…foliage of stars-s-and waning heaven-c-stillness-e-…./
Non hunc sed Barabbam!
On first reading, these cantos seem among the simplest of Giacomo Joyce. The simplicity is as deceptive as a Judas kiss. As ever, time twists, shapes shift, and identities intermingle. The essential puzzle of the prose poem changes too from “Who?” (now answered) to “Why?” which may forever remain unanswerable.
The plot seems to have reached the denouement. SHE has chosen another for the sake of religion, riches, status, even perhaps for love. Joyce has countered by asking that SHE continue his instruction. SHE lunges with a blunt “Why?” In innocence, feigned and coy, he parries, saying he might at least see her even if his suit is hopeless. He hopes he can compromise her yet.
The first of the hidden jewels among these lines was mined by Mick Greer in his “Acting the Prince: Giacomo Joyce and Hamlet.” Greer finds that Giacomo Joyce, in its entirety, is a tribute to Hamlet. Consider the comparison of Leopold Popper and Polonius, the discarding of Ophelia and “Take her now who will,” the graveyard scenes, the poisonings, and duels ending in the unexpected destruction of the princes. SHE insists that the matter is ended; Prince Giacomo expires.
The second of the hidden gems is the single Latin line of Canto XLVII: Non hunc sed Barabbam! “Not this Man, but Barabbas.” Since SHE made clear her disinterest, Joyce has characterized himself as a victimized Christ. SHE has chosen an unworthy man, the murderer of Joyce’s love, over Rabbi Giacomo.
Finally, in this month when the dead walk the Earth, another phenomenon rises- the specter of a modern, digital mystery worthy of this string-theorized, worm-holed work. The italicized lines which introduce this essay were down-loaded from the online version of Ellmann’s edition of Giacomo Joyce. Apple’s Safari executed the download onto my MacBook Pro into a Grammarly file. The unitalicized result was otherwise just as you see it on the image before your eyes. Neither Ellmann’s typeset text nor the reproduced images of Joyce’s handwritten original include the “-s-” “-c-” “-e-” embedded in the downloaded text. These suggest to me Joyce’s juvenile mantra of A Portrait: silence, cunning, exile. Now he will hide, plot, and wait. Spooky, huh?
Greer astutely points out the similarities among the apocryphal phrases of Giacomo, Hamlet, and Christ:
"-stillness of annihilation" (Giacomo Joyce) "the rest is silence" (Hamlet) "Consummatum est" (The Gospel of John)
So am I.
don ward October 27, 2020