Friday, June 16, 2006

yes i will yes

Today is Bloomsday, the day when Dubliners commemorate the events of the novel Ulysses by James Joyce, which takes place all on one day 102 years ago — June 16, 1904. (This year, I hear, some Bloomsday events are being cancelled or cut back due to the state funeral today of the late prime minister, Charles Haughey.) The main character, Leopold Bloom, is an ordinary Dubliner who makes his way, odyssey-like, through a day in the life of his urban landscape. (Funny how Leopold Bloom is also the name of the uptight accountant in The Producers.)

Most people haven't read the whole book if any (present company included), and although it seems obvious from the title, I never realized how much Ulysses parallels Homer's Odyssey until last summer, when we were in Dublin (fittingly). A professor friend of the archbishop (who was our leader on the trip) joined us for a few days, and one morning, he sat with Steve and me for breakfast in our hotel. He teaches philosophy at a college in New York. Brilliant man, the kind of brilliance I want to soak up but know I can never emulate. Who shuts themselves at home to read Oscar Wilde's entire oevre over a weekend, just for fun? Not me — would that I were so scholarly. But I do like to ask questions, so I took the opportunity to talk to him about Ulysses, and it was interesting to hear him break it down over breakfast. Leopold's wife, Molly, is Penelope, and she is being courted by another man. Leopold is Odysseus, and to win her back, he must undertake a series of trials. The funeral of a local man is the descent to Hades. Barmaids and singers serve as the sirens. Stephen Dedalus (a character who loosely resembles James Joyce) represents Odysseus' son, Telemachus.

Ulysses has a famous ending, and even people who haven't read it probably know of those famous last words of the book, culminating in "Yes." It's when Molly Bloom delivers a stream-of-consciousness soliloquy ending with her ardent recollection of her first passionate encounter with Leopold. Last October, while I was taking a poetry class, I happened to run across those pages, and I decided to shape the final words into a cinquain (22 syllables distributed as 2, 4, 6, 8, 2, in five lines) as a practice exercise. The words fell into place perfectly.
I drew
Him down to me
And his heart was going
Like mad and yes I said yes I
Will Yes.


Susanne said...

I remember reading the Odyssey 20 years ago, and the way it ended was that Odysseus and his wife would do thus and such to show the wife that Odysseus really was her husband (after all, he'd been gone for many years).

Does this ending of Ulysses, with all the "yes," also pertain to what Leopold and Penelope would be doing next?

Regina said...

"(Funny how Leopold Bloom is also the name of the uptight accountant in The Producers.)"

Emilie, you sound like you think that was an accident!

barbara said...

Oh, I've always LOVED the ending from Ulysses; I'm so glad you posted it!!! Isn't it just the perfect response to God? (My personal interpretation.) I have to admit I've never had the courage to read all of the book, though...

And did you purchse your bar of lemon soap to celebrate Bloomsday?

My favorite James Joyce saying: "Catholicism means here comes everybody."