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Flournoy, H. (1950). Poetry and Memories of Childhood. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 31:103-107.

(1950). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 31:103-107

Poetry and Memories of Childhood

Henri Flournoy

Mr. X, a contemporary poet of French Switzerland, related during analysis the following memory of his infancy, which he has authorized me to publish here:

My mother had taken me one evening to a travelling show in the village square. I was seated at her side. Looking up, I saw a family of athletes, and particularly noticed a tight-rope dancer who was swinging on a trapeze. The to-and-fro movements of this strong man fascinated me, and at the same time aroused in me a veritable anguish.

This is the earliest incident of his childhood that Mr. X can remember exactly. He was three or four years old at the time, and thus at the age when the Oedipus complex is at its most intense. And in fact, analysis showed that the content of this memory, at first sight so innocent, revealed Oedipal fantasies with a strong element of visual curiosity. The small boy, comfortably ensconced at his mother's side, watched the evolutions of the strong man. Fascinated by him, he would have liked to be able to throw himself about in the same way, to take his place; and at the same time he experienced a deep distress. This feeling of distress, although apparently justified by the perilous situation of the tight-rope dancer, betrayed in reality the unconscious aggressive tendencies which the child was suppressing.

During the early months of analysis—before the Oedipal significance of this episode had been brought to light—Mr. X described the incident in a little poem entitled L'Homme volant ('The Flying Man').

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