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8 Orpheus Rebound The Voice of Lament in Joyce’s Poetic Consciousness A. Nicholas Fargnoli “Solus Hyperboreas glacies Tanaimque nivalem arvaque Rhipaeis numquam viduata pruinis lustrabat, raptam Eurydicen atque inrita Ditis dona querens.” Georgics IV.517–20 “The prouts who will invent a writing there ultimately is the poeta, still more learned, who discovered the raiding there originally. That’s the point of eschatology our book of kills reaches for now in soandso many counterpoint words. What can’t be coded can be decorded if an ear aye sieze what no eye ere grieved for.” FW 482.31–36 In the broadest sense of the word, Joyce is a poet, a writer with great creative imagination expressed artistically through the mastery and power of language . The dominant poetic voice in Joyce’s works, as this essay attempts to argue, is Orphic, a voice characterized by a wistful sense of loss, lament, and sorrow. The emergenceofthisOrphicvoicebeganwhenhewasfairlyyoung and progressed through various stages as he matured as a writer. In Joyce’s earliest known poetic piece, “Et Tu, Healy,” written when he was only nine years old in commemoration of the death of Charles Stewart Parnell on October 6, 1891, the poet appears not merely as social and politicalcommentatorbutalsoasmourner .Thoughthispoemisnowlost,thelast lines in the fragment that does exist portray a Parnell safe from those who betrayed him: His quaint-perched aerie on the crags of Time Where the rude din of this . . . century Can trouble him no more.1 Orpheus Rebound: The Voice of Lament in Joyce’s Poetic Consciousness · 171 In the few extant lines of “Et Tu, Healy,” loss through betrayal is apparent. The lost possibilities and missed opportunities of an Ireland dominated by a foreign power are the direct consequences of betrayal, a theme that resonates throughout Joyce’s writings but is first introduced in this youthful poem on Parnell. Joyce began writing seriously in his mid-teens, and by the time his first published piece, “Ibsen’s New Drama,” appeared in 1900, he had written short stories, poems, and two plays, all of which are nonextant. In A Brilliant Career, one of the lost plays, the dedication is the only surviving page and indicates the earnestness of Joyce’s commitment to himself as a writer: —To— My own Soul I dedicate the first true work of my life. (Letters II, 7, n. 5) Perhaps with the exception of this play, which was critiqued by the drama critic and translatorWilliamArcher,2 onecanonlyspeculateastothemerits of these early works, but what few lines and references do survive appear to indicate Joyce’s indebtedness to other writers and his willingness to refashion his own writing—for example, the villanelle from Shine and Dark and the “sentimental poetry” of “Et Tu, Healy” are metamorphosed (and parodied) in Finnegans Wake (231.5–8): —My God, alas, that dear olt tumtum home Whereof in youthfood port I preyed Amook the verdigrassy convict vallsall dazes. And cloitered for amourmeant in thy boosome shede!3 AsJoyce’screativeconsciousnesswasdevelopingduringthisperiodofhis youth, he was concentrating on the three genres that define his artistic output : poetry, drama, and prose. At times throughout his works, these genres, like words in Finnegans Wake formed from different languages, merge into one another and eradicate any clear distinction between them, an artistic function performed by the poet as “a priest of eternal imagination, transmuting the daily bread of experience into the radiant body of everliving life” (P 221). The sacerdotal image of the poet found in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man reflects a view that the youthful Joyce had earlier expressed 172 · A. Nicholas Fargnoli to his brother Stanislaus. In My Brother’s Keeper, Stanislaus records Joyce’s comparing the mystery of the Mass (particularly the Eucharist, the transubstantiation or conversion of the bread and wine into the sacramental body and blood of Christ) to his act of writing poetry: “Don’t you think . . . there is a certain resemblance between the mystery of the Mass and what I am trying to do? I mean that I am trying in my poems to give people some kind of intellectual pleasure or spiritual enjoyment by converting the bread of everyday life into something that has a permanent artistic life of its own . . . for their mental, moral, and spiritual uplift . . .” (114). Although his remark to Stanislaus may have been a flippant and sacrilegious comment, Joycewasseriousabouthisartisticvocationasitwasemerging,thevocation of a poet. As poet, Joyce is artist and “priest of eternal imagination” whose aesthetic expression is not circumscribed or delimited...


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