Thursday, October 01, 2009

Best the I am My Own Best Resource?

This is a Ulysses posts. I like to decorate these word-heavy posts with topic appropriate images I find on Google Images. Nothing but the best for you guys! For this, my Ithaca post, I wanted to find a picture inspired by one of my favorite lines from the chapter, so I Google Image'd "the heaventree of stars" (short for "the heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit."

"Oh cool!" I thought, "A couple of pictures of the lights at Lincoln Center, those would be perfect." Oh Wait, look a little closer. Those are my pictures. From my blog. From a post I made four years ago. Thanks, Brigham of '05.

Anyway, Ithaca is one of my favorite chapters in Ulysses and probably, if I was going to sit you down and make you read a chapter, the one I'd pick. It is written in a question and answer dialogue, it's just the best. The chapter describes Stephen's late night visit to Bloom's home where they share cups of cocoa and talk about all sorts of subjects and then Stephen leaves and Bloom goes up to bed. It's such a good read, though.

Some excerpts:

(arriving home, Bloom realizes he doesn't have his key. Stephen doesn't have the key to his house, either)

What act did Bloom make on their arrival at their destination?

At the housesteps of the 4th Of the equidifferent uneven numbers, number 7 Eccles street, he inserted his hand mechanically into the back pocket of his trousers to obtain his latchkey.

Was it there? 

It was in the corresponding pocket of the trousers which he had worn on
 the day but one preceding.

(Bloom sneaks inside, this is some of what Stephen observes.)

What discrete succession of images did Stephen meanwhile perceive? 
 Reclined against the area railings he perceived through the transparent
kitchen panes a man regulating a gasflame of 14 CP, a man lighting a
candle of 1 CP, a man removing in turn each of his two boots, a man
leaving the kitchen holding a candle.

(As we Bloom brings water for the cocoa, we learn what he admires about water. Stephen, however, hates water (dogs and lightning, too) and never bathes. As you can see here, not all the answers are brief.)

What in water did Bloom, waterlover, drawer of water, watercarrier, returning to the range, admire?

Its universality: its democratic equality and constancy to its nature in seeking its own level: its vastness in the ocean of Mercator's projection: its unplumbed profundity in the Sundam trench of the Pacific exceeding 8000 fathoms: the restlessness of its waves and surface particles visiting in turn all points of its seaboard: the independence of its units: the variability of states of sea: its hydrostatic quiescence in calm: its hydrokinetic turgidity in neap and spring tides: its subsidence after devastation: its sterility in the circumpolar icecaps, arctic and antarctic: its climatic and commercial significance: its preponderance of 3 to 1 over the dry land of the globe: its indisputable hegemony extending in square leagues over all the region below the subequatorial tropic of Capricorn: the multisecular stability of its primeval basin: its luteofulvous bed: its capacity to dissolve and hold in solution all soluble substances including millions of tons of the most precious metals: its slow erosions of peninsulas and islands, its persistent formation of homothetic islands, peninsulas and downwardtending promontories: its alluvial deposits: its weight and volume and density: its imperturbability in lagoons and highland tarns: its gradation of colours in the torrid and temperate and frigid zones: its vehicular ramifications in continental lakecontained streams and confluent oceanflowing rivers with their tributaries and transoceanic currents, gulfstream, north and south equatorial courses: its violence in seaquakes, waterspouts, Artesian wells, eruptions, torrents, eddies, freshets, spates, groundswells, watersheds, waterpartings, geysers, cataracts, whirlpools, maelstroms, inundations, deluges, cloudbursts: its vast circumterrestrial ahorizontal curve: its secrecy in springs and latent humidity, revealed by rhabdomantic or hygrometric instruments and exemplified by the well by the hole in the wall at Ashtown gate, saturation of air, distillation of dew: the simplicity of its composition, two constituent parts of hydrogen with one constituent part of oxygen: its healing virtues: its buoyancy in the waters of the Dead Sea: its persevering penetrativeness in runnels, gullies, inadequate dams, leaks on shipboard: its
properties for cleansing, quenching thirst and fire, nourishing vegetation: its infallibility as paradigm and paragon: its metamorphoses as vapour, mist, cloud, rain, sleet, snow, hail: its strength in rigid hydrants: its variety of forms in loughs and bays and gulfs and bights and guts and lagoons and atolls and archipelagos and sounds and fjords and minches and tidal
estuaries and arms of sea: its solidity in glaciers, icebergs, icefloes: its docility in working hydraulic millwheels, turbines, dynamos, electric power stations, bleachworks, tanneries, scutchmills: its utility in canals, rivers, if navigable, floating and graving docks: its potentiality derivable from harnessed tides or watercourses falling from level to level: its submarine fauna and flora (anacoustic, photophobe), numerically, if not literally, the inhabitants of the globe: its ubiquity as constituting 90% of the human body: the noxiousness of its effluvia in lacustrine marshes, pestilential fens, faded flowerwater, stagnant pools in the waning moon.

Okay, listen, the great quotes of Ithaca are limitless, but I know that last one lost you, so I'm just going to include three more.

First, nearly my favorite line of all of Ulysses, or perhaps my favorite? Stephen and Bloom have here gone outside and are about to say goodnight:

What spectacle confronted them when they, first the host, then the guest,
emerged silently, doubly dark, from obscurity by a passage from the rere of 
the house into the penumbra of the garden? 

The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.

After Stephen has left:

Alone, what did Bloom feel?

The cold of interstellar space, thousands of degrees below freezing point or
the absolute zero of Fahrenheit, Centigrade or Reaumur: the incipient
intimations of proximate dawn.

And finally, a bit further along, Bloom calls it a night and hits the sack. The story of Ulysses ends.

Womb? Weary? 

He rests. He has travelled.


Sinbad the Sailor and Tinbad the Tailor and Jinbad the Jailer and Whinbad the Whaler and Ninbad the Nailer and Finbad the Failer and Binbad the Bailer and Pinbad the Pailer and Minbad the Mailer and Hinbad the Hailer and Rinbad the Railer and Dinbad the Kailer and Vinbad the Quailer and Linbad the Yailer and Xinbad the Phthailer.


Going to dark bed there was a square round Sinbad the Sailor roc's auk's
egg in the night of the bed of all the auks of the rocs of Darkinbad the

Join me later for one more Ulysses post where I drop some knowledge on the book's eight most famous sentences/chapter.

1 comment:

sarah said...

You know you're good when you are your own best resource.