Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Best Distractions. No, Rewards.

Ulysses is going great, but it's not like I don't have other books on my mind. Stay focused, Brigham. Stay focused.

Todays Ulysses quotes come from the Oxen of the Sun episode, one of the book's most difficult chapters. The section is set in a maternity hospital waiting room and the language of the chapter passes through a 9 stage gestation from old English to modern.

As should be expected, these quotes have almost nothing to do with each other or the happenings of the chapter (there is no actual haunted house). Their language caught my attention and the longer quote strikes me as containing a few clues about/references to Finnegans Wake (as far as I remember it--will I be returning to the Wake on the 10th anniversary of my first reading it? Doubtful.), which Joyce would spend the next 17 years writing after the publication of Ulysses.

The lonely house by the graveyard is uninhabited. No soul will live there. The spider pitches her web in the solitude. The nocturnal rat peers from his hole. A curse is on it. It is haunted. Murderer's ground. (412)

The voices blend and fuse in clouded silence: silence that is the infinite of space: and swiftly, silently the soul is wafted over regions of cycles of cycles of generations that have lived. A region where grey twilight ever descends, never falls on wide sagegreen pasturefields, shedding her dusk, scattering a perennial dew of stars. She follows her mother with ungainly steps, a mare leading her fillyfoal. Twilight phantoms are they, yet moulded in prophetic grace of structure, slim shapely haunches, a supple tendonous neck, the meek apprehensive skull. They fade, sad phantoms: all is gone. Agendath is a waste land, a home of screechowls and the sandblind upupa. Netaim, the golden, is no more. And on the highway of the clouds they come, muttering thunder of rebellion, the ghosts of beasts. Huuh! Hark! Huuh! Parallax stalks behind and goads them, the lancinating lightnings of whose brow are scorpions. Elk and yak, the bulls of Bashan and of Babylon, mammoth and mastodon, they come trooping to the sunken sea, Lacus Mortis. Ominous, revengeful zodiacal host! They moan, passing upon the clouds, horned and capricorned, the trumpeted with the tusked, the lionmaned, the giantantlered, snouter and crawler, rodent, ruminant and pachyderm, all their moving moaning multitude, murderers of the sun.

Onward to the dead sea they tramp to drink, unslaked and with horrible gulpings, the salt somnolent inexhaustible flood. And the equine portent grows again, magnified in the deserted heavens, nay to heaven's own magnitude, till it looms, vast, over the house of Virgo. And lo, wonder of metempsychosis, it is she, the everlasting bride, harbinger of the daystar, the bride, ever virgin. It is she, Martha, thou lost one, Millicent, the young, the dear, the radiant. How serene does she now arise, a queen among the Pleiades, in the penultimate antelucan hour, shod in sandals of bright gold, coifed with a veil of what do you call it gossamer. It floats, it flows about her starborn flesh and loose it streams, emerald, sapphire, mauve and heliotrope, sustained on currents of cold interstellar wind, winding, coiling, simply swirling, writhing in the skies a mysterious writing till, after a myriad metamorphoses of symbol, it blazes, Alpha, a ruby and triangled sign upon the forehead of Taurus. (414)


Dad said...

Amazing feats of writing, very beautiful. But reading them I constantly sense Joyce laboring to exhaustion to get it just right. They don't equal the graceful simplicity of the last paragraph of The Dead, which may be the most perfect paragraph in English literature.

Anonymous said...

"the last paragraph of The Dead, which may be the most perfect paragraph in English literature."

+1 to that!