Le vaisseau d’or by Émile Nelligan

My adaptation of the poem “Le vaisseau d’or” (“The Ship of Gold”) by Émile Nelligan (1899)

Mon adaptation du poème de Émile Nelligan en bandes-dessinées. levaisseaudor1levaisseaudor2levaisseaudor3levaisseaudor4

20 Responses to Le vaisseau d’or by Émile Nelligan

  1. Vraiment magnifique. Bravo!


  2. Peter Dalton says:

    Glad that not everyone has forgotten Emille Nelligan. 🙂 Great work!


  3. Jeremy Worth says:

    This really is superb. This poem is the first thing I teach in my Introduction to Literary Studies course at the University of Windsor; I will take the liberty, if I may, of sharing the link to this page with my students via the course website. A perfect illustration of the poem. Starting with Nelligan’s older face (from the haunting asylum photograph) is a master stroke. I wish I’d found you sooner – I teach Rimbaud in an upper-year course, so will be looking to see what you’ve done there, too.

    Two (really minor) questions – is it not “ce fut un (grand) Vaisseau” in the first as well as the third stanza (ie past historic in both, rather than imperfect in the first)? There may be more than one version. Also, are “Dégout, Haine et Névrose” not also Nelligan’s own conditions, defeating him from within? Not that this is contradicted, as such, by your interpretation (society and isolation being the cause/catalyst) – I just wonder if giving these personified states the faces of uncomprehending members of society might pull the interpretation a bit too much to one side, away from Nelligan’s own psyche. Just a thought.

    Thank you – I can’t wait to share this page with my students!

    Jeremy Worth (Associate Professor of French Studies, University of Windsor)


    • Hi Jeremy, I’m delighted to hear that you like my poetry adaptions and that you will be sharing them with your class! I applied unsuccessfully to be the University of Windsor’s first-ever “cartoonist in residence” for this fall, so it’s nice to know that my comics will be featured at the university in some form this semester after all.
      To answer your questions, I have seen the first line written with the imperfect and with the past historic. Nelligan produced many autographed copies of this poem, especially after his confinement to the asylum, producing many slight variations. But it’s true that “Ce fut” seems to me the most commonly reprduced version. I’m not sure why I went with “c’était.”
      As for “Dégout, Haine et Névrose” referring to Nelligan’s inner condition, that’s a great point and one that I don’t think I had really considered (although it’s hard to me to remember exactly what I was thinking for that panel, which was drawn about 6 years ago). But I think your interpretation fits a lot better with the poem, given that the “marins” would presumably be aboard the “vaisseau.” I did get the feeling from reading his biography that N had a bit of a persecution complex, and so I went with the other interpretation. But I do think the next panel balances things out a little by depicting him alone in the grips of some kind of hysteric fit, suggesting inner rather than outer torments. BTW, the midde figure in the panel is Nelligan’s father, and the man on the right is, if I remember correctly, a critic who had disparaged one of Nelligan’s poems, whose name I can’t recall.


      • Jeremy Worth says:

        That’s very interesting – thank you for the detailed and informative response. I will be directing the 3rd year group towards your Bateau ivre, as well. Your Vaisseau d’or added a whole dimension to our Nelligan discussion – if only I had found your site sooner!


  4. Mike White says:

    When I was 10 (48 yrs ago), I chose this poem for my class recital. It remains my favourite piece of literature. I believe your illustrations capture the emotions so precisely and so vividly. I am lucky to have come across your work here. Thank you.


  5. Hi, Julian, you must be in La Salle. My girlfriend and I live in NDG near Villa Maria metro station. One daughter lives near Loyola College and the other is with her boyfriend in Pointe St-Charles.

    By the way, are you related to Brian Peters, the organist and translator? I went to seminary school with him in 1961-63 in Ottawa. I met him again in the translation world about 15 years ago.

    Yes, Brentley published me about 25 times in Retort Magazine between 2001 and last year.

    I love your drawings!! And your interpretation of the poetry is so right on!

    I am at (514) 484-9563. Keep in touch!


  6. Robert Markland Smith says: Thank you, Julian. I first discovered your work in Brentley Frazer’s magazine and fell in love with your penmanship. I don’t live very far from the hospital where Nelligan was interned. In my case they hospitalized me in the Douglas in the seventies. Check out the web site that Brentley designed for me, Robert Markland Smith Writings and Drawings. I love the way your drawings move in and out of the metaphor the ”vaisseau d’or.” Poor Nelligan! The greatest poet in Quebec!


  7. Johanne Durocher Norchet says:

    Julian!!!!! My FB page (well, the Writers Write page I’d liked a while back) sent me the site of your blog – you are briliant!!! Just saw your Vaisseau d’Or piece – it’s magnificent! You are a very talented man ;o)) – see you on the 6th! Johanne PS – did you ever think of doing my favourite piece of all times, Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince?


  8. Pingback: Grosse semaine – 6 décembre 2013 | Poème Sale

  9. Pingback: Grosse semaine – 6 décembre 2013 | POÈME SALE

  10. A. says:

    Je me reprend… c’est plus que magnifique!
    Les images de Nelligan jeune et à l’asile ressemblent incroyablement au vrai Nelligan. Le concept du poète se remémorant son poème est très bien choisi et les images représentant les vers du poèmes sont superbes et concrètes! Elles illustrent aussi bien le poème d’un point de vue littéral que d’un point de vue interprétatif.


  11. A. says:



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