Les Grands Seigneurs

Dorothy Malloy
Les Grands Seigneurs
Men were my buttresses, my castellated towers,
the bowers where I took my rest. The best and worst
of times were men: the peacocks and the cockatoos,
the nightingales, the strutting pink flamingos.
Men were my dolphins, my performing seals; my sailing ships,
the ballast in my hold. They were the rocking-horses
prancing down the promenade, the bandstand
where the music played. My hurdy-gurdy monkey-men.
I was their queen, I sat enthroned before them,
out of reach. We played at courtly love:
the troubadour, the damsel and the peach.
But after I was wedded, bedded, I became
(yes, overnight) a toy, a plaything, little woman,
wife, a bit of fluff. My husband clicked
his fingers, called my bluff..
• The subject of this poem is the change of entitlement and power in a
woman who has recently married.
• The themes of royalty, tradition and idealised love (“Queen”, “courtly
love”) are antithetical to those degradation (“toy”, plaything”, “little
woman” – showing the subject of change
• The title is French – a romanticised language associated with chivalry and
courtly love of the Medieval period. It plays on the term that was used to
refer to noble men, but is now used in an ironic manner.
• The use of metaphors throughout the poem emphasises the ideas of value
and appearance.
• Past-tense account of a persona who has been married – talks about
• “Men were my buttresses”
Stanza 1 – architectural language creates ideas of support and comfort. E.g. – “Men
were my buttresses, my castellated towers, the bowers where I took my rest”
Stanza 1 – comparison to mating displays of birds & repetition of ideas – conveys men
as showing off to gain a mate – E.g. “peacocks and cockatoos, the nightingales, the
strutting pink flamingos”
Stanza 2 – Seaside entertainment language – E.g. “dolphins, performing seals; my sailing
ships” – this suggests the men have no dignity.
Stanza 3 – language such as “queen” glorifies self and implies entitlement. Themes of
traditional love shows the ideals of the persona matched her life and was almost like a
play/ fairy-tale E.g. “damsel”, “troubador”. The words “courtly love” also have
connotations of women being on a pedestal in the relationship – showing she has
complete power over her love life.
Stanza 4 – the power shift is shown by rhymes, crude language & derogatory actions
E.g “little woman” “my husband clicked his fingers”, “wedded, bedded”. The use of
increasingly dismissive words (“toy”, “plaything”, “little woman”, “bit of fluff ”) implies
her losing her sence of self-worth and creates pity in the reader.
Stanza 1 – Colourful & dramatic birds being likened to men, repetition of
ideas depicts the variety among these birds that represent men as redundant;
their diversity makes them alike in value to the persona. “Peacocks and the
cockatoos, the nightingales, the strutting pink flamingos”
Stanza 2 – “hurdy-gurdy monkey men” – implies that despite the complexity
of their instruments, the men who entertain her do this out of primitive
instinct; almost programmed to entertain the persona like robots.
Stanza 3 – presents her view of love as a play (“courtly
love”, “troubadour”, “damsel”); which frames the last
stanza in a tragic light.
Stanza 4 – “my husband clicked his fingers” – his sense of
power and dismissiveness.
• The poem contains 4 stanzas; each with 3 or 4 lines
• Structured in two parts; stanzas 1-3 pose an idealised view of love before
and the volta (the point of change – “But”) in stanza 4; undermining the
previous stanzas.
• The poem has 15 lines – one longer than a sonnet. This implies that she
regards the circumstances of her love life with bitter humour.
• Use of black humour (“wedded, bedded”, “(yes, overnight)”) –
undermines her previously naïve views of love
• Assertive – possessive words like “my” when constantly referring to men
• Reminiscent – “the best and worst of my times were men” – detachment
from her old self.
• Give – contrast between feeling deprived and entitled
• My Last Duchess – suffocating relationships rob wives of individuality
• Casehistory: Alison (head injury) – the contrast between the glorification
of former-self and detachment from old lifestyle