Homage to Catatonia

A Loving Catalog of Orphaned Ideas.

Category: The Bloomsday Project

Chapter 7 (Aeolus)


Most years when I prepare to write my Bloomsday post I spend a lot of time fretting over my choice of excerpt from that year’s chapter of Ulysses. Not this year. In fact, I have known since this project began exactly which portion of Chapter 7 I would use for the 2012 Bloomsday post. Why? Because in 1924 when James Joyce was given the opportunity to make a gramophone recording of any section of Ulysses (thanks, yet again, to efforts of the remarkable Sylvia Beach) he chose this year’s excerpt from Chapter 7 (Aeolus).

Chapter 7 marks an important shift in the narrative technique of Ulysses. While the deft combination of narration and interior monologue remains, it is folded into the format of a mock newspaper—complete with headlines.

Why has Joyce suddenly shifted to a newspaper format? The answer may surprise you. For more, we go to Ancient Greece . . .


The Aeolus episode of The Odyssey (Book X) is about frustrated efforts and ill winds. Odysseus and his men are given aid by Aeolus, king of Aeolia, whom Zeus has appointed “Warden of the Winds.” Aeolus presents Odysseus with a bag that contains all of the winds that will interfere with his journey home to Ithaca. Within sight of Ithaca Odysseus’ men, suspecting it may contain treasure, open the bag and release the winds. The ships are blown to Aeolia where the disgusted king refuses to help Odysseus again and forces him to leave.


In Ulysses the ill winds are relocated to the offices of two Dublin newspapers (the Freeman’s Journal and the Evening Telegraph). As Harry Blamires writes in his indispensable The New Bloomsday Book, setting the Aeolus chapter in newspaper offices creates “a background throbbing with noise, haste, and bustle. The printing presses with their ceaseless Sllt Sllt, the shouting newsboys and (in a different sense) the screaming headlines, all help to create the feel of restlessness.”

Setting isn’t the only source of bluster in Aeolus. The newsmen themselves  provide plenty of hot air as they lament the good old days, trade lazy insults, and ridicule a public  speech, all the while regaling one another (and themselves) with puns, riddles, and other rhetorical flourishes. Where The Odyssey features a bag of winds, Ulysses gives us windbags.


The entire Aeolus chapter is a compendium of rhetorical devices. There are nearly one hundred such devices (the count is still fluid as critics debate) including:  metonymy,  synecdoche, prosopopoeia, palindrome, spoonerism . . .


Both Bloom and Stephen go to the newspaper offices with specific goals in mind: Bloom in his capacity as an ad canvasser looking to finalize a deal, Stephen on behalf of his employer (Mr Deasy) who wants his letter to the editor published. On the verge of success, Bloom is forced (by a moody editor) to start all over again. Stephen easily gets Deasy’s letter placed but keeping the company of newspapermen only highlights his frustrated literary ambitions.


The reader is blown about, too. This is the first chapter in Ulysses that is not moored to the consciousness of a single character. On several occasions the reader must rely on his or her familiarity with Bloom and Stephen from previous chapters to identify whose dialog or thoughts they are reading.


Some context for this year’s excerpt: Stephen gives Deasy’s letter to Myles Crawford (editor of the Evening Telegraph) and stays to chat with the newspapermen and wags killing time in Crawford’s office. As the topic turns to great examples of public speaking, Professor MacHugh tells of the “finest display of oratory I ever heard . . . a speech made by John F. Taylor at the college historical society.” A paper advocating the revival of the Irish language had just been dismissed in haughty terms by an Irish politician who supported English rule. MacHugh then quotes Taylor’s reply from memory. Stephen, having already resisted the temptations of a career in journalism, finds himself tempted by Taylor’s words to use his literary talents for political ends.

As always, Joyce uses italics to indicate a quotation within dialog.


Since this recording is from 1924 (with all the hisses and scratches you might expect) I have included the text below so you can read along. Despite the age and quality of the recording I think you can get a sense of the lovely tenor voice that earned Joyce some acclaim as a singer.

He [MacHugh] began:

Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen: Great was my admiration in listening to the remarks addressed to the youth of Ireland a moment since by my learned friend. It seemed to me that I had been transported into a country far away from this country, into an age remote from this age, that I stood in ancient Egypt and that I was listening to the speech of some highpriest of that land addressed to the youthful Moses.

His listeners held their cigarettes poised to hear, their smoke ascending in frail stalks that flowered with his speech. And let our crooked smokes. Noble words coming. Look out. Could you try your hand at it yourself?

And it seemed to me that I heard the voice of that Egyptian highpriest raised in a tone of like haughtiness and like pride. I heard his words and their meaning was revealed to me.


It was revealed to me that those things are good which yet are corrupted which neither if they were supremely good nor unless they were good could be corrupted. Ah, curse you! That’s saint Augustine.

Why will you jews not accept our culture, our religion and our language? You are a tribe of nomad herdsmen; we are a mighty people. You have no cities nor no wealth: our cities are hives of humanity and our galleys, trireme and quadrireme, laden with all manner merchandise furrow the waters of the known globe. You have but emerged from primitive conditions: we have a literature, a priesthood, an agelong history and a polity.


Child, man, effigy.

By the Nilebank the babemaries kneel, cradle of bulrushes: a man supple in combat: stonehorned, stonebearded, heart of stone.

—You pray to a local and obscure idol: our temples, majestic and mysterious, are the abodes of Isis and Osiris, of Horus and Ammon Ra. Yours serfdom, awe and humbleness: ours thunder and the seas. Israel is weak and few are her children: Egypt is an host and terrible are her arms. Vagrants and daylabourers are you called: the world trembles at our name.

A dumb belch of hunger cleft his speech. He lifted his voice above it boldly:

—But, ladies and gentlemen, had the youthful Moses listened to and accepted that view of life, had he bowed his head and bowed his will and bowed his spirit before that arrogant admonition he would never have brought the chosen people out of their house of bondage nor followed the pillar of the cloud by day. He would never have spoken with the Eternal amid lightnings on Sinai’s mountaintop nor ever have come down with the light of inspiration shining in his countenance and bearing in his arms the tables of the law, graven in the language of the outlaw.


Chapter 6 (Hades)

Ulysses, of course, is a divine work of art and will live on despite the academic nonentities who turn it into a collection of symbols or Greek myths. I once gave a student a C-minus, or perhaps a D-plus, just for applying to its chapters the titles borrowed from Homer while not even noticing the comings and goings of the man in the brown mackintosh. He didn’t even know who the man in the brown mackintosh was.”
— Vladimir Nabokov

The man on the Macintosh (that’s me) will come to the “the man in the brown mackintosh” in a bit but first I’ll risk receiving low marks from Nabokov’s ghost by (briefly) discussing the Homeric source of this year’s chapter of Ulysses.

Homer’s Odyssey, Book XI: seeking advice from the ghost of the prophet Tiresias, Odysseus visits the underworld where he also communes with other ghosts—including his mother, his former comrades in arms (Agamemnon, Achilles, Ajax)—and witnesses the eternal punishments of Sisyphus and Tantalus. In Chapter Six of Ulysses (“Hades” to academic nonentities), Leopold Bloom is one of a funeral party, escorting the body of Paddy Dignam from his home in Dublin to Glasnevin Cemetery. Throughout the chapter, Bloom and the other mourners communicate with the “ghosts” of friends, loved ones, and great leaders through remembrance—both personal and collective.

Joyce’s playful side is also on display as ghosts of a more literary sort riddle the  chapter. Later in Ulysses, (Chapter 16, “Eumaeus”) when Bloom reads the obituary, at least four of the names are actually “ghosts.” Bloom is annoyed to find that he has become a ghost due to a typographical error (his name is recorded as “L. Boom.”) but he has also created a ghost by adding Charley McCoy to the list of those at the funeral even though McCoy could not attend. What is a ghost, after all, but someone who is simultaneously present and absent? The name of Ulysses’ other protagonist also appears (as “Stephen Dedalus, B.A.” ) because someone—presumably Stephen’s father, Simon—has added his name.

Then there is “— M’Intosh” which, at last, brings us to Nabokov’s “man in the macintosh” and requires some explanation.

During the funeral, as the gravediggers lower the coffin, Bloom notices an unfamiliar face and thinks “Now who is that lankylooking galoot over there in the macintosh?” Originally a specific brand of raincoat made of rubberised fabric and named for its inventor, a macintosh (now spelled Mackintosh and often shortened to mack) has long been a generic term in Great Britain and Ireland for any waterproof coat. Later, Bloom has this exchange with Joe Hynes, who is collecting names of those in attendance for the newspaper:

—And tell us, Hynes said, do you know that fellow in the, fellow was over there in the…
He looked around
—Macintosh. Yes, I saw him, Mr Bloom said. Where is he now?
—M’Intosh, Hynes said scribbling. I don’t know who he is. Is that his name? He moved away, looking about him.
—No, Mr Bloom began, turning and stopping. I say, Hynes!
Didn’t hear. What. Where has he disappeared to?

What has happened, of course, is this: as Hynes, trying to ask about the same man Bloom noticed earlier, fumbles to describe the coat the man is wearing. Bloom helpfully supplies the word “macintosh” but Hynes mistakes the word he needs to complete his own sentence for the man he is trying to identify. Hynes records the name and disappears before Bloom can correct the misunderstanding. A ghost is born.

Ghostlike, “the man in the macintosh” appears throughout Ulysses—most dramatically in the surreal dream-play of Chapter 15 (“Circe” or “Nighttown”) where he springs up through a trap door and accuses Bloom of being “Leopold M’Intosh, the notorious fireraiser [arsonist].” The man in the macintosh is never described in greater detail (except to reveal that his macintosh is brown in Chapter 10, “Wandering  Rocks”) and his identity is never revealed, though many have speculated. Nabokov thought he was Joyce. He remains for Bloom and for readers a “selfinvolved enigma.”

For this year’s excerpt I want to draw attention to Joyce’s pitch-perfect ear for dialogue. The following scene takes place during the carriage ride to the cemetery and foregrounds Bloom’s status as an outsider. We also learn that Bloom’s father committed suicide. In part, Bloom struggles to find acceptance because he is shy, unable to bring the wit and charm of his inner life into conversation. Yet he is also unwelcome: a Jew in a deeply Catholic and (as we have seen) often anti-semitic community. Notice the offhand rudeness with which Bloom is treated, even among acquaintances, as he tries to tell a humorous anecdote. As usual, I have included a vocal performance of the excerpt (from the unabridged full-cast radio production of Ulysses recorded for RTÉ in 1982) so that you can read along or simply listen.

Mr Bloom began to speak with sudden eagerness to his companions’ faces.
— That’s an awfully good one that’s going the rounds about Reuben J. and the son.
— About the boatman? Mr Power asked.
— Yes. Isn’t it awfully good?
— What is that? Mr Dedalus asked. I didn’t hear it.
— There was a girl in the case, Mr Bloom began, and he determined to send him to the Isle of Man out of harm’s way but when they were both…
— What? Mr Dedalus asked. That confirmed bloody hobbledehoy is it?
— Yes, Mr Bloom said. They were both on the way to the boat and he tried to drown…
— Drown Barabbas! Mr Dedalus cried. I wish to Christ he did! Mr Power sent a long laugh down his shaded nostrils.
— No, Mr Bloom said, the son himself…
Martin Cunningham thwarted his speech rudely.
— Reuben J. and the son were piking it down the quay next the river on their way to the isle of Man boat and the young chiseller suddenly got loose and over the wall with him into the Liffey.
— For God’s sake! Mr Dedalus exclaimed in fright. Is he dead?
— Dead! Martin Cunningham cried. Not he! A boatman got a pole and fished him out by the slack of the breeches and he was landed up to the father on the quay. More dead than alive. Half the town was there.
— Yes, Mr Bloom said. But the funny part is…
— And Reuben J., Martin Cunningham said, gave the boatman a florin for saving his son’s life. A stifled sigh came from under Mr Power’s hand.
— O, he did, Martin Cunningham affirmed. Like a hero. A silver florin. — Isn’t it awfully good? Mr Bloom said eagerly.
— One and eightpence too much, Mr Dedalus said drily.
Mr Power’s choked laugh burst quietly in the carriage.
Nelson’s pillar.
— Eight plums a penny! Eight for a penny! We had better look a little serious, Martin Cunningham said.
Mr Dedalus sighed.
— And then indeed, he said, poor little Paddy wouldn’t grudge us a laugh. Many a good one he told himself.
— The Lord forgive me! Mr Power said, wiping his wet eyes with his fingers. Poor Paddy! I little thought a week ago when I saw him last and he was in his usual health that I’d be driving after him like this. He’s gone from us.
— As decent a little man as ever wore a hat, Mr Dedalus said. He went very suddenly.
— Breakdown, Martin Cunningham said. Heart.
He tapped his chest sadly.
Blazing face: redhot. Too much John Barleycorn. Cure for a red nose. Drink like the devil till it turns adelite. A lot of money he spent colouring it.
Mr Power gazed at the passing houses with rueful apprehension.
— He had a sudden death, poor fellow, he said.
— The best death, Mr Bloom said.
Their wide open eyes looked at him.
— No suffering, he said. A moment and all is over. Like dying in sleep.
No-one spoke.
Dead side of the street this. Dull business by day, land agents, temperance hotel, Falconer’s railway guide, civil service college, Gill’s, catholic club, the industrious blind. Why? Some reason. Sun or wind. At night too. Chummies and slaveys. Under the patronage of the late Father Mathew. Foundation stone for Parnell. Breakdown. Heart.
White horses with white frontlet plumes came round the Rotunda corner, galloping. A tiny coffin flashed by. In a hurry to bury. A mourning coach. Unmarried. Black for the married. Piebald for bachelors. Dun for a nun.
— Sad, Martin Cunningham said. A child.
A dwarf’s face mauve and wrinkled like little Rudy’s was. Dwarf’s body, weak as putty, in a whitelined deal box. Burial friendly society pays. Penny a week for a sod of turf. Our. Little. Beggar. Baby. Meant nothing. Mistake of nature. If it’s healthy it’s from the mother. If not the man. Better luck next time.
— Poor little thing, Mr Dedalus said. It’s well out of it.
The carriage climbed more slowly the hill of Rutland square. Rattle his bones. Over the stones. Only a pauper. Nobody owns.
— In the midst of life, Martin Cunningham said.
— But the worst of all, Mr Power said, is the man who takes his own life.
Martin Cunningham drew out his watch briskly, coughed and put it back.
— The greatest disgrace to have in the family, Mr Power added.
— Temporary insanity, of course, Martin Cunningham said decisively. We must take a charitable view of it.
— They say a man who does it is a coward, Mr Dedalus said.
— It is not for us to judge, Martin Cunningham said.
Mr Bloom, about to speak, closed his lips again. Martin Cunningham’s large eyes. Looking away now. Sympathetic human man he is. Intelligent. Like Shakespeare’s face. Always a good word to say. They have no mercy on that here or infanticide. Refuse christian burial. They used to drive a stake of wood through his heart in the grave. As if it wasn’t broken already. Yet sometimes they repent too late. Found in the riverbed clutching rushes. He looked at me. And that awful drunkard of a wife of his. Setting up house for her time after time and then pawning the furniture on him every Saturday almost. Leading him the life of the damned. Wear the heart out of a stone, that. Monday morning start afresh. Shoulder to the wheel. Lord, she must have looked a sight that night, Dedalus told me he was in there. Drunk about the place and capering with Martin’s umbrella:

And they call me the jewel of Asia,
Of Asia,
The geisha.

He looked away from me. He knows. Rattle his bones.
That afternoon of the inquest. The redlabelled bottle on the table. The room in the hotel with hunting pictures. Stuffy it was. Sunlight through the slats of the Venetian blinds. The coroner’s ears, big and hairy. Boots giving evidence. Thought he was asleep first. Then saw like yellow streaks on his face. Had slipped down to the foot of the bed. Verdict: overdose. Death by misadventure. The letter. For my son Leopold.
No more pain. Wake no more. Nobody owns.
The carriage rattled swiftly along Blessington street. Over the stones.

Chapter 5 (Lotus-Eaters)

Name a type of humor and Ulysses almost certainly has it. Dirty jokes? Droll anecdotes? Cutting insults? Corny puns? Witty banter? Satirical verse? Wry observations? Irreverent remarks? Misunderstandings? Coincidences? All of these (and more) are present and accounted for in Ulysses. Which is not to say that Ulysses is a comedy—or, rather, that it is only a comedy. Since Ulysses strives to portray the full spectrum of human life, all the jokes (private, public, cosmic) that make up an average day are interwoven with everything else.

The Lotus-Eaters episode in Homer’s Odyssey is short (a single paragraph or stanza in most translations) and would seem to offer little occasion for humor: Odysseus and his men briefly visit a land where the inhabitants live by eating the lotus-flower, a narcotic plant. When two members of his crew partake of the lotus-flower and lose all interest in returning home (or anything else) Odysseus quickly gathers his men and leaves.

While running errands (and generally wandering) through the neighborhood surrounding Westland Row in Dublin’s south side, Leopold Bloom witnesses and reflects upon numerous potentially addictive agents: nicotine, alcohol, gambling, sex, religion, etc. This being Dublin, it is on Catholicism that Bloom (and Joyce) linger. Yet Bloom’s knowledge of Catholicism is spotty. His father was a Jew, his mother a Protestant, and his wife Molly, while raised Catholic, is not especially devout. So Bloom’s thoughts as he sits in the back of All Hallows’ Church are those of an outsider who has collected just enough scraps of information to create some pleasant confusion.

To help highlight the humor in today’s excerpt (lines 338-448) I have included a full-cast vocal performance of the excerpt from the 2005 production of Bloomsday on Broadway featuring Stephen Colbert as Bloom. Joyce’s work benefits from being read aloud so, if you can, take the time to read along with the performance (less than nine minutes) and note which sentences are read by the narrator and which are read by Colbert or other actors.

The cold smell of sacred stone called him. He trod the worn steps, pushed the swingdoor and entered softly by the rere.

Something going on: some sodality. Pity so empty. Nice discreet place to be next some girl. Who is my neighbour? Jammed by the hour to slow music. That woman at midnight mass. Seventh heaven. Women knelt in the benches with crimson halters round their necks, heads bowed. A batch knelt at the altar rails. The priest went along by them, murmuring, holding the thing in his hands. He stopped at each, took out a communion, shook a drop or two (are they in water?) off it and put it neatly into her mouth. Her hat and head sank. Then the next one. Her hat sank at once. Then the next one: a small old woman. The priest bent down to put it into her mouth, murmuring all the time. Latin. The next one. Shut your eyes and open your mouth. What? Corpus: Body. Corpse. Good idea the Latin. Stupefies them first. Hospice for the dying. They don’t seem to chew it; only swallow it down. Rum idea: eating bits of a corpse. Why the cannibals cotton to it.

He stood aside watching their blind masks pass down the aisle, one by one, and seek their places. He approached a bench and seated himself in its corner, nursing his hat and newspaper. These pots we have to wear. We ought to have hats modelled on our heads. They were about him here and there, with heads still bowed in their crimson halters, waiting for it to melt in their stomachs. Something like those mazzoth: it’s that sort of bread: unleavened shewbread. Look at them. Now I bet it makes them feel happy. Lollipop. It does. Yes, bread of angels it’s called. There’s a big idea behind it, kind of kingdom of God is within you feel. First communicants. Hokypoky penny a lump. Then feel all like one family party, same in the theatre, all in the same swim. They do. I’m sure of that. Not so lonely. In our confraternity. Then come out a big spreeish. Let off steam. Thing is if you really believe in it. Lourdes cure, waters of oblivion, and the Knock apparition, statues bleeding. Old fellow asleep near that confession box. Hence those snores. Blind faith. Safe in the arms of Kingdom come. Lulls all pain. Wake this time next year.

He saw the priest stow the communion cup away, well in, and kneel an instant before it, showing a large grey bootsole from under the lace affair he had on. Suppose he lost the pin of his. He wouldn’t know what to do to. Bald spot behind. Letters on his back I. N. R. I.? No: I. H. S. Molly told me one time I asked her. I have sinned: or no: I have suffered, it is. And the other one? Iron nails ran in.

Meet one Sunday after the rosary. Do not deny my request. Turn up with a veil and black bag. Dusk and the light behind her. She might be here with a ribbon round her neck and do the other thing all the same on the sly. Their character. That fellow that turned queen’s evidence on the invincibles he used to receive the, Carey was his name, the communion every morning. This very church. Peter Carey. No, Peter Claver I am thinking of. Denis Carey. And just imagine that. Wife and six children at home. And plotting that murder all the time. Those crawthumpers, now that’s a good name for them, there’s always something shiftylooking about them. They’re not straight men of business either. O no she’s not here: the flower: no, no. By the way did I tear up that envelope? Yes: under the bridge.

The priest was rinsing out the chalice: then he tossed off the dregs smartly. Wine. Makes it more aristocratic than for example if he drank what they are used to Guinness’s porter or some temperance beverage Wheatley’s Dublin hop bitters or Cantrell and Cochrane’s ginger ale (aromatic). Doesn’t give them any of it: shew wine: only the other. Cold comfort. Pious fraud but quite right: otherwise they’d have one old booser worse than another coming along, cadging for a drink. Queer the whole atmosphere of the. Quite right. Perfectly right that is.

Mr Bloom looked back towards the choir. Not going to be any music. Pity. Who has the organ here I wonder? Old Glynn he knew how to make that instrument talk, the vibrato: fifty pounds a year they say he had in Gardiner street. Molly was in fine voice that day, the Stabat Mater of Rossini. Father Bernard Vaughan’s sermon first. Christ or Pilate? Christ, but don’t keep us all night over it. Music they wanted. Footdrill stopped. Could hear a pin drop. I told her to pitch her voice against that corner. I could feel the thrill in the air, the full, the people looking up:

Quis est homo.

Some of that old sacred music is splendid. Mercadante: seven last words. Mozart’s twelfth mass: the Gloria in that. Those old popes were keen on music, on art and statues and pictures of all kinds. Palestrina for example too. They had a gay old time while it lasted. Healthy too chanting, regular hours, then brew liqueurs. Benedictine. Green Chartreuse. Still, having eunuchs in their choir that was coming it a bit thick. What kind of voice is it? Must be curious to hear after their own strong basses. Connoisseurs. Suppose they wouldn’t feel anything after. Kind of a placid. No worry. Fall into flesh don’t they? Gluttons, tall, long legs. Who knows? Eunuch. One way out of it.

He saw the priest bend down and kiss the altar and then face about and bless all the people. All crossed themselves and stood up. Mr Bloom glanced about him and then stood up, looking over the risen hats. Stand up at the gospel of course. Then all settled down on their knees again and he sat back quietly in his bench. The priest came down from the altar, holding the thing out from him, and he and the massboy answered each other in Latin. Then the priest knelt down and began to read off a card:
—O God, our refuge and our strength …..

Mr Bloom put his face forward to catch the words. English. Throw them the bone. I remember slightly. How long since your last mass? Gloria and immaculate virgin. Joseph her spouse. Peter and Paul. More interesting if you understood what it was all about. Wonderful organisation certainly, goes like clockwork. Confession. Everyone wants to. Then I will tell you all. Penance. Punish me, please. Great weapon In their hands. More than doctor or solicitor. Woman dying to. And I schschschschschsch. And did you chachachachacha? And why did you? Look down at her ring to find an excuse. Whispering gallery walls have ears. Husband learn to his surprise. God’s little joke. Then out she comes. Repentance skindeep. Lovely shame. Pray at an altar. Hail Mary and Holy Mary. Flowers, incense, candles melting. Hide her blushes. Salvation army blatant imitation. Reformed prostitute will address the meeting. How I found the Lord. Squareheaded chaps those must be in Rome: they work the whole show. And don’t they rake in the money too? Bequests also: to the P.P. for the time being in his absolute discretion. Masses for the repose of my soul to be said publicly with open doors. Monasteries and convents. The priest in the Fermanagh will case in the witness box. No browbeating him. He had his answer pat for everything. Liberty and exaltation of our holy mother the church. The doctors of the church: they mapped out the whole theology of it.

The priest prayed:

—Blessed Michael, archangel, defend us in the hour of conflict. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil (may God restrain him, we humbly pray): and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God thrust Satan down to hell and with him those other wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.

The priest and the massboy stood up and walked off. All over.

Chapter 4 (Calypso)

While living in Paris, Joyce occasionally chatted with his friend Frank Budgen (a painter from England) as a way of working through his ideas about Ulysses. During one such conversation (related in Budgen’s book James Joyce & the Making of Ulysses) Joyce asked if Budgen could think of “any complete all-round character presented by any writer.” Budgen’s candidates included some of the best known figures in world literature, all of whom Joyce dismissed: Christ because “he was a bachelor;” Faust because “he’s never alone. Mephistopheles is always hanging round him.” Hamlet, he concedes, “is a human being, but he is a son only.” Joyce’s answer, of course, is Ulysses (Odysseus) and the reasons he gives for this choice speak volumes about his conception of what makes a hero:

Ulysses is son to Laertes, but he is father to Telemachus, husband to Penelope, lover to Calypso, companion in arms of the Greek warriors around Troy, and King of Ithaca. He was subjected to many trials, but with wisdom and courage came through them all. Don’t forget that he was a war dodger who tried to evade military service by simulating madness . . . Another thing, the history of Ulysses did not come to an end when the Trojan War was over. It began just when the other Greek heroes went back to live the rest of their lives in peace . . . he was the first gentleman in Europe. When he advanced, naked, to meet the young princess he hid from her eyes the parts that mattered of his brine-soaked, barnacle-encrusted body. He was an inventor too. The tank was his creation. Wooden horse or iron box—it doesn’t matter.

Speaking to another, German-speaking, friend Joyce would explain that “Ulysses was not ‘gut’ but ‘gutmutig’ [decent; good-hearted].” The hero of Ulysses could not be someone who merely embodied an ideal or whose significance was limited to specific situations (war, for instance). For his modern epic, Joyce wanted a hero who was fully engaged with the world around him.

As in life, first impressions in fiction mean a great deal and our first impression of Leopold Bloom, the hero of Ulysses, makes clear he is no traditional masculine hero. When we first see Bloom he is in the kitchen preparing breakfast for his wife, Molly, and talking to his cat. Throughout the chapter we follow Bloom through his morning routine as he makes tea, runs a quick errand, brings Molly her breakfast in bed, reads the morning mail, thinks about the coming day’s events (including attending the funeral of an acquaintance) and spends some time in the outhouse. His interior monologue is also homey, even chatty, especially after spending three chapters with the brooding thoughts of Stephen Dedalus. While Stephen morbidly examines his own shortcomings, Bloom contemplates his cat’s whiskers (“wonder is it true if you clip them they can’t mouse after”), remembers the gift he gave his daughter for her fourth birthday (“the amberoid necklace she broke”), idly ogles a servant girl at the butchershop (“pleasant to see first thing in the morning”) and warns himself about the toilet (“better be careful not to get these trousers dirty for the funeral”). Even when the memory of his daughter’s birth calls to mind the midwife who also delivered his son, Rudy, who died as an infant—there is a gentle generosity: “Jolly old woman. Lots of babies she must have brought into the world. She knew from the first poor Rudy wouldn’t live. Well, God is good, sir. She knew at once. He would have been eleven now if he had lived.”

It is interesting to note, in the midst of all this domestic bliss, that the fourth chapter of Ulysses corresponds to the “Calypso” episode in Homer’s Odyssey. For seven years, the goddess Calypso holds Odysseus on her island in the center of the sea, compelling him to be her lover. Calypso herself is a captive, confined to her island by Zeus, and it is only through the intervention of Athena that Odysseus is freed. Much is made of the correspondences between Ulysses and Homer’s Odyssey but it is worth remembering that those connections are neither static nor simplistic. In this chapter, Molly Bloom is explicitly linked to Calypso but throughout Ulysses she is also associated with Odysseus’ devoted wife Penelope. There is another, subtler, correspondence as well. In a later episode, when Circe uses sorcery to change Odysseus’ men into swine, Odysseus himself is protected from this fate by an herb given to him by the god Hermes. The name of that herb is Moly.

In this scene (lines 331-388), Molly asks Bloom for the definition of a word she has come across while reading a pulpy novel. Notice how Joyce introduces his characters and their connection to the world of Ancient Greece while the moving between dialogue, authorial description, and unfiltered examples of Bloom’s internal thought processes throughout the scene, often switching perspective within a paragraph or even a sentence. If you like you can read along with his full-cast performance from Bloomsday on Broadway featuring Stephen Colbert as Bloom:

—Show here, she said. I put a mark in it. There’s a word I wanted to ask you.

She swallowed a draught of tea from her cup held by nothandle and, having wiped her fingertips smartly on the blanket, began to search the text with the hairpin till she reached the word.

—Met him what? he asked.
—Here, she said. What does that mean?

He leaned downwards and read near her polished thumbnail.

—Yes. Who’s he when he’s at home?
—Metempsychosis, he said, frowning. It’s Greek: from the Greek. That means the transmigration of souls.
—O, rocks! she said. Tell us in plain words.

He smiled, glancing askance at her mocking eye. The same young eyes. The first night after the charades. Dolphin’s Barn. He turned over the smudged pages. Ruby: the Pride of the Ring. Hello. Illustration. Fierce Italian with carriagewhip. Must be Ruby pride of the on the floor naked. Sheet kindly lent. The monster Maffei desisted and flung his victim from him with an oath. Cruelty behind it all. Doped animals. Trapeze at Hengler’s. Had to look the other way. Mob gaping. Break your neck and we’ll break our sides. Families of them. Bone them young so they metemspychosis. That we live after death. Our souls. That a man’s soul after he dies. Dignam’s soul ….

—Did you finish it? he asked.
—Yes, she said. There’s nothing smutty in it. Is she in love with the first fellow all the time?
—Never read it. Do you want another?
—Yes. Get another of Paul de Kock’s. Nice name he has.

She poured more tea into her cup, watching its flow sideways.

Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to Kearney, my guarantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

—Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better. An example?

The Bath of the Nymph over the bed. Given away with the Easter number of Photo Bits: splendid masterpiece in art colours. Tea before you put milk in. Not unlike her with her hair down: slimmer. Three and six I gave for the frame. She said it would look nice over the bed. Naked nymphs: Greece: and for instance all the people that lived then.

He turned the pages back.

—Metempsychosis, he said, is what the ancient Greeks called it. They used to believe you could be changed into an animal or a tree, for instance. What they called nymphs, for example.

Her spoon ceased to stir up the sugar. She gazed straight before her, inhaling through her arched nostrils.

—There’s a smell of burn, she said. Did you leave anything on the fire?
—The kidney! he cried suddenly.

He fitted the book roughly into his inner pocket and, stubbing his toes against the broken commode, hurried out towards the smell, stepping hastily down the stairs with a flurried stork’s legs. Pungent smoke shot up in an angry jet from a side of the pan. By prodding a prong of the fork under the kidney he detached it and turned it turtle on its back. Only a little burnt. He tossed it off the pan on to a plate and let the scant brown gravy trickle over it.

Chapter 1 (Telemachus)

Like any great work of art, Ulysses begins by subtly teaching you about itself. Though critics often fixate on the parallels with The Odyssey—Homer’s epic poem about Odysseus’ ten-year journey home following the Trojan War—Joyce makes plain in this first chapter that the connections between his epic and Homer’s will not be tidy, one-to-one correspondences. Like The Odyssey, Ulysses does not begin with the hero but with a young man struggling to become an adult. The Odyssey begins in Ithaca, Odysseus’s home, where his extended absence has left his house badly out of order. His wife, Penelope, is besieged by suitors who have occupied Odysseus’ home, hoping to take his place. She does her best to forestall their efforts with tricks and guile but their patience is wearing thin. Meanwhile, her son Telemachus dreams of his father’s return. Encouraged by Athena (who appears disguised as a beggar), Telemachus sets off in search of his father.

The Telemachus of Ulysses is Stephen Dedalus, the aspiring writer who was the hero of Joyce’s first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Stephen is not looking for his father (Simon Dedalus is all too easily found throughout Ulysses) and his mother has recently passed away—a fact for which Stephen blames himself because he refused to honor her request that he kneel and pray with her as she lay dying. Instead, the parallels are thematic.

Stephen’s living situation will be familiar to many people in their twenties: he’s overeducated (fluent in several languages) and underemployed (teaching at a third-rate private school), he lives in a funky old building (a lookout tower built during the Napoleonic Wars) with a tiresome, mooching roommate (Buck Mulligan, a constantly joking medical student with a nasty sense of humor) and a houseguest who has far outstayed his welcome (Haines, an Englishman from Oxford who is collecting material for a book on Irish folklore). Thematically, however, Stephen’s this situation echoes that of Telemachus. Not only is his home occupied, his homeland is. “I am a servant of two masters . . .” he tells a clueless Haines, “an English and an Italian … The imperial British state … and the holy Roman catholic and apostolic church.” And, though he does not know it, Stephen is looking for a father—for someone who can help him make the transition from young man to man.

Those who have read Joyce’s first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, will find a Stephen markedly different from the one who declared on that novel’s final page: “Welcome, O life! 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.” The Stephen Dedalus of the first three chapters of Ulysses is brooding—and he knows it. Tellingly, Joyce associates Stephen with both Telemachus and Hamlet, another thoughtful young man devastated by the death of a parent and prone to brooding. Stephen, who is paralyzed by grief, poverty, and frustration, desperately needs guidance to get back on the path to realizing the potential he showed in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

The excerpt below comes early in the novel (lines 248-279) and introduces many of the themes and devices Joyce uses throughout—in particular his seamless movement between narrative and interior monologue, past and present, consciousness and memory, first person and third:

A cloud began to cover the sun slowly, wholly, shadowing the bay in deeper green. It lay beneath him, a bowl of bitter waters. Fergus’ song: I sang it alone in the house, holding down the long dark chords. Her door was open: she wanted to hear my music. Silent with awe and pity I went to her bedside. She was crying in her wretched bed. For those words, Stephen: love’s bitter mystery.

Where now?

Her secrets: old featherfans, tasselled dancecards, powdered with musk, a gaud of amber beads in her locked drawer. A birdcage hung in the sunny window of her house when she was a girl. She heard old Royce sing in the pantomime of Turko the Terrible and laughed with others when he sang:

I am the boy
That can enjoy

Phantasmal mirth, folded away: muskperfumed.

And no more turn aside and brood.

Folded away in the memory of nature with her toys. Memories beset his brooding brain. Her glass of water from the kitchen tap when she had approached the sacrament. A cored apple, filled with brown sugar, roasting for her at the hob on a dark autumn evening. Her shapely fingernails reddened by the blood of squashed lice from the children’s shirts.

In a dream, silently, she had come to him, her wasted body within its loose graveclothes giving off an odour of wax and rosewood, her breath, bent over him with mute secret words, a faint odour of wetted ashes.

Her glazing eyes, staring out at death, to shake and bend my soul. On me alone. The ghostcandle to light her agony. Ghostly light on the tortured face. Her hoarse loud breath rattling in horror, while all prayed on their knees. Her eyes on me to strike me down. Liliata rutilantium te confessorum turm circumdet: iubilantium te virginum chorus excipiat.

Ghoul! Chewer of corpses!

No, mother! Let me be and let me live.

Chapter 2 (Nestor)

For all the talk about Joyce as stylist, innovator, modernist, etc it is too easily forgotten that he was, at the root of it all, a humanist. Scholars and critics hunt through Ulysses seeking correspondences to Homer’s Odyssey and allusions to everything from Shakespeare to the popular culture of the day. There are richer rewards awaiting those who read Joyce’s work for his treatment of people and daily life. At the center of Ulysses are human connections, the creation of surrogate families from the remnants of shattered lives–themes that give the novel’s final chapters a ringing optimism. In the meantime, however, the two heroes of Ulysses (Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom) separately wander the streets of Dublin, delayed and lured away from humanity (their own and others’) by a multitude of obstacles and temptations.

In the second chapter we find Stephen Dedalus working as a teacher to make ends meet (though, as he says near the end of the chapter, he is at heart “a learner, rather” than a teacher.) In the Odyssey, Telemachus continues to seek word of his father by visiting Nestor, an elderly king and warrior who was too old to fight in the Trojan War but became a valuable, if long-winded, advisor and leader. Nestor lavishes hospitality upon Telemachus and speaks at length about the war but has no real information.

In Ulysses, Nestor is replaced by the figure of Mr Deasy, Stephen’s employer. Deasy calls Stephen into his study to dispense his pay along with some words of wisdom about saving. At first Deasy seems to echo Nestor by way of Polonius, the platitudinous blowhard of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Yet when the time comes for Deasy to bolster his advice by quoting Shakespeare, he does not supply the expected “neither a borrower nor a lender be” of Polonius. Instead he offers the ill-fitting, and slightly inaccurate, “put but money in thy purse.” Deasy attributes the words to Shakespeare but Stephen more precisely recognizes them as Iago’s, linking Deasy to the calculating treachery of Othellos villain. Deasy is not merely a windbag, he is a traitor: an Irish-born Unionist and Anglophile (his study is adorned with a portrait of King Edward VII and “a tray of Stuart coins”) who baits Stephen by calling him a fenian and twisting the old proverb “all Irishmen are the sons of kings” to justify loyalty to the British crown. He is also an antisemite who jokes at the end of the chapter that “Ireland . . . has the honour of being the only country which never persecuted the Jews . . . Because she never let them in.” Both parts of this statement are shown to be falsehoods in chapter four with the appearance of the hero of Ulysses, Leopold Bloom—Irishman and Jew.

This year’s excerpt (lines 338 – 386) begins with an earlier anti-semitic rant that emerges from Deasy’s request that Stephen use connections with “some of [his] literary friends” to have a letter Deasy has prepared about foot and mouth disease published in one of Dublin’s newspapers. Feel free to read along with a full-cast vocal performance of the excerpt from the unabridged radio production of Ulysses broadcast on RTÉ in 1982 :

—I want that to be printed and read, Mr Deasy said. You will see at the next outbreak they will put an embargo on Irish cattle. And it can be cured. It is cured. My cousin, Blackwood Price, writes to me it is regularly treated and cured in Austria by cattledoctors there. They offer to come over here. I am trying to work up influence with the department. Now I’m going to try publicity. I am surrounded by difficulties, by …. intrigues by ….. backstairs influence by …..
 He raised his forefinger and beat the air oldly before his voice spoke.

—Mark my words, Mr Dedalus, he said. England is in the hands of the jews. In all the highest places: her finance, her press. And they are the signs of a nation’s decay. Wherever they gather they eat up the nation’s vital strength. I have seen it coming these years. As sure as we are standing here the jew merchants are already at their work of destruction. Old England is dying.

He stepped swiftly off, his eyes coming to blue life as they passed a broad sunbeam. He faced about and back again.

—Dying, he said again, if not dead by now.

The harlot’s cry from street to street
Shall weave old England’s windingsheet.

His eyes open wide in vision stared sternly across the sunbeam in which he halted.

—A merchant, Stephen said, is one who buys cheap and sells dear, jew or gentile, is he not?
—They sinned against the light, Mr Deasy said gravely. And you can see the darkness in their eyes. And that is why they are wanderers on the earth to this day.

On the steps of the Paris stock exchange the goldskinned men quoting prices on their gemmed fingers. Gabble of geese. They swarmed loud, uncouth, about the temple, their heads thickplotting under maladroit silk hats. Not theirs: these clothes, this speech, these gestures. Their full slow eyes belied the words, the gestures eager and unoffending, but knew the rancours massed about them and knew their zeal was vain. Vain patience to heap and hoard. Time surely would scatter all. A hoard heaped by the roadside: plundered and passing on. Their eyes knew their years of wandering and, patient, knew the dishonours of the their flesh.

—Who has not? Stephen said.
—What do you mean? Mr Deasy asked.
—He came forward a pace and stood by the table. His underjaw fell sideways open uncertainly. Is this old wisdom? He waits to hear from me.
—History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

From the playfield the boys raised a shout. A whirring whistle: goal. What if that nightmare gave you a back kick?

—The ways of the Creator are not our ways, Mr Deasy said. All human history moves towards one great goal, the manifestation of God.

Stephen jerked his thumb towards the window, saying:
—That is God.

Hooray! Ay! Whrrhee!

—What? Mr Deasy asked.
—A shout in the street, Stephen answered, shrugging his shoulders.

Chapter 3 (Proteus)

If we could somehow travel the world looking at every copy of Ulysses that has been abandoned in frustration, we would probably find more bookmarks and dog-eared pages in the third chapter than in any other section of the book. Ulysses is famously difficult and while the first and second chapters are far from easy, the third (known as “Proteus”) gives readers a taste of just how difficult Ulysses can be.

The Proteus chapter takes its name from an episode in the fourth book of Homer’s Odyssey. Still seeking his father, Telemachus speaks to Menelaus, one of the kings under whom Odysseus fought in the Trojan War. Menelaus describes his own lengthy journey home, including his struggle to gain information from the shape-shifting sea-god Proteus about the fate of Odysseus. Proteus’ ability to change form—as he wrestles with Menelaus he becomes a lion, a serpent, a leopard, water, and so on—gives us the word “protean.”

In Ulysses, Stephen wrestles a different shape-shifter: his own mind. Stephen is clever, someone who thinks in lieu of acting (one of the reasons Joyce also links him to Hamlet) and in the third chapter we are given a largely unfiltered presentation of his thoughts. To do this Joyce uses the technique for which he is probably best-known: interior monologue (often erroneously referred to as stream of consciousness). The writing recreates the protean nature of thought itself as Stephen’s mind moves from one idea to the next, sometimes following logic, sometimes following the random course of association, and sometimes prompted—even interrupted—by what Stephen sees and hears as he walks along Sandymount Strand, a muddy stretch of beach along Dublin Bay.

So, why all those abandoned bookmarks? Part of the answer can be found by looking at a criticism made by Edith Wharton, author of Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence. In a letter to a friend she had this to say about Ulysses, “It’s a turgid welter of pornography (the rudest schoolboy kind) & unformed and unimportant drivel; & until the raw ingredients of a pudding make a pudding, I shall never believe that the raw material of sensation & thought can make a work of art without the cook’s intervening.”

For now, I will skip the charge of pornography (it was common at the time) and look at the second, more interesting, objection. For Wharton, the “raw material” of life can only become art if it is first shaped by an artist. Of course, it isn’t true that Joyce is presenting “raw material.” Joyce spent nearly a decade laboring over Ulysses and it is a testament to his skill that the depiction of unfiltered thought is so convincing that it seems “unformed.” Nevertheless, I think Wharton articulates a complaint many readers have with Ulysses. Unlike writers of more traditional novels (including Dickens, Flaubert, Austen, and Wharton herself) Joyce refuses to distill the raw material of life in-the-moment into elegant, artful prose that leads the reader along. Instead, the reader must do some of the work, sifting through the raw material him or herself. This makes Ulysses difficult but, for many readers, it also makes it uniquely rewarding: through a work of art, we become more attentive to the texture of daily life and even the patterns of thought itself.

It is impossible to follow all of Stephen’s ideas (especially in excerpted form) so I recommend simply letting the flow of thoughts wash over you as you read. To aid in this, I have included a full-cast vocal performance of the excerpt from from the unabridged radio production of Ulysses broadcast on RTÉ in 1982:

To help you keep your bearings, here is a brief summary of the excerpt (lines 317-415): Stephen roughly interrogates himself about whether he, like his friend Buck Mulligan, would risk his life to save a drowning man. Stephen’s fear of dogs keeps his attention fixed on two cocklepickers (people looking for clams) and their dog. Observing the cocklepickers more closely, he realizes that they are gypsies. Stephen senses the beginnings of a poem in the sounds of word and phrases that occur to him and looks for a piece of paper. Seeing his own shadow he likens the darkness of words on a page to shadows and wonders if anyone will read what he has written.

He saved men from drowning and you shake at a cur’s yelping. But the courtiers who mocked Guido in Or san Michele were in their own house. House of… We don’t want any of your medieval abstrusiosities. Would you do what he did? A boat would be near, a lifebuoy. Natürlich, put there for you. Would you or would you not? The man that was drowned nine days ago off Maiden’s rock. They are waiting for him now. The truth, spit it out. I would want to. I would try. I am not a strong swimmer. Water cold soft. When I put my face into it in the basin at Clongowes. Can’t see! Who’s behind me? Out quickly, quickly! Do you see the tide flowing quickly in on all sides, sheeting the lows of sands quickly, shell cocoacoloured? If I had land under my feet. I want his life still to be his, mine to be mine. A drowning man. His human eyes scream to me out of horror of his death. I… With him together down… I could not save her. Waters: bitter death: lost.

A woman and a man. I see her skirties. Pinned up, I bet.

Their dog ambled about a bank of dwindling sand, trotting, sniffing on all sides. Looking for something lost in a past life. Suddenly he made off like a bounding hare, ears flung back, chasing the shadow of a lowskimming gull. The man’s shrieked whistle struck his limp ears. He turned, bounded back, came nearer, trotted on twinkling shanks. On a field tenney a buck, trippant, proper, unattired. At the lacefringe of the tide he halted with stiff forehoofs, seawardpointed ears. His snout lifted barked at the wavenoise, herds of seamorse. They serpented towards his feet, curling, unfurling many crests, every ninth, breaking, plashing, from far, from farther out, waves and waves.

Cocklepickers. They waded a little way in the water and, stooping, soused their bags, and, lifting them again, waded out. The dog yelped running to them, reared up and pawed them, dropping on all fours, again reared up at them with mute bearish fawning. Unheeded he kept by them as they came towards the drier sand, a rag of wolf’s tongue redpanting from his jaws. His speckled body ambled ahead of them and then loped off at a calf’s gallop. The carcass lay on his path. He stopped, sniffed, stalked round it, brother, nosing closer, went round it, sniffing rapidly like a dog all over the dead dog’s bedraggled fell. Dogskull, dogsniff, eyes on the ground, moves to one great goal. Ah, poor dogsbody. Here lies poor dogsbody’s body.

—Tatters! Out of that, you mongrel.

The cry brought him skulking back to his master and a blunt bootless kick sent him unscathed across a spit of sand, crouched in flight. He slunk back in a curve. Doesn’t see me. Along by the edge of the mole he lolloped, dawdled, smelt a rock and from under a cocked hindleg pissed against it. He trotted forward and, lifting his hindleg, pissed quick short at an unsmelt rock. The simple pleasures of the poor. His hindpaws then scattered sand: then his forepaws dabbled and delved. Something he buried there, his grandmother. He rooted in the sand, dabbling delving and stopped to listen to the air, scraped up the sand again with a fury of his claws, soon ceasing, a pard, a panther, got in spouse-breach, vulturing the dead.

After he woke me up last night same dream or was it? Wait. Open hallway. Street of harlots. Remember. Haroun al Raschid. I am almosting it. That man led me, spoke. I was not afraid. The melon he had he held against my face. Smiled: creamfruit smell. That was the rule, said. In. Come. Red carpet spread. You will see who.

Shouldering their bags they trudged, the red Egyptians. His blued feet out of turnedup trousers slapped the clammy sand, a dull brick muffler strangling his unshaven neck. With woman steps she followed: the ruffian and his strolling mort. Spoils slung at her back. Loose sand and shellgrit crusted her bare feet. About her windraw face her hair trailed. Behind her lord his helpmate, bing awast, to Romeville. When night hides her body’s flaws calling under her brown shawl from an archway where dogs have mired. Her fancyman is treating two Royal Dublins in O’Loughlin’s of Blackpitts. Buss her, wap in rogue’s rum lingo, for, O, my dimber wapping dell. A shefiend’s whiteness under her rancid rags. Fumbally’s lane that night: the tanyard smells.

White thy fambles, red thy gan
And thy quarrons dainty is.
Couch a hogshead with me then.
In the darkmans clip and kiss.

Morose delectation Aquinas tunbelly calls this, frate porcospino. Unfallen Adam rode and not rutted. Call away let him: thy quarrons dainty is. Language no whit worse than his. Monkwords, marybeads jabber on their girdles: roguewords, tough nuggets patter in their pockets.

Passing now.

A side-eye at my Hamlet hat. If I were suddenly naked here as I sit I am not. Across the sands of all the world, followed by the sun’s flaming sword, to the west, trekking to evening lands. She trudges, schlepps, trains, drags, trascines her load. A tide westering, moondrawn, in her wake. Tides, myriadislanded, within her, blood not mine, oinopa ponton, a winedark sea. Behold the handmaid of the moon. In sleep the wet sign calls her hour, bids her rise. Bridebed, childbed, bed of death, ghostcandled. Omnis caro ad te veniet. He comes, pale vampire, through storm his eyes, his bat sails bloodying the sea, mouth to her mouth’s kiss.

Here. Put a pin in that chap, will you? My tablets. Mouth to her kiss. No. Must be two of em. Glue ’em well. Mouth to her mouth’s kiss.

His lips lipped and mouthed fleshless lips of air: mouth to her womb. Oomb, allwombing tomb. His mouth moulded issuing breath, unspeeched: ooeeehah: roar of cataractic planets, globed, blazing, roaring wayawayawayawayawayaway. Paper. The banknotes, blast them. Old Deasy’s letter. Here. Thanking you for hospitality tear the blank end off. Turning his back to the sun he bent over far to a table of rock and scribbled words. That’s twice I forgot to take slips from the library counter.

His shadow lay over the rocks as he bent, ending. Why not endless till the farthest star? Darkly they are there behind this light, darkness shining in the brightness, delta of Cassiopeia, worlds. Me sits there with his augur’s rod of ash, in borrowed sandals, by day beside a livid sea, unbeheld, in violet night walking beneath a reign of uncouth stars. I throw this ended shadow from me, manshape ineluctable, call it back. Endless, would it be mine, form of my form? Who watches me here? Who ever anywhere will read these written words?