Rostered Day Off spent with James Joyce

As I am on a rostered day off in the morning, my thoughts turn away from construction to one of my other passions – Irish literature. The following is also on one of my other blogs which I do not publicise here as we all need some privacy.

When I was six years old I was on holiday in Ireland with my mother. An Irish lady born in beautiful Carlingford county Louth. Although she left school at fourteen she had a passion for literature especially Irish novelists. She was an out an out Feanian and her priorities were country, Catholicism and family in that order. It was she who introduced me to the magical world of irish writers. That magic started on a beautiful summer’s day with a visit to the grave of William Butler Yates at Drumcliff County Sligo. Much to my surprise my mother knelt down and then yanked me down too, and said a silent prayer not just for the great man but for Ireland and its people. (so I learned much later).

As I got older I would borrow my mother’s books and devour them: Yeats, Swift, Pearse, O Riordan, Wilde, Sterne, Goldsmith. But there was one missing – the towering presence of James Aloysius Joyce. And why? Because some of his work had been banned by the catholic church. Of course as teenager anything banned meant I had to have it. It was the late sixties and everything that the establishment did not want us to have, we made sure we had it. No matter if it were books, drinks, acid, music etc. Thus my life-long love affair with Joyce began. As we approach Bloomsday and remember the characters of Ulysses going about their day on 16th June 1904, those early memories of my mother, Ireland, long summers and happy days return. A long way from the Pilbara in Western Australia where I now earn my keep.

So for those who follow this blog a little bit of the magic of Yeats followed my the magnificence of Joyce

The last three lines of one of Yeats’ poems are written on his grave stone

Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago, a church stands near,
By the road an ancient cross.

No marble, no conventional phrase;
On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut:

Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!

 And my choice from Joyce’s Ulysses has to be the following two passages from the episode Cyclops:

 After the citizen spots this person at the bar, the person is described:

The figure seated on a large boulder at the foot of a round tower was that of a broadshouldered deepchested stronglimbed frankeyed redhaired freelyfreckled shaggybearded widemouthed largenosed longheaded deepvoiced barekneed brawnyhanded hairylegged ruddyfaced sinewyarmed hero. From shoulder to shoulder he measured several ells and his rocklike mountainous knees were covered, as was likewise the rest of his body wherever visible, with a strong growth of tawny prickly hair in hue and toughness similar to the mountain gorse (Ulex Europeus). The widewinged nostrils, from which bristles of the same tawny hue projected, were of such capaciousness that within their cavernous obscurity the fieldlark might easily have lodged her nest. The eyes in which a tear and a smile strove ever for the mastery were of the dimensions of a goodsized cauliflower. A powerful current of warm breath issued at regular intervals from the profound cavity of his mouth while in rhythmic resonance the loud strong hale reverberations of his formidable heart thundered rumblingly causing the ground, the summit of the lofty tower and the still loftier walls of the cave to vibrate and tremble.

And later the best description of Guinness ever:

Terence O’Ryan heard him and straightway brought him a crystal cup full of the foamy ebon ale which the noble twin brothers Bungiveagh and Bungardilaun brew ever in their divine alevats, cunning as the sons of deathless Leda. For they garner the succulent berries of the hop and mass and sift and bruise and brew them and they mix therewith sour juices and bring the must to the sacred fire and cease not night or day from their toil, those cunning brothers, lords of the vat.

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