This paper interprets Ángel Ganivet’s famous essay Idearium español (1897) as a melancholic text that incorporates and identifies with imperial ideals instead of mourning their passing. Central to this reading is the ambivalence toward empire displayed by the text, an ambivalence that has not been theorized as such (that is, as a specific way of relating to the loss of imperial ideals). The identification process associated with Freud’s account of melancholia provides the key to explaining why the symbolic loss of a series of thoroughly idealized imperial values is such a crucial element in the formation of Spanish national identity. The paper concludes by rethinking Ganivet’s 1897 injunction to concentrate energies within national borders. Situating the text in its original context of production, the paper demonstrates the paradoxical quality of such injunction: it can be seen as an anti-imperialistic gesture that, in the same movement it was expressed, was blatantly ignoring the nineteenth-century Spanish imperial experience in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines and was indicating a clear drive toward expansion both within the Iberian Peninsula and Africa.