(GJ) Cantos XXX-XXXI (p.11, ll. 13-19, 22-26).

The housemaid tells me that they had to take her away at once to the hospital, poveretta, that she suffered so much, so much, poveretta, that it is very grave…… I walk away from her empty house.

In Canto IXXX, we shared a quote from the Book of Numbers revealing Yahweh as a God jealous of his gifts and his people’s affections. Here that theme continues with Joyce’s accusation of a “Libidinous God!” Giacomo Joyce inverts the struggle of good and evil. A selfish God threatens to take Amalia away from her pursuer. Joyce’s reply, “Surely hell’s luck will not fail me!”

When Faust asked Mephistopheles about his nature, the demon replied: “I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good.” Joyce also might excuse himself for his pursuit of a young virgin with the rationalization that ultimately good will result. Neither Heaven nor Hell emerges triumphant in Giacomo Joyce. The evil that results is merely the continued darkening of Joyce’s soul, while Giacomo’s awakening conscience is a slight countervailing good. This prose poem includes the poet’s blackest thoughts. His intention was that they remain unpublished during his life in an uncharacteristic concession to shame. He never dared to complete Giacomo Joyce, never even having it typed.

Amalia, appendix ruptured, went under the surgeon’s knife. Tears welled up in Joyce’s eyes, thinking he might lose her, tears out of place adjacent to his lust. The Maestro may have believed that a jealous God punished Amalia to punish him, her seducer. He might have also believed her scarring was a response to his belief in her perfection. His tears were tears of sorrow or tears of helpless rage.

Leopoldo Popper procreated a perfect sacrifice to his God. When the surgeon’s blade marred his daughter, she was no longer a platonic ideal. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Birthmark” employed the theme that God’s hand will not abide human perfection. Goethe incants that same warning through his Chorus of Spirits:

By the blow of a demigod shattered!
The scattered 
Fragments into the Void we carry,
Deploring 
The beauty perished beyond restoring.
Mightier

While the forces of good and evil play, Amalia’s eyes betray her to be Joyce’s prey (“suffering eyes, beautiful as the eyes of an antelope”). She is the prize in a game between that “Libidinous God” and James Mephistopheles Joyce, who, as observed by Buck Mulligan, had “the cursed jesuit strain…injected the wrong way.”

don ward September 15, 2020

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: