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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

James Joyce: there was a moo-cow coming down along the road


File:Gap of Dunloe.jpg

Gap of Dunloe, County Kerry, Ireland: photo by Phil Armitage, 2008

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moo-cow coming down along the road and this moo-cow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo...

His father told him that story: his father looked at him through a glass: he had a hairy face.

He was baby tuckoo. The moo-cow came down the road where Betty Byrne lived. She sold lemon platt.

Rural back road (boreen), County Mayo, Ireland: photo by Trever Miller 21 October 2008

File:James Joyce age six, 1888.jpg

James Joyce at age six, 1888: image by Scewing, 13 May 2010

File:A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.jpg

James Joyce: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, first UK book edition, 1917: image by Alaiche, 4 April 2007

James Joyce: from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (opening lines), 1914




Great to read these words again, as if for the first time, still so strangely fresh and moving. . . . And there is JJ, age 6 (like Johnny) looking ahead at what's to come. . . .


silver edge of sun rising above shadowed
ridge, white half moon above pine branch
in foreground, waves sounding in channel

otherwise depend upon place,
direction not point P

which physical measurements,
paragraph, the reader

whiteness of fog against invisible ridge,
line of cormorants flapping toward point

TC said...

Ah, Steve, such serene beauties you do capture -- presenting us with the clear particulars of an earthly paradise Mother Nature may well have made but no one save you could have shaped into such a beautiful and portable package.

(And at that, even Mother Nature would have to envy your grasp on the implications and possibilities of the prosody of Thomas Campion... who certainly never glimpsed a cormorant).

Yes, young JJ does indeed appear ready to take on the world and any other comers, thank you very much. A severely serious gaze to be sure. Odd to recall that before middle age, he would be pretty much blind as a bat.

Johnny, on the other hand, probably has more durable genes, something tells me.

The little British Navy sailor suit glims strangely upon my own impaired ancient peepers. Angelica says that her father, born in the sectors of the old Austro-Hungarian empire, had one just like that (she's seen pictures).

Neither Ireland nor the Austro-Hungarian Empire had their own navies, though; and JJ eventually emigrated for good (though thankfully not to England, that would have been just a betrayal too far), while Angelica's father barely escaped that other Empire (swallowed up by the Third Reich) with his life, much less his sailor suit intact.

Ah, life, death, history, empire, time, change and sailor suits.

Barry Taylor said...

Tom - Not a book I remember liking that much or have returned to, but this went straight to the heart. Beautiful like the first story after the Fall. And what please is lemon platt? Sounds ambrosial.

Stephen - I was with JJ on his Irish road, and then your poem transported me entirely to that precise indistinct place and moment, 'whiteness of fog against invisible ridge'. 4.26. Just terrific.

Thank you both.

TC said...

Barry, yes, lovely opening lines for a Book of Origins are these not?
Has pure regression ever been so lyrical?

Lemon platt is a twisted stick of lemon candy.

There also this passage in Ulysses:

"Pineapple rock, lemon platt, butter scotch. A sugarsticky girl shovelling scoopfuls of creams for a christian brother. Some school treat. Bad for their tummies. Lozenge and comfit manufacturer to His Majesty the King. God. Save. Our. Sitting on his throne sucking red jujubes white."

(Thoughts of Leopold Bloom, his consciousness streaming through an ordinary day in Dublin. Seeing children with sweets kick-starts the recursive peristalsis... Associational leaks between dimensions provided by the by that point fully grown artist, as a still fairly young man.)

Barry Taylor said...

Tom - I confess that Bloom is the Joyce I remember and treasure, though I feel guiltily like someone who only reads Hamlet for the soliloquies. 'Leaks between dimensions' seems just right - and maybe the fact that that's also a kind of time travel accounts for some of the deep poignancy.


TC said...


Yes, it's difficult to imagine ever washing the human stain of Leopold Bloom out of one's blood, or forgetting The Summer One Read Ulysses.

But of course the clock keeps on ticking regardless... evidently Bloom was a creation of the time, or of a time, though perhaps to consider these things in historical/temporal terms is to admit to a limited way of thinking. In any case, I don't know that anyone yet has fully fathomed the inventiveness of this writer. Certainly I haven't.

But here for what it's worth was my most recent attempt: James Joyce: Parallax Effect.

ACravan said...

All of the photos -- Ireland, Joyce, the Portrait cover, are wonderful. I also wondered about lemon platt, so thanks for this information. I'm going to research lemon platt's relation to the locally famous "lemon sticks", which are an integral part of the atmosphere at our upcoming annual Devon Horse Show, which seems to be (as far as I can tell) the last major international sporting event that one can easily attend (and have any sort of view one chooses to have -- comfortably) at affordable prices. Curtis

TC said...


Thank you for continuing my education.

Interesting learning about this.

International -- and in your back yard.

What horse (show or other) would not be woo'd by a twist of lemon platt?

ACravan said...

The Devon Horse show is just great. It's just 5 minutes from where we live and is incredibly enjoyable and interesting. Pennsylvania's equestrian traditions remain strong. To some extent, as you might know or imagine, they survive in spectacle events that grew out of the hunt. Now, however, those have largely transformed themselves into point-to-point races and fancy carriage parades. At one of these last year, we met the most remarkable animals called pony mules. What's nice about these events (all of which benefit local charities, I believe) is that they're very natural and unpretentious. I hate to put Hamptons and Palm Beach people down so hard, but the Chester County, PA events are the real thing -- unpretentious and grown out of the local soil. Live Journal sign in as me appears to be down for the count. Curtis

TC said...


We like you just as you are.

Love the very thought of a pony mule.

And the real thing looks even better than the very thought.


Ah Tom,

Thank you so much -- amusing to think of Campion (whose initials are also, I now realize, TC) not having ever seen a cormorant (Coleridge once calling himself "a library cormorant" came to mind this morning as I was recalling yesterday's sighting of more cormorants down there in the channel (must be spring!). . . . And yes, little (or not so little) Johnny may have a few more durable genes than JJ -- you should have seen him on going down the slopes up there in the mountains last week (turn, turn, turn, turn . . . . me following w/ digital camera taking a few short 'home movies'). . . .

Unknown said...

It really is the Emerald Isle. What a startlingly beautiful view.


TC said...

Many thanks, Anne.

Many memories of that Isle, some of perhaps in the blood...