(GJ) Canto XXV (p.9, ll. 12-14).

…a leg- stretched web of stocking. Si pol? 

From Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man to Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus matures from green to nearly ripe. His philosophy evolved in the earlier work; in the latter, he begins to live that philosophy. In A Portrait, he collects weapons of “silence, cunning, exile” into his armory. By Ulysses, he is more skilled, now mentored, and arrayed. On June 16, 1904, he was not yet a consecrated artist. Still, he had labored through mere rebellion (in rejection of Church and State), passive-aggression (in navigating sour relationships with Mulligan and Deasy), and intellectual sleight-of-hand (in Scylla and Charybdis). A Portrait is not strictly autobiographical, but the author did have a store of personal experience on which to draw. James Vulcan Joyce hammered out Ulysses residing in Trieste but using artistic ore mostly mined in Dublin. It was not until he lived in Trieste that he developed a closeness to Jewish friends.

Joyce’s Dublin experience was not the sole source for Leopold Bloom. There is little to suggest that Dublin’s Jewish resident Alfred Hunter contributed much to Mr. Bloom’s character or experiences. We know that Joyce and Hunter once attended a funeral together, and Hunter may have helped James Joyce after a drunken street scrap (both according to Ellmann). Bloom grew from the characters of Italo Svevo and Leopoldo Popper. Their personalities and experiences powerfully connect Giacomo Joyce to Ulysses‘ Poldy Bloom. The hero’s dark corners beginning in Giacomo Joyce and passing to Ulysses came from Joyce himself: jealousy, a foot fetish, masochism, and voyeurism. 

However, this canto deals not with Papa Leopoldo Popper but with his daughter, Senorigna Amalia, and establishes her influence in creating Gerty MacDowell in Ulysses. Here in the prose poem, Amalia (unintentionally since modest by nature) reveals a net of stocking that snares Joyce, bated with lace and flesh. The three lines of this canto transform into Ulysses‘ Nausicaa episode climaxing in Gerty’s temptation of Bloom. An economy of words in Giacomo Joyce becomes an episode-long seduction fantasy in Ulysses.

She leaned back far to look up where the fireworks were and she caught her knee in her hands so as not to fall back looking up and there was no-one to see only him and her when she revealed all her graceful beautifully shaped legs like that, supply soft and delicately rounded….and her face was suffused with a divine, an entrancing blush from straining back and he could see her other things too, nainsook knickers, the fabric that caresses the skin,….

Did the maestro intend that the prose poem become something more? There are a few translations of the final two words of the canto: “Si pol.” Si or “Yes” has a particular sexual significance for Joyce in Ulysses. The only translations found for pol are from Slovak and Polish. In both languages, the word translates to “half,” not meaningful in this context. When writing Giacomo or later appending it, could Joyce have noted the canto as a source for the antics of POLdy Bloom?

don ward August 27, 2020

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