Je me souviens just part of it

by Lorenzo Piccoli


Monsieur,

D’après un article (4 fév.), il y a confusion concernant la devise du Québec. Comme vous l’avez écrit, elle est de E. E. Taché. « Je me souviens » n’est que la première phrase [de la devise], ce qui explique peut-être la confusion. La devise va comme suit :

Je me souviens / Que né sous le lys / Je croîs sous la rose.
I remember / That born under the lily / I grow under the rose.

Je suis la petite-fille de Eugène-Étienne Taché. Ma tante, Mme Clara Taché-Fragasso de Québec, est la seule des filles de E.-E. Taché toujours en vie. J’espère que [cette information] éclairera quelques-uns de vos lecteurs.

The text quoted above is a letter sent by Hélène Pâquet in response to an article appeared on The Montreal Star in 1978. Hélène, as she herself explains in the last paragraph, is the nephew of Eugène-Étienne Taché, the Assistant Commissioner for Crown lands in Quebec and architect of the provincial Parliament building. Upon his death in 1912, Taché wanted the motto written above to be carved in stone below the coat of arms of Quebec that appears above the Parliament Building’s main entrance door. So it was done; and since then Je me souviens came into official use. In contemporary Quebec it still occupies so many spaces, including the licence plates of the cars. For many French Quebeckers Je me souviens poetically symbolizes the days of New France (the lily) and the subsequent conquest by the English crown and the Confederation (the rose). Some say that when the French Canadian says “Je me souviens”, she not only remembers the days of New France but also the fact that she belongs to a conquered people.

This story is meant to show you that Quebec is a place of powerful suggestions. I spent three weeks in its biggest and most vibrant city, Montreal, and now that I am back to Florence I can upload some pictures and add some explanations – you will see the explanation if you clic on the picture. I am also going to upload a music video; and I would have chosen a video without any advertisement at the start but then this is by far the best live version of it and it deserves to be seen.

The video is somehow related to one particular thought I wanted to share with you. When I was in Montreal it was Freshers week, which is the time when all new students arrive to university and go pretty crazy celebrating. It is the first moment in their life they are free, and independent, and you can read it in their face. There is excitement, but there is also fear: it is a sense of utter freedom, and utter loss at the same time. It is a passing ritual I love, because in that moment your brain and your heart are clean, so clean and free that you can start from scratch and discover so much and you won’t feel alone because there are so many people around you who are in the exact same situation and you can perceive they feel exactly the way you do. I was lucky enough to be in that kind of situation many times in my life, having changed place and started something new – quite often, already. So every time I would find myself in a situation like this – well, you know, I would share the excitement, and the thrill, and everything that comes with it. Not this time, though. This time I just saw very, very young students, and for the first time in my life I felt I was a bit more mature than they were. I was happy for them, though. But I was not part of it, as I was a passenger riding in the backside. And so I thought of the song, and finally, many year after I first listened to it on the radio, it made perfect sense.

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