Sunday, July 5, 2009

"What kind of a present to give"

Another possible song lyric excerpted from the prose of Joyce's Ulysses.
"What kind of a present to give"

He was so kind and holy
and often and often
she thought and thought

she could work a ruched teacosy
with embroidered floral design
for him as a present
or a clock

but they had a clock
she noticed on the mantlepiece
white and gold with a canary bird
that came out of a little house
to tell the time the day

she went there
about the flowers
for the forty hours' adoration
because it was hard to know
what kind of a present to give

or perhaps an album
of illuminated views
of Dublin
or some place.
"He" here is Father Conroy and "she" is Gerty MacDowell. I adore this as an example of Joyce's gift - not used nearly often enough, for my taste - of getting under the skin and inside the imagination of ordinary and pleasant people thinking about ordinary and pleasant things.

I'm all for the tortured artist poet (Stephen) and the sensual singer (Molly) and can see the value in imagining the cuckolded advertising canvasser (Bloom), but I admire even more something like this: a skillful representation of how a church girl imagines making or buying a present for the priest.

Some guy named Bob Williams from Iowa has posted an interesting essay about this part of the novel.


View of illuminated Dublin (Engine Alley) from Desmond Kavanaugh's Flickr.

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