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The Poetry of James Joyce Reconsidered$

Marc C. Conner

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780813039763

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813039763.001.0001

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Orpheus Rebound

Orpheus Rebound

The Voice of Lament in Joyce's Poetic Consciousness

Chapter:
(p.170) 8 Orpheus Rebound
Source:
The Poetry of James Joyce Reconsidered
Author(s):
Marc C. Conner
Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813039763.003.0008

Abstract and Keywords

This essay argues that the dominant poetic voice in Joyce's works is Orphic, characterized by a wistful sense of loss, lament, and sorrow. Joyce's Orphic poetic consciousness develops from his early juvenilia, into Stephen Hero, Portrait, Ulysses, and finally Finnegans Wake. The essay argues that from its outset Joyce's poetry emerges from the exigencies of the absence of love and foreshadows its loss. Through this oscillating reading of Joyce's early and later work, this mood and voice of lament, loss, and remorse continues throughout Joyce's career: the son's lament for his father in “Ecce Puer,” the lament for lost youth in “Bahnofstrasse,” the father mourning the loss of his son in Ulysses, the longing for youthful love in Exiles, and the multiple laments that dominate Dubliners, reaching a climax in Gabriel's Orphic lament at the close of “The Dead.” This Orphic voice of lament finds its full expression in Finnegans Wake in the voice of Shem; yet this is finally overcome by the apocalyptic anticipation of renewed hope that transforms the past through the different voice of ALP.

Keywords:   Orphic, Stephen Hero, Portrait, Finnegans Wake, Ulysses, Exiles, Lament, renewal

“Solus Hyperboreas glacies Tanaimque nivalem arvaque Rhipaeis numquam viduata pruinis lustrabat, raptam Eurydicen atque inrita Ditis dona querens.”

Georgics IV.517–20

“The prouts who will invent a writing there ultimately is the poeta, still more learned, who discovered the raiding there originally. That's the point of eschatology our book of kills reaches for now in soandso many counterpoint words. What can't be coded can be decorded if an ear aye sieze what no eye ere grieved for.”

FW 482.31–36

In the broadest sense of the word, Joyce is a poet, a writer with great creative imagination expressed artistically through the mastery and power of language. The dominant poetic voice in Joyce's works, as this essay attempts to argue, is Orphic, a voice characterized by a wistful sense of loss, lament, and sorrow. The emergence of this Orphic voice began when he was fairly young and progressed through various stages as he matured as a writer.

In Joyce's earliest known poetic piece, “Et Tu, Healy,” written when he was only nine years old in commemoration of the death of Charles Stewart Parnell on October 6, 1891, the poet appears not merely as social and political commentator but also as mourner. Though this poem is now lost, the last lines in the fragment that does exist portray a Parnell safe from those who betrayed him:

  • His quaint-perched aerie on the crags of Time
  • Where the rude din of thiscentury
  • Can trouble him no more.1

(p.171) In the few extant lines of “Et Tu, Healy,” loss through betrayal is apparent. The lost possibilities and missed opportunities of an Ireland dominated by a foreign power are the direct consequences of betrayal, a theme that resonates throughout Joyce's writings but is first introduced in this youthful poem on Parnell. Joyce began writing seriously in his mid-teens, and by the time his first published piece, “Ibsen's New Drama,” appeared in 1900, he had written short stories, poems, and two plays, all of which are nonextant. In A Brilliant Career, one of the lost plays, the dedication is the only surviving page and indicates the earnestness of Joyce's commitment to himself as a writer:

  • —To—
  • My own Soul
  • I dedicate the first
  • true work of my
  • life. (Letters II, 7, n. 5)

Perhaps with the exception of this play, which was critiqued by the drama critic and translator William Archer,2 one can only speculate as to the merits of these early works, but what few lines and references do survive appear to indicate Joyce's indebtedness to other writers and his willingness to refashion his own writing—for example, the villanelle from Shine and Dark and the “sentimental poetry” of “Et Tu, Healy” are metamorphosed (and parodied) in Finnegans Wake (231.5–8):

—My God, alas, that dear olt tumtum home

Whereof in youthfood port I preyed

Amook the verdigrassy convict vallsall dazes.

And cloitered for amourmeant in thy boosome shede!3

As Joyce's creative consciousness was developing during this period of his youth, he was concentrating on the three genres that define his artistic output: poetry, drama, and prose. At times throughout his works, these genres, like words in Finnegans Wake formed from different languages, merge into one another and eradicate any clear distinction between them, an artistic function performed by the poet as “a priest of eternal imagination, transmuting the daily bread of experience into the radiant body of everliving life” (P 221). The sacerdotal image of the poet found in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man reflects a view that the youthful Joyce had earlier expressed (p.172) to his brother Stanislaus. In My Brother's Keeper, Stanislaus records Joyce's comparing the mystery of the Mass (particularly the Eucharist, the transubstantiation or conversion of the bread and wine into the sacramental body and blood of Christ) to his act of writing poetry: “Don't you think … there is a certain resemblance between the mystery of the Mass and what I am trying to do? I mean that I am trying in my poems to give people some kind of intellectual pleasure or spiritual enjoyment by converting the bread of everyday life into something that has a permanent artistic life of its own … for their mental, moral, and spiritual uplift …” (114). Although his remark to Stanislaus may have been a flippant and sacrilegious comment, Joyce was serious about his artistic vocation as it was emerging, the vocation of a poet. As poet, Joyce is artist and “priest of eternal imagination” whose aesthetic expression is not circumscribed or delimited by the boundaries of any genre.

The image of the poet as priest transmuting the raw material of life into artistic expression remained with Joyce throughout his life and appears again in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake; in the latter work, the analogy between the mystery of the Eucharist and the poet's artistic power of transforming human experience (that which is mortal and transitory) into art (that which is permanent) attains great heights in Shaun's description of Shem's artistic creation.4 Joyce by his late teens expressed his initial understanding of the poet as one who sustains and transforms human experience into everlasting nourishment and who forges in the smithy of his soul the uncreated conscience of his race (P 253). The poet as priest sacramentalizes the artistic act of creation and fashions a perduring work for the benefit of others, for “their mental, moral, and spiritual uplift.” In the “Oxen of the Sun” episode of Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus, with his notion of the postcreation, touches upon this same quality of the artist: “In woman's womb word is made flesh but in the spirit of the maker all flesh that passes becomes the word that shall not pass away. This is the postcreation” (U 14.292–94).

Impermanent human experience once forged within the soul of the poet—within the poet's inner self—becomes enduring art. Whether or not Joyce read Henri Bergson's essay on laughter, first published in 1900, he seems to have shared some of the same sentiments regarding the poet's relation to the inner self. “Poetry always expresses inward states,” Bergson observes, and continues, “What the poet sings of is a certain mood which was his, and his alone, and which will never return” (Bergson 162, 164). (p.173) Joyce expressed similar thoughts in a March 1907 letter to his brother Stanislaus. This letter, written after receiving the proofs of Chamber Music, also expresses Joyce's reaction to Yeats's assessment of his poetry as that of a young man learning his trade (see Letters II,23). “It is a slim book,” Joyce wrote to Stanislaus, “and on the frontispiece is an open pianner! Shall I send you the proofs to correct. I don't know whether the order is correct. I don't like the book but wish it were published and be damned to it. However, it is a young man's book. I felt like that. It is not a book of love-verses at all, I perceive.” The reference to the correct order is Joyce's final nod to Stanislaus's arrangement of the poems that eventually appeared in the 1907 publication of Chamber Music, an arrangement that differs considerably from Joyce's ordering of the original suite of thirty-four poems.5 In the discussion of Chamber Music that follows, Joyce's original arrangement of the poems as foundin his 1905 manuscript, now at the Beinecke Library, Yale University, will be emphasized. Joyce's ordering of the verses, unlike his brother's, reflects the drama of the suite, Joyce's thematic concerns, and the emotions of the poet in Chamber Music as he moves through the enchantment of love to disillusionment, and as he gives voice to the fleeting moments of human affection. For the persistent sentiment in Chamber Music and elsewhere in Joyce's poetry is one of lament and loss, evoking the lyricism of an Orpheus singing alone.

In the opening three preludial poems of Chamber Music (1/XXI, 2/I, 3/III), an alienated poet speaking in the third person is alone, and, with the memory of “glory lost,” he has no “soul to fellow his” (1/XXI). The imagery of a lost glory, as Tindall suggests in his discussion of Chamber Music, points to a fallen Lucifer and underscores the extreme distance—caused by the poet's own decisions—between the poet himself and others who were once his friends but are now his foes. The Luciferian imagery is even more pronounced if one compares line three of 1/XXI—“Among his foes in scorn and wrath”—to the same line in the Yale manuscript, where the word “friends” and not “foes” is written: “Among his friends in scorn and wrath.” The change, whenever it occurred, emphasizes an existential condition characterizing an alienated poet, alone and lost, an “unconsortable one” whose “love is his companion.” The ambiguity of the last line of the poem—“His love is his companion”—can refer to the poet's love of self, as argued by Boyle (“Woman Hidden,” 9). The notion of consorting with oneself is a thematic anticipation of the solipsism later identified with (p.174) Stephen Dedalus and perhaps subtly (or, more likely, unwittingly) hinted at in the possible allusion to Virgil's Orpheus (who “[a]lone … would roam the northern ice” [solus Hyperboreas glacieslustrabat]) in Buck Mulligan's quip when labeling Stephen “hyperborean”6 (U 1.92). However, the last line of 1/XXI can also be a wistful anticipation of a yet-to-be-found love that materializes in the suite ever so fleetingly. The tone of the opening poem in Chamber Music emerges from the exigencies of the absence of love and foreshadows its loss.

In a letter to the Irish composer G. Molyneux Palmer, Joyce pointed out that after the three preludial poems, Chamber Music has an upward movement to 17/XIV, “My dove, my beautiful one,” which is the central song of the suite, and a downward movement until 34/XXXIV, which, according to Joyce, is “vitally the end of the book” (Letters I, 67). In the upward movement,7 the poet, lured by the sound of music, leaves the solitariness and gloom of his life of reading and studying to pursue the girl referred to as Goldenhair. The promise of love, like that of Spring, awakens the hope of love in the lonely poet, who longs to be one with his beloved; at the same time the poet's new relationship with the girl causes an estrangement between himself and a friend: “He is a stranger to me now / Who was my friend” (10/XVI). The lost friendship and grief the poet feels are counterbalanced by the affection and comfort he receives from the solace and peace of a new romance. As the poet anticipates the consummation of their love, he bids the wind to visit upon her a bridal song (15/XIII) and then emboldens her to “Bid adieu to girlish days” and yield fully to the joys of love (16/XI). But the gain of one is the loss of the other. The central poem of Chamber Music— 17/XIV, the climax of the suite—celebrates the momentary consummation of physical love that ultimately ends in loss: lost virginity and the lost promise of love. Ironically, love's fulfillment foreshadows its demise.

Poem 17/XIV stands at the center of the suite. The poem that follows begins the downward movement8 of Chamber Music. The poet attempts to comfort the girl and assuage her guilt and, perhaps, his own. Faintly echoing the first line of the opening poem (“He who hath glory lost”), the poet urges his sweetheart to “be at peace again” and prompts her to deny those would-be accusers. “Can they dishonour you?,” he asks in 18/XIX, and then advises: “Proudly answer to their tears: / As they deny, deny.” Her accusers can, of course, dishonor her by ridicule and condemnation, but her (p.175) honor—her sexual honor at least—has already been taken. Boyle sees in this poem the presence of the religious attitude of Irish Catholicism with which Joyce was all too familiar: “sexual activity is evil unless blessed by Church and State” (“Woman Hidden,” 18). The fallen state coincides with the beginning of the downward movement of the suite and with the intimations of a new awareness—“the wise choirs of faery / Begin (innumerous!) to be heard”—and presages the end of the relationship between the poet and his sweetheart. As he awakes from sleep, he notices, “the trees are full of sighs / Whose leaves the morn admonisheth” (19/XV). The transitory nature of their love becomes more and more evident to the poet, and, as he becomes wiser, he counsels the girl, in 28/XXVIII, to accept the finality of the love they once enjoyed. Inevitably, all human love passes and sleeps in death:

  • Gentle lady, do not sing
  •   Sad songs about the end of love;
  • Lay aside sadness and sing
  •   How love that passes is enough.
  • Sing about the long deep sleep
  •   Of lovers that are dead and how
  • In the grave all love shall sleep.
  •   Love is aweary now.

By 30/XXIX, the dissolution of love is imminent, and the wind that was once the fragrant herald of a bridal song, the epithalamium in 15/XIII, now forecasts the end of love: “And soon shall love dissolved be / When over us the wild winds blow.” The poem seems to prefigure the Orphic lament of loss.

The image of the wild wind linked to the emotion of a passing moment never to return again is later used by Joyce in the second stanza of “Watching the Needleboats at San Sabba,” the second poem of Pomes Penyeach, where he fuses the singing of the scullers with a lament for the passing of youth and time: “No more will the wild wind that passes / Return, no more return.” As the lovers' day in Chamber Music comes to an end, and as “the year is gathering” (33/XXXIII), they prepare to part. Winter's voice is “heard at the door” and cries, “‘Sleep no more’” (34/XXXIV). In this last poem of Joyce's original arrangement of the suite, the obvious reference to the voice (p.176) Macbeth hears after killing Duncan—“Sleep no more”—heightens the definitive rejection and death of love.

Chamber Music had not yet been published by the time Joyce began writing “The Dead,” the last of the Dubliners stories, but his attitude toward the poems at this time was shifting dramatically. In an October 1906 letter to Stanislaus, Joyce expresses his waning feelings toward them: “I went through my entire book of verses … and they nearly all seemed to me poor and trivial: some phrases and lines pleased me and no more. A page of A Little Cloud gives me more pleasure than all my verses. I am glad the verses are to be published because they are a record of my past …” (Letters II, 182). But the record of Joyce's past does not entirely die with Chamber Music, and aspects of it remain throughout his works, resurfacing in sentiments that appear through a poetic voice portraying among other things a mood colored by lament, loss, and remorse. Joyce as poet expresses these sentiments in later poems. In “Ecce Puer,” for instance, he celebrates the birth of his grandson and at the same time utters a cry of remorse as he mourns the death of his father:

  • A child is sleeping:
  • An old man gone.
  • O, father forsaken,
  • Forgive your son!

And in “Bahnhofstrasse,” written in 1918, a year after his first attack of glaucoma, Joyce fuses his eye problems with a saddening awareness of lost youth:

  • The eyes that mock me sign the way
  • Whereto I pass at eve of day,
  • Grey way whose violet signals are
  • The trysting and the twining star.
  • Ah star of evil! star of pain!
  • Highhearted youth comes not again. …

Joyce was thirty-six years old at this time and a good three years into writing Ulysses, where Leopold Bloom at thirty-eight also experiences feelings of loss. In the “Hades” episode of Ulysses, Bloom, after hearing Simon Dedalus's rant about Buck Mulligan's untoward influence on Stephen, (p.177) momentarily reflects on the father-son relationship and his own deceased child, Rudy: “Noisy selfwilled man. Full of his son. He is right. Something to hand on. If little Rudy had lived. See him grow up. Hear his voice in the house. Walking beside Molly in an Eton suit. My son. Me in his eyes. Strange feeling it would be. From me. Just a chance” (U 6.74–77). And later in the day, Bloom seems to stoically accept growing older, and again in his thoughts Rudy comes to mind: “I was happier then. Or was that I? Or am I now I? Twentyeight I was. She twentythree. When we left Lombard street west something changed. Could never like it again after Rudy. Can't bring back time. Like holding water in your hand. Would you go back to then? Just beginning then” (U 8.608–11). In such passages Joyce's poetic voice—often the painful Orphic voice of loss and lament—appears strongly. It similarly resounds in the closing of Exiles, where Bertha pleads with Richard to be again united with her in a love that has been lost: “Forget me, Dick. Forget me and love me again as you did the first time. I want my lover. To meet him, to go to him, to give myself to him. You, Dick. O, my strange wild lover, come back to me again!” (Mays 266).

The Orphic voice is also found in Dubliners. In “A Little Cloud,” the image of a frustrated would-be poet, Little Chandler, reaches epiphanic proportions. After meditating on Ignatius Gallaher's accomplishments, Chandler fantasizes on the “poetic moment” (D 73) that is taking hold of him, and in a reverie of delusional ecstasy he envisions his own literary success and the praise of English critics (D 73–74). But by the end of the story, his emotions radically change, and his dreams are shattered by the screams of an infant son and the angry accusations of his wife. As “tears of remorse started in his eyes” (D 85), Little Chandler recognizes his sterile existence as a poet. Like Edmund in O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night, who has the habit but not the makings of the poet—that is, he has the emotions, the mood, the disposition, and temperament, but not the ability—Little Chandler (in a much less academic, literary, and intellectual way) anticipates the emotions and temperament of another would-be poet in Joyce's writings, Stephen Dedalus. Little Chandler's realization is also not unlike Gabriel Conroy's in the “The Dead.” Gabriel's eyes, too, fill with “[g]enerous tears” (D 223) after he realizes his place—or better, his absence—in Gretta's life: “It hardly pained him now to think how poor a part he, her husband, had played in her life” (D 222). Both Gabriel and Little Chandler recognize, perhaps for the first time in their lives, the distance between the mental or imagined (p.178) world in which they partly construct their lives—their world of hopes and desires—and the invading reality of a world in which they actually live their lives, a world less favorable to their misconceived aspirations. Such recognition, one of the recurring themes in Dubliners, is not, of course, unique to these two characters; Eveline and the unnamed narrator in “Araby” would also come to mind immediately.

In the last pages of “The Dead,” which contain the book's most vivid evocation of the underworld, Gabriel achieves an insight unknown to Orpheus, who, according to Plato, was unwilling to die for his beloved and was thus considered unworthy by the gods and condemned to hold only the memory of a phantom image of his wife. Gabriel's realization that Michael Furey had died for Gretta stuns him into an awakening: “Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion,” Gabriel contemplates, “than fade and wither dismally with age” (D 223). Through a significant modification of free indirect discourse, the narrator elevates the language at the end of “The Dead” to reflect not Gabriel's idiom but his sentiments and heightened emotional condition. The poet's Orphic voice of lament surfaces in the narrative discourse of Gabriel's epiphany and ironically juxtaposes Gabriel's uninspired pedestrian life with the sensitive and moving poetic voice of the narrator. Though that voice may be sympathetic to Gabriel, it nonetheless effects an unsettling silence in him as he descends more deeply into the unknown sorrowful region of dissolution: “His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself … was dissolving and dwindling” (D 223).

The imagery of falling in the last paragraph of the story (imagery also found in the narrative introducing Stephen's villanelle, as well as in the poem itself, and remindful of lost glory in the opening poem of Chamber Music) relates to both the snow and Gabriel's soul and harkens back to the imagery of falling rain in the lines from The Lass of Aughrim that Bartell D′Arcy sings in a plaintive voice (D 210). The narrator, through the repetition of the present participle “falling,” accentuates the imagery and, in a Christian theological sense, evokes both the human and angelic fall from grace and particularizes one of the uniquely identifiable human experiences: the painful knowledge of mortality. The imagery of snow also intensifies Gabriel's experience, an experience that is at once similar to and very different from that expressed by Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space: “The house derives reserves and refinements of intimacy from winter; while in the outside (p.179) world, snow covers all tracks, blurs the road, muffles every sound, conceals all colors. As a result of this universal whiteness, we feel a form of cosmic negation in action. The dreamer of houses knows and senses this, and because of the diminished entity of the outside world, experiences all the qualities of intimacy with increased intensity” (Bachelard 40–41). Gabriel's dream of a night of intimacy with Gretta is frustrated in his winter, and he is as much negated as is the diminished outside world covered in whiteness. The Orphic poet may remind the reader that although memory has no time, it cannot literally return one to the past—even as its powerful images come trooping in and upset the tranquility of the present.

The Orphic voice also emerges in the narrative of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and in many passages in Ulysses that focus on StephenDedalus. In the opening paragraphs of A Portrait, Stephen's first memories associated with his early childhood are expressed poetically and culminate in a child's verse that he spontaneously fashions in his mind. In response to his mother's demand to apologize and Dante's minatory warning that if he does not, eagles will pull out his eyes, Stephen transforms both command and threat of loss (an Orphic sentiment) into the cadence of a poem with the assonance and rhyme of the borrowed words9 decussatively arranged:

  • Pull out his eyes,
  • Apologise,
  • Apologise,
  • Pull out his eyes.
  • Apologise,
  • Pull out his eyes,
  • Pull out his eyes,
  • Apologise. (

    P 8

    )

Stephen's verse anticipates his vocation in life, and the narrative provides the reader with the promise of a poet in the making. Words are the medium of his art, whether they are his own or not. When Stephen is in the infirmary at Clongowes Wood College, he again uses the words of another to console himself as he pictures his own funeral and hears in his imagination the slow tolling of the funeral bell. Stephen longingly recalls the song that Brigid, a servant in the Dedalus household, taught him and is emotionally taken up by the words: “How beautiful and sad that was! How beautiful the words (p.180) were where they said Bury me in the old churchyard! A tremor passed over his body. How sad and how beautiful! He wanted to cry quietly but not for himself: for the words, so beautiful and sad, like music. The bell! The bell! Farewell! O farewell!” (P 24). The mood of loss generated by the words, similar to the melancholy mood Little Chandler experiences (a mood perhaps made even more intense after having had a few drinks with Gallaher), awakens in Stephen an awareness that was presaged subliminally in the opening passage of the novel.

Words play a major part in Stephen's emerging consciousness as an artist. After being forced to leave Clongowes Wood College because of his father's economic downturn, Stephen, as he routinely walks with Uncle Charles and his father on Sundays, absorbs the words he hears spoken. He learns by heart the ones “he did not understand” and “through them he had glimpses of the real world about him” (P 62). These words excite him in ways different from those spoken by his mother or Dante or Brigid: “The hour when he too would take part in the life of that world seemed drawing near and in secret he began to make ready for the great part which he felt awaited him the nature of which he only dimly apprehended” (P 62). The hope of the foreordained destiny that awaits Stephen reaches its crescendo toward the end of chapter 4 and its first full-fledged incarnation in the villanelle in chapter 5 of A Portrait.

Tired of waiting for his father, who is with the tutor Dan Crosby at Byron's publichouse, Stephen starts toward North Bull Island and sotto voce utters to himself a line from his reservoir of phrases, a line that harmonizes in his mind with the day and scene. As Stephen is becoming more and more aware of his vocation as an artist, his own name appears to him a prophecy, and, like one awakened from the dead, Stephen finds new life: “His soul had arisen from the grave of boyhood, spurning her graveclothes. Yes! Yes! Yes! He would create proudly out of the freedom and power of his soul, as the great artificer whose name he bore, a living thing, new and soaring and beautiful, impalpable, imperishable” (P 170). Stephen spots a girl alone looking out over the sea and imagines her as a bird. As he turns from her, the ecstasy of a new poetic consciousness mingled with sexual excitement seizes hold of him. Stephen is carried across the strand, “singing wildly to the sea, crying to greet the advent of the life that had cried to him” (P 172). By this time, it is getting dark. “Evening had fallen” (P 173), a phrase repeated in the last two paragraphs of chapter 4, is a subtle evocation of the refrain in the creation (p.181) myth in Genesis 1 and portends a new day for Stephen, the day of artistic creation.

When that day arrives, Stephen awakens at dawn and begins to write the “Villanelle of the Temptress.”10 With imagery of falling seraphim, imagery mirroring the “lost glory” in the first line of 1/XXI of Chamber Music (adumbrated, as Hugh Kenner has noticed, by the novel's epigraph),11 Stephen in preparing to write the poem, as Boyle has observed, “pictures himself as seraph, drawn down from heaven by the luring Temptress” (“Priesthoods,” 31). Although precipitated by an erotic experience, the poem has obvious theological, sacramental, and liturgical imagery. The narrative, at times a running commentary on both the poem and the mood of its author, reinforces that imagery with its references to the archangel Gabriel, the incarnation, the Blessed Virgin, and other religious terms. Stephen is now poet and priest who brings forth “[i]n the virgin womb of the imagination” (P 217) the word that transmutes experience into new life.

The poem, however, as many readers judge, is a failure. James Naremore, for example, explains, “One reason the poem is so poor is that it is dishonest to the emotions that led to its creation” (Naremore 126). Yet the poem, inadequate as it may be as poetry and as dishonest as it may be to the emotions that preceded it, is, nevertheless, Stephen's attempt at forging a work that embodies his theory of art and the role of the literary artist: art as sacrament and poet as priest. The poem—with its mixture of inquiry, desire, and hope—may actually reflect the poet's own emerging commitment to being a poet. Stephen, Boyle suggests, “finds himself enthralled by the Temptress, who turns out to be his own soul, his own imagination, alluring and repulsive all at once” (“Priesthoods,” 40). But the literal temptress is E——C——, the person to whom Stephen is writing the villanelle. In the midst of his emotional ecstasy, Stephen becomes her suppliant as the whole earth, swinging like a smoking censer of incense (P 218) in one universal ritual of adoration, sings her praise, and for a moment the rhythm of his verse is broken, and the poem is in danger of being lost. Determined to retrieve the villanelle from memory, Stephen writes the stanzas out before they slip away and gives permanent life to the poem, a prefiguring of the imperishable ink associated with Shem the Penman: encaustum sibi fecit indelibile (FW 185.25). After he has written out the stanzas, Stephen's thoughts wander to E——C——, but a “brutal anger”—which he interprets as “a form of homage”—dissipates “the last lingering instant of ecstasy from his soul,” (p.182) and her memory, distorted and fragmented, becomes a composite image of “the womanhood of her country” (P 220–21). Stephen consummates an artistic act, but the object of his affections—like Eurydice, as Orpheus watches in horror—begins to fade away and will eventually disappear forever.

Though his poetic hopes remain with him through the end of A Portrait, the amorous hopes recede. In the last two diary entries that conclude the novel, Stephen, preparing to leave Dublin for Paris, writes, “I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race. … Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead” (P 252–53). The poetic texture of the novel lies in the narrative and not in Stephen's poetry or clever aesthetic theories. By merging Stephen's thoughts and romantic sensitivities into the narrative, the narrator attains an effect similar to that achieved at the end of “The Dead,” but one with a more penetrating irony. Stephen's stay in Paris is cut short by his mother's death. On June 16, 1904, almost a year later, he is still in mourning and haunted by memories of her death and the accompanying feelings of guilt. Alienated and uncertain of his future, the frustrated Stephen of Ulysses sees himself trapped within a Dublin environment not only indifferent to him but also indifferent to his poetic aspirations. A debilitating sense of unrealized poetic potential appears to plague him. Through the dialogue in the novel and the device of the interior monologue, the reader gains insight into Stephen's thoughts and can readily recognize his sharp wit, ingenious theories, and clever use of language. The reader will also note the impressive store of quotations and the abundant literary references Stephen possesses. Yet, in the midst of all of Stephen's thoughts and words, there is little, if any, significant original poetry.

Stephen's creative promise has not materialized by the time he departs Ulysses into the darkness of an unknown destination. His last words appearing through the interior monologue are silent thoughts in a dead language. In response to the sound of church bells as he is taking his leave from Bloom, Stephen, preoccupied throughout the day with death and dying, hears in the bells' tolling a fitting Latin passage used in the Catholic Church, a passage Stephen calls to mind for the fifth time that day:

What sound accompanied the union of their tangent, the disunion of their (respectively) centrifugal and centripetal hands?

The sound of the peal of the hour of the night by the chime of the bells in the church of Saint George.

(p.183) What echoes of that sound were by both and each heard? By Stephen:

  Liliata rutilantium. Turma circumdet.

  Iubilantium te virginum. Chorus excipiat.

By Bloom:

  Heigho, heigho,

  Heigho, heigho. (U 17.1224–34)

The echoes that Stephen and Bloom hear repeat respectively what they thought and heard at the beginning of the day (U 1.736–38 and 4.546–48). The association between the tolling of a bell and death has been made even before this day by a very young Stephen when he was sick in the infirmary at Clongowes Wood College. But here, and perhaps in one or two of the day's earlier evocations of this Latin passage,12 Stephen's intent may be ambiguous and ironic. The undisclosed purpose of calling the phrase to mind may reflect the nagging guilt of not praying for his mother (U 1.270–79) or his own sense of failure as a poet and fear of dying, a fear that at times he voices to himself, as when he meets Dilly at a book peddler's carts in “Wandering Rocks” (U 10.875–88); or the Latin may reflect a tenacious belief in his own creative powers that once realized will eventually vindicate him and lead to a triumphant reception of recognition and success. Whatever the intent, however, the narrator (or arranger), having given Stephen his chances, dismisses him and, unlike the treatment of Bloom, writes him out of the novel. For whatever psychological or personal reasons, by June 16, 1904, Stephen's artistic vocation has not appreciably matured since the time he first left Dublin for Paris at the end of A Portrait.

Though there is no conclusive evidence one way or the other of Stephen's future artistic success or failure, some readers like Tindall may see in Stephen a rebirth after encountering Bloom and, in his departure in “Ithaca,” a transformed Stephen now ready to write about humanity (Reader's Guide to JJ, 225). Earlier in the novel, in the “Wandering Rocks” episode, Buck Mulligan, in what appears to be uttered in a disingenuous and ironically dismissive tone, remarks to Haines that Dedalus “is going to write something in ten years” (U 10.1089–90). But the reader can only surmise the outcome of Stephen's artistic vocation and the validity of Mulligan's prediction. By the time of his exit from Ulysses, Stephen is shrouded in silence and darkness, and like Gabriel Conroy—and also like Orpheus—he is approaching “that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead” (D 223). Metaphoricaly, (p.184) Stephen is treading the land of the dead, the land of unrealized potential. The image of Stephen walking in the shadows of night and his unrealized (and perhaps unrealizable) potential may evoke in the minds of some readers the following lines from T. S. Eliot's “The Hollow Men”:

  • Between the desire
  • And the spasm
  • Between the potency
  • And the existence
  • Between the essence
  • And the descent
  • Falls the shadow[.] (59)

The Orphic voice is not silenced by Stephen's departure. It reappears in Finnegans Wake, in the Latin passage of Shaun's depiction of Shem as artist. In his concocting imperishable ink, Shem places his own scatterings (purgation)—that is, his own excrement—“in vas olim honorabile tristitiae posuit” (FW 185.19–20; “into a once honorable vessel of sadness”). Boyle explains that this phrase “suggests a funeral urn, containing the ashes of the honored dead over whom the survivors weep. In literary terms this might suggest the ode, at least a threnody” (“Finnegans Wake,” 11). The Orphic voice of lament, of sorrow and loss, ultimately is tragic, and Shem marks its end, though the voice lingers momentarily in Anna Livia's final words at the close of the Wake. Her voice is associated with the mesmerizing rhythms and flow of the River Liffey and at first appears to be an Orphic sound sadly lamenting an irretrievable past. However, Anna Livia, unlike Orpheus, whose grief springs from loss and from the immutable sorrow of a painful memory, sings not of lost love but of an apocalyptic anticipation (FW 628.9–11) of renewed hope that transforms a past as in a Viconian ricorso into new life.

Speaking at the dawn of a new day, Anna Livia awaits a new beginning and, like Molly Bloom, affirms in her “Yes” (FW 628.11) new possibilities as “the rivering waters of” the Liffey (FW 216.4)—symbol of fluency and rejuvenation throughout the Wake—go out to sea and then, carried by the ocean current, as Edmund Epstein insightfully argues, begin to flow backwards as the tide starts coming in. The soft sibilant sound of ALP's life-giving spirit—“Whish!” (FW 628.13)—like that at the dawn of creation in Genesis, hovers over the waters of the Liffey to renew the promise of life and begin a revived poetic voice. This poetic voice, crucially, is not tragic (p.185) nor associated with sorrowful Orpheus, whose lament continued even after his own death, as “the lifeless tongue” in his severed head flowing down the river Hebrus “mournfully … murmured” (Ovid XI.50–53).13 Anna Livia's is a poetic voice that is ultimately comic, singing of hope and renewal. The last lines of Finnegans Wake are some of the most beautiful and moving poetic lines in all of Joyce, and they go far beyond the merely Orphic voice of much of his work.14 Through Anna Livia, Joyce's comedic voice, the voice inextricably associated with his major works, unequivocally reemerges to begin again “by a commodius vicus of recirculation” (FW 3.02).

Notes

First epigraph: “Alone he roamed the frozen North, along the icy Tanais, and the fields ever wedded to Riphaean snows, mourning his lost Eurydice and Pluto's cancelled boon.” From Virgil's Georgics, translated by Fairclough.

(1.) For the only surviving fragments of “Et Tu, Healy,” see Stanislaus Joyce, MBK, 65; Letters I, 295; Slocum and Cahoon, 3; JJII, 33–34; and P&SW, 71, 257.

(2.) For Archer's critique of A Brilliant Career and Stanislaus Joyce's brief description, see Letters II, 8–9; also see MBK, 126–30.

(3.) In a 1930 letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver, Joyce explains this passage as partly rendering of “sentimental poetry of what I actually wrote at the age of nine: ‘My cot alas that dear old shady home where oft in youthful sport I played, upon thy verdant grassy fields all day or lingered for a moment in thy bosom shade etc etc etc etc’” (Letters I, 295).

(4.) See FW 185.27–186.8. For a discussion of the importance of the Eucharistic image in Joyce's works, see especially the following works by Boyle: James Joyce's Pauline Vision: A Catholic Exposition; “Miracle in Black Ink: A Glance at Joyce's Use of His Eucharistic Image”; and “The Priesthoods of Stephen and Buck”; also see Fargnoli, “James Joyce's Catholic Moments.”

(5.) See Owens, “‘That high unconsortable one’: Chamber Music and ‘A Painful Case,’” 106–8; Conner, “Joyce's Poetics of Knowledge,” 148–49; and Conner, “The Poetry of James Joyce Reconsidered,” 11–13, in this volume, for more substantial discussion of the issue of Chamber Music's arrangements.

(6.) In Ulysses Annotated, Gifford explains that “hyperborean” refers to Nietzsche's Übermensch as “‘above the crowd’ and not enslaved by conformity to the dictatesof traditional Christian morality, whereas the moral man who lives for others is a weakling, a degenerate” (15). The word may also resonate with meaning linked to Stephen's mourning the death of his mother.

(p.186) (7.) The poems that comprise the upward movement in the suite are 4–16 (II, IV, V, VIII, VII, IX, XVII, XVIII, VI, X, XX, XIII, and XI).

(8.) The poems that comprise the downward movement in the suite are 18–34 (XIX, XV, XXIII, XXIV, XVI, XXXI, XXII, XXVI, XII, XXVII, XXVIII, XXV, XXIX, XXXII, XXX, XXXIII, and XXXIV).

(9.) The phrase “borrowed words” may call to mind Simon Dedalus's expression “one word borrowed another” (P 72) and may also suggest, as readers (and reviewers) have always noticed, Joyce's stylistic imitations or “borrowings” in Chamber Music. Myra T. Russel speaks to the fact that Joyce intentionally borrowed from the Elizabethan poets: “Virtually everything about Chamber Music—its style, subject matter, language, structure, and spirit—suggests not a twentieth-century author, but instead a much earlier period in the history of literature.” Joyce's songs in Chamber Music, she continues, “are a deliberate intellectual endeavor to reproduce ‘ayres’ of the Elizabethan period” (“Chamber Music: Words and Music,” 60, 61). For a thorough discussion of Joyce's Elizabethan borrowings, see Paterson's essay in this volume; see also Anderson (“Joyce's Verses,” 137) and Tindall (Chamber Music, 22–37).

(10.) Discussions surrounding the villanelle and Joyce's attitude toward Stephen Dedalus have been extensive; see Anderson, Editor's Introduction to “Controversy”; Day; Benstock; Booth; Boyle, “Priesthoods”; Riquelme, “The Villanelle and the Source of Writing” in his Teller and Tale; Rossman; Scholes, “Stephen Dedalus”; and Sosnowski.

(11.) “That Dedalus the artificer did violence to nature,” Kenner writes in Dublin's Joyce, “is the point of the epigraph from Ovid, Et ignotas animum dimittit in artes; the Icarian fall is inevitable” (120). The image of a fall or of falling can be found throughout Joyce's works, and in Finnegans Wake it becomes a leitmotif.

(12.) At different times during the day of June 16, 1904, Stephen thinks of this Latin prayer or variations of it; also see U 1.736–38; 9.222–23; 15.4164–65.

(13.) For Virgil's tale of Orpheus's death, see Georgics IV.523–29.

(14.) Readers readily recognize the extraordinary poetry in Anna Livia's final monologue. In commenting on the last lines of the Wake, Tindall writes that “‘I am passing out. O bitter ending!’ (627.34) begins a page that has few rivals in the works of Joyce. This page, last of the book and, in a sense, his last—is one of his best poems, all of which are in prose” (Reader's Guide to FW, 328). The extraordinary poetry of ALP's final monologue may be matched only by the extraordinary irony at Joyce's burial. The Swiss tenor Max Meili, according to Ellmann, sang “Addio terra, addio cielo” from Monteverdi's Orfeo, and Ellmann also points out that at the funeral a lyre had been woven from a green wreath “as emblem of Ireland” (JJII 742–43). The lyre, of course, is Orpheus's instrument.

Notes:

(1.) For the only surviving fragments of “Et Tu, Healy,” see Stanislaus Joyce, MBK, 65; Letters I, 295; Slocum and Cahoon, 3; JJII, 33–34; and P&SW, 71, 257.

(2.) For Archer's critique of A Brilliant Career and Stanislaus Joyce's brief description, see Letters II, 8–9; also see MBK, 126–30.

(3.) In a 1930 letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver, Joyce explains this passage as partly rendering of “sentimental poetry of what I actually wrote at the age of nine: ‘My cot alas that dear old shady home where oft in youthful sport I played, upon thy verdant grassy fields all day or lingered for a moment in thy bosom shade etc etc etc etc’” (Letters I, 295).

(4.) See FW 185.27–186.8. For a discussion of the importance of the Eucharistic image in Joyce's works, see especially the following works by Boyle: James Joyce's Pauline Vision: A Catholic Exposition; “Miracle in Black Ink: A Glance at Joyce's Use of His Eucharistic Image”; and “The Priesthoods of Stephen and Buck”; also see Fargnoli, “James Joyce's Catholic Moments.”

(5.) See Owens, “‘That high unconsortable one’: Chamber Music and ‘A Painful Case,’” 106–8; Conner, “Joyce's Poetics of Knowledge,” 148–49; and Conner, “The Poetry of James Joyce Reconsidered,” 11–13, in this volume, for more substantial discussion of the issue of Chamber Music's arrangements.

(6.) In Ulysses Annotated, Gifford explains that “hyperborean” refers to Nietzsche's Übermensch as “‘above the crowd’ and not enslaved by conformity to the dictatesof traditional Christian morality, whereas the moral man who lives for others is a weakling, a degenerate” (15). The word may also resonate with meaning linked to Stephen's mourning the death of his mother.

(p.186) (7.) The poems that comprise the upward movement in the suite are 4–16 (II, IV, V, VIII, VII, IX, XVII, XVIII, VI, X, XX, XIII, and XI).

(8.) The poems that comprise the downward movement in the suite are 18–34 (XIX, XV, XXIII, XXIV, XVI, XXXI, XXII, XXVI, XII, XXVII, XXVIII, XXV, XXIX, XXXII, XXX, XXXIII, and XXXIV).

(9.) The phrase “borrowed words” may call to mind Simon Dedalus's expression “one word borrowed another” (P 72) and may also suggest, as readers (and reviewers) have always noticed, Joyce's stylistic imitations or “borrowings” in Chamber Music. Myra T. Russel speaks to the fact that Joyce intentionally borrowed from the Elizabethan poets: “Virtually everything about Chamber Music—its style, subject matter, language, structure, and spirit—suggests not a twentieth-century author, but instead a much earlier period in the history of literature.” Joyce's songs in Chamber Music, she continues, “are a deliberate intellectual endeavor to reproduce ‘ayres’ of the Elizabethan period” (“Chamber Music: Words and Music,” 60, 61). For a thorough discussion of Joyce's Elizabethan borrowings, see Paterson's essay in this volume; see also Anderson (“Joyce's Verses,” 137) and Tindall (Chamber Music, 22–37).

(10.) Discussions surrounding the villanelle and Joyce's attitude toward Stephen Dedalus have been extensive; see Anderson, Editor's Introduction to “Controversy”; Day; Benstock; Booth; Boyle, “Priesthoods”; Riquelme, “The Villanelle and the Source of Writing” in his Teller and Tale; Rossman; Scholes, “Stephen Dedalus”; and Sosnowski.

(11.) “That Dedalus the artificer did violence to nature,” Kenner writes in Dublin's Joyce, “is the point of the epigraph from Ovid, Et ignotas animum dimittit in artes; the Icarian fall is inevitable” (120). The image of a fall or of falling can be found throughout Joyce's works, and in Finnegans Wake it becomes a leitmotif.

(12.) At different times during the day of June 16, 1904, Stephen thinks of this Latin prayer or variations of it; also see U 1.736–38; 9.222–23; 15.4164–65.

(13.) For Virgil's tale of Orpheus's death, see Georgics IV.523–29.

(14.) Readers readily recognize the extraordinary poetry in Anna Livia's final monologue. In commenting on the last lines of the Wake, Tindall writes that “‘I am passing out. O bitter ending!’ (627.34) begins a page that has few rivals in the works of Joyce. This page, last of the book and, in a sense, his last—is one of his best poems, all of which are in prose” (Reader's Guide to FW, 328). The extraordinary poetry of ALP's final monologue may be matched only by the extraordinary irony at Joyce's burial. The Swiss tenor Max Meili, according to Ellmann, sang “Addio terra, addio cielo” from Monteverdi's Orfeo, and Ellmann also points out that at the funeral a lyre had been woven from a green wreath “as emblem of Ireland” (JJII 742–43). The lyre, of course, is Orpheus's instrument.