Youth has an end: the end is here. It will never be. You know that wen. What then? Write it, damn you, write it! What else are you good for?
Vicki Mahaffey notes that Joyce’s memories of Sweelinck’s clavichord tunes recall childhood days. Noted as Europe’s foremost keyboard player until J.S. Bach, many of the Dutchman’s compositions began as exercises for his students. Sweelinck’s tutoring connects Maestro Joyce and the organ teacher. Mahaffey also notes that Joyce’s recollection is jarring because he now faces a forced entry into adulthood. Joyce seems nostalgic for his days as a student. He has been reluctant to mature from the student who studied fingering to the language instructor responsible for his own students. This signpost marks a direction from infantile philanderer toward family man. The growth is personal, not professional.
Joyce has crossed over into his fourth decade. Romans believed young men insufficiently mature to hold public office until the age of thirty (although patrician families received special accommodation). Jamsey has been persistently inconsistent in vacillating between youth and maturity. Appropriate to this discussion, Murray McArthur notes that in the year he names for Giacomo’s writing, Joyce’s age was exactly midway twixt Stephen’s (22) and Bloom’s (38).
The duality of Dedalus and Bloom first is heated in the crucible of artistic extreme then purposefully cooled in Giacomo Joyce. The balance between the two will improve in Ulysses. In the prose poem, Joyce is both predator and prey, Mephestololes and Christ. The SHE is both innocent and temptress, dead and alive, light and shadow. SHE is the basilisk that first spares then destroys her “lover.”
When Giacomo Cassanova was no longer able to seduce, aged, infirmed, and imprisoned, he limited himself to writing about his conquests. He did not consider that to be maturation but surrender to failing powers. James Joyce also recognizes he has become a superannuated juvenile and failed lover. He concludes as this prose sketch trails away, it was not an unwillingness by his lover that spoils his suit but an unworthiness within himself.
Joyce will slip again in years ahead. That slip may be more searing to his conscience because he has recognized how shallow and vain was the two-decade-long search to be worshipped by the women who reject and leave him unappreciated. He has been dismissed and unloved by E.C., Mary Sheehy, and perhaps by flesh and blood manifestations of Mangan’s sister and the Watergirl, now joined by “Dark Whos” fictional and actual. But one more forgave his sins, peccadillos, and peculiarities. Devoted Nora carried him home after every injustice against her. She was the imperfectly perfect Molly who loved him as he wished to be loved even before he conceded to Bloom.
don ward October 22, 2020