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Thursday, 9 August 2012

James Joyce: The correspondence of birds / JJ Harrison: Flight


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File:Puffinus gravis - SE Tasmania.jpg

Great Shearwater (Puffinus gravis), East of the Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia: photo by JJ Harrison, 22 April 2012


What birds were they? He stood on the steps of the library to look at them, leaning wearily on his ashplant. They flew round and round the jutting shoulder of a house in Molesworth Street. The air of the late March evening made clear their flight, their dark quivering bodies flying clearly against the sky as against a limphung cloth of smoky tenuous blue.
He watched their flight; bird after bird: a dark flash, a swerve, a flash again, a dart aside, a curve, a flutter of wings. He tried to count them before all their darting quivering bodies passed: six, ten, eleven: and wondered were they odd or even in number. Twelve, thirteen: for two came wheeling down from the upper sky. They were flying high and low but ever round and round in straight and curving lines and ever flying from left to right, circling about a temple of air.
He listened to the cries: like the squeak of mice behind the wainscot: a shrill twofold note. But the notes were long and shrill and whirring, unlike the cry of vermin, falling a third or a fourth and trilled as the flying beaks clove the air. Their cry was shrill and clear and fine and falling like threads of silken light unwound from whirring spools.
The inhuman clamour soothed his ears in which his mother's sobs and reproaches murmured insistently and the dark frail quivering bodies wheeling and fluttering and swerving round an airy temple of the tenuous sky soothed his eyes which still saw the image of his mother's face.
Why was he gazing upwards from the steps of the porch, hearing their shrill twofold cry, watching their flight? For an augury of good or evil? A phrase of Cornelius Agrippa flew through his mind and then there flew hither and thither shapeless thoughts from Swedenborg on the correspondence of birds to things of the intellect and of how the creatures of the air have their knowledge and know their times and seasons because they, unlike man, are in the order of their life and have not perverted that order by reason.
And for ages men had gazed upward as he was gazing at birds in flight. The colonnade above him made him think vaguely of an ancient temple and the ashplant on which he leaned wearily of the curved stick of an augur. A sense of fear of the unknown moved in the heart of his weariness, a fear of symbols and portents, of the hawklike man whose name he bore soaring out of his captivity on osierwoven wings, of Thoth, the god of writers, writing with a reed upon a tablet and bearing on his narrow ibis head the cusped moon.

James Joyce: from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1914-1915, published in book form 1916)




File:Recurvirostra novaehollandiae in flight - Lake Joondalup.jpg

 Red-necked Avocet (Recurvirostra novaehollandiae), Lake Joondalup, Perth, Western Australia,
photo by JJ Harrison, 19 March 2012

File:Pterodroma cervicalis - SE Tasmania.jpg

White-necked Petrel (Pterodroma cervicalis), East of the Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia: photo by JJ Harrison, 4 February 2012

File:Diomedea exulans in flight - SE Tasmania.jpg

Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) in flight, East of the Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia: photo by JJ Harrison, 4 February 2012

File:Thalassarche bulleri in flight 1 - SE Tasmania.jpg

Buller's Albatross (Thalassarche bulleri) with a Short-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris) behind, East of the Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia: photo by JJ Harrison, 3 January 2012

11 comments:

Susan Kay Anderson said...

It is their planet, after all
"airy temple" and "temple of air"
they show us and we watch
invisible made into seen
never quite understanding
anything
about them
practially everything
a different world
except for the sounds
wind against cheek
hair color light
dark stars
hunger shapes
movement warmth
time flapping
gliding grabbing
drilling pecking
breaking diving

Hazen said...

‘ . . . unlike man, [they] are in the order of their life and have not perverted that order by reason.’

The heart-stopping beauty of these photos, and of the birds themselves, joined up as they are with Joyce, is a much need and much appreciated bulwark against all the mierda of the day.

Wooden Boy said...

Such correspondences; number clusters; mother's sobs; squeaks of mice; Agrippa and Swedenborg; music theory; auguries and temples.

Through the the flight of birds so much is communicated. It's all there, to be attended to.

Other Irishmen; other birds:
http://youtu.be/tuCBfZWYTHQ

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

"What birds were they" . . . bird after bird: a dark flash, a swerve, a flash again, a dart aside, a curve, a flutter of wings . . . the hawklike man whose name he bore soaring out of his captivity on osierwoven wings. . . ."

8.9

grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, crow flapping from left to right
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

one after the other however,
since “in which color”

that is, which is something,
of which and in which

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
whiteness of moon in cloudless blue sky

Wooden Boy said...

I love the photo of the Red-necked Avocet best. That is a beautiful bird.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Yes, so beautiful. I didn't know what one looked like--only knew about the bicycles or seat company/brand name--see what a poetic encyclopedia Tom Clark is building for us here.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

The writer is responsible for:
scratching recording
in
a temple of air
while
wearing the moon

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Ah, that red-
necked Avocet--
man is not

worthy enough
to set
his eyes

upon that.

TC said...

Mr Harrison is a young and talented fellow from Hobart, Tasmania who is a great hand at bird photography and goes to great lengths to find and observe all manner of exotic birds which we would otherwise never have a chance to lay eyes upon. Good on him!

JJ Harrison: JJ Harrison: Birds of Tasmania and Queensland

TC said...

And thanks to WB for pertinent link to the Pogues classic:

A hungry feeling
Came o'er me stealing
And the mice were squeeling
In my prison cell
And that auld triangle went jingle-jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal

Oh! To start the morning
The warden bawling
"Get up out of bed, you! And Clean out your cell!"
And that auld triangle went jingle-jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal

Oh! the screw was peeping
And the loike was sleeping
As he lay weeping
For his girl Sal
And that auld triangle went jingle-jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal

On a fine Spring evening
The loike lay dreaming
And the sea-gulls were wheeling
High above the wall
And that auld triangle went jingle-jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal

Oh! the wind was sighing
And the day was dying
As the loike lay crying
In his prison cell
And that auld triangle went jingle-bloody-jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal

In the women's prison
There are seventy women
And I wish it was with them
That I did dwell
Then that auld triangle could go jingle-jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal

Sandra said...

interesting...! I usually "see" something in birds flight...!