Lewis, published by Black Sparrow Press. The contribution by Guy Davenport, “The Bowmen of Shu, Illustrated by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and the author”, seems intended as another kind of memorial to Gaudier. (Davenport, 1984, 77-95). Hill’s personal memorial for Pound and for Gaudier may well be his Péguy poem. It puts Péguy back into the poetic and visual contexts of his time and demonstrates his importance to all who are interested in this period and in the poets of the Great War. Hill’s Péguy is talented yet problematic, and in this his presentation is a bit different from Pound’s unqualified admiration of Gaudier. Because of the way Péguy’s reputation was framed during the Vichy period by those who supported Pétain, (see Robert Vallery-Radot, 1942), Hill’s Péguy is the Dreyfusard who sided with Bernard Lazare, whom he considered to be the spiritual “patron” of the Cahiers13 This Péguy is not a saint, but he is clearly not anti-Semitic as Pound, Gaudier, and Eliot were.

26To sum up, Geoffrey Hill has framed Charles Péguy according to Hecht’s use of the word: he has presented “everything relevant”. The reader is left to grasp it. Perhaps a final quotation will help:

the smile of the dead novice in its plush frame,
while greed and disaffection are ingrained
like the chalk-dust in the ranklings of the mind.

27The dead novice of these lines might be as much Gaudier-Brzeska, promising young sculptor, as Charles Péguy, middle aged poet, whose best was surely yet to come. Both men, along with other artists like them, were taken away from their work in progress and from the world, by war. In this sense also, they were framed.


Works cited

Albert, Jean-Pierre, 1998. “Saintes et héroïnes de France: entre l’église et la République (XIXe-XXe siècle)” in Terrain 30 March, Le Regard.

Arendt, Hannah, 1994. [circa 1950] “The Eggs Speak Up” in Essays in Understanding, 1930-1954. Ed. Jerome Kohn. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company.

Bastaire, Jean, 2000. Péguy contre Pétain, l’appel du 17 juin. Paris: Salvator.

Bergson, Henri, 1903. “Introduction à la métaphysique” Les Cahiers de la quinzaine.

BLAST 1 and 2 [1914-15], 1981. Ed. Bradford Marrow. Santa Barbara CA.: Black Sparrow Press.

Davenport, Guy, 1984. The Bowmen of Shu, Illustrated by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and the author” in Blast 3, Seamus Cooney ed., Santa Barbara, CA: Black Sparrow Press.

Eliot, T. S, 1916. “Charles Péguy”, an anonymous book review of Victor Boudon, Avec Charles Péguy de la Lorraine à la Marne (août-septembre 1914) in The New Statesman, v. 8, n. 183, Saturday, October 7.

Finkielkraut, Alain, 1991. Le Mécon temporain. Péguy, lecteur du monde moderne. Paris: NRF Gallimard.

Guillemin, Henry, 1981. Charles Péguy. Paris: Seuil.

Hecht. Anthony, 1995. On The Laws of The Poetic Art.

Hill, Geoffrey, [1983] 1986. The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy.

Marrow, Bradford, 1981. Blast 1, Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press.

Mounier, Emmanuel, 1931. La Pensée de Charles Péguy.

Péguy, Charles, 1986. The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc, (trans. Geoffrey Wainwright), Manchester: Carcanet.

—, [1914] 1992. Œuvres en prose complètes. Ed. Robert Burac 3 vols. Paris: Gallimard.

Philippe, Béatrice, ed. 1994. L’Affaire Dreyfus, une tragédie de la Belle Epoque, Paris: Comité Centenaire de l’Affaire Dreyfus.

Pound, Ezra, 1916. Gaudier-Brezeska, A Memoir. London: John Lane, The Bodley Head.

—, 1914. “Vortex.” in Blast 1, June 20.

Rolland, Romain, 1944. Péguy

Schmidt, Hans, 1967. Péguy: The Decline of an Idealist. Louisiana: University of Louisiana Press.

St. John Perse, 1930. Anabasis, tr. T.S. Eliot. London: Faberand Faber.

Vallery-Radot, Robert, 1942. Sources d’une doctrine nationale De Joseph de Maistre à Charles Péguy

Wainwright, Jeffrey, 1985. “The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy” in Geoffrey Hill, Essays on his Work, Peter Robinson ed., Milton Keynes: Open University Press.


1 Jean-Paul Lucet’s adaptation of Péguy’s text was translated by Jeffrey Wainwright

2 Romain Rolland’s Péguy (1944) also mentions the assassination of Jaurès in the opening chapter.

3 There is no evidence of a coating, no impression that the image is there to save the idea, nor that the idea saves the image. Together the idea and the image burst out from the same source. It is especially necessary that the flesh and the spirit of thought not be more separate than the flesh and the spirit of faith in a work where the subject is the mysterious link between the flesh and the spirit

4 Emmanuel Mounier collected money for the statue while he was writing La Pensée de Charles Péguy (1931). Halévy, Porché, Copeau, Laurens, Massis, and the Tharaud brothers were at the ceremony, along with Péguy's wife and mother.

5 We are the last ones. Almost those who come after the last ones. Right after us begins another age, a completely different world, a world of people who no longer believe in anything and who are proud of it.

6 Tous ces fiers enfants de la Gaule
Marchaient sans trêve et sans repos
Avec leur fusil sur l'épaule
Courage au cœur et sac au dos.
Le régiment de Sambre et Meuse
Marchait toujours au cri de liberté
Cherchant sa route glorieuse
Qui le conduit à l'immortalité.

7 The original photograph of Dreyfus later in the day on January 5, 1895 is found in the Musée de la vie suresnoise in Suresnes and is reproduced in Philippe, 1994,130.

8 The antisemitic illustrations Musée des horreurs can be seen in L'Affaire Dreyfus et le tournant du siècle (1894-1910), 91-96.

9 There was an Epinal print of a Catholic hymn composed by Théodore Botrel (1868-1925) to be sung in response to the "Carmagnole". It is reproduced in Albert, 1998, 123.

10 “L’Affaire d'un seul est l'affaire de tous” This is quoted by Hannah Arendt to counter the cliché, “you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs” in Arendt, 1994, 284, 398-99.

11 Henri Bergson, “Introduction à la métaphysique” a portion of which Péguy printed in Les Cahiers de la quinzaine in 1903.

12 The single passage from Gaudier’s notebooks which Pound included is entitled “La Question Juive” and is a rather anti-Semitic piece.

13 For an overview of Péguy’s role in inspiring the French Resistance see Bastaire, 2000

Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 1: Cover of Blast
Fichier image/jpeg, 356k
Légende Figure 2: 1930-Buste de Charles Péguy par Paul Niclause
Fichier image/jpeg, 250k
Légende Figure 3: 1913-Charles Péguy dans la boutique des Cahiers
Fichier image/jpeg, 229k
Légende Figure 4: LE TRAITREDégradation d’Alfred Dreyfus
Fichier image/jpeg, 321k
Légende Dégradation d'Alfred Dreyfus
Fichier image/jpeg, 172k
Légende Figure 5: La Poésie-1961-4,40 m x 10,40 m-Atelier Tabard, Aubusson
Fichier image/jpeg, 108k


Maître de Conférences at the University of Caen, Basse Normandie. She specialises in Twentieth-Century Poetry and American Literature, and is responsible for the Geoffrey Hill Server at the University of Caen.

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2005

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