Art Thou Pale for Weariness…

“Like a joyless eye/finding no object worth its constancy.”

The following excerpt from Joyce’s Portrait seems usefully illustrative of the previous post.  And really, illustrative of the modern mind.  Joyce seems dead on in Simon Dedalus’s summing up of his life’s activities and in Stephen’s understanding of Shelley’s fragment “To the Moon” that ends this piece.

_______________________________________

Another, a brisk old man, whom Mr Dedalus called Johnny Cashman, had covered him with confusion by asking him to say which were prettier, the Dublin girls or the Cork girls.

—He’s not that way built, said Mr Dedalus. Leave him alone. He’s a level-headed thinking boy who doesn’t bother his head about that kind of nonsense.

—Then he’s not his father’s son, said the little old man.

—I don’t know, I’m sure, said Mr Dedalus, smiling complacently.

—Your father, said the little old man to Stephen, was the boldest flirt in the City of Cork in his day. Do you know that?

Stephen looked down and studied the tiled floor of the bar into which they had drifted.

—Now don’t be putting ideas into his head, said Mr Dedalus. Leave him to his Maker.

—Yerra, sure I wouldn’t put any ideas into his head. I’m old enough to be his grandfather. And I am a grandfather, said the little old man to Stephen. Do you know that?

—Are you? asked Stephen.

—Bedad I am, said the little old man. I have two bouncing grandchildren out at Sunday’s Well. Now, then! What age do you think I am? And I remember seeing your grandfather in his red coat riding out to hounds. That was before you were born.

—Ay, or thought of, said Mr Dedalus.

—Bedad I did, repeated the little old man. And, more than that, I can remember even your great-grandfather, old John Stephen Dedalus, and a fierce old fire-eater he was. Now, then! There’s a memory for you!

—That’s three generations—four generations, said another of the company. Why, Johnny Cashman, you must be nearing the century.

—Well, I’ll tell you the truth, said the little old man. I’m just twenty-seven years of age.

—We’re as old as we feel, Johnny, said Mr Dedalus. And just finish what you have there and we’ll have another. Here, Tim or Tom or whatever your name is, give us the same again here. By God, I don’t feel more than eighteen myself. There’s that son of mine there not half my age and I’m a better man than he is any day of the week.

—Draw it mild now, Dedalus. I think it’s time for you to take a back seat, said the gentleman who had spoken before.

—No, by God! asserted Mr Dedalus. I’ll sing a tenor song against him or I’ll vault a five-barred gate against him or I’ll run with him after the hounds across the country as I did thirty years ago along with the Kerry Boy and the best man for it.

—But he’ll beat you here, said the little old man, tapping his forehead and raising his glass to drain it.

—Well, I hope he’ll be as good a man as his father. That’s all I can say, said Mr Dedalus.

—If he is, he’ll do, said the little old man.

—And thanks be to God, Johnny, said Mr Dedalus, that we lived so long and did so little harm.

—But did so much good, Simon, said the little old man gravely. Thanks be to God we lived so long and did so much good.

Stephen watched the three glasses being raised from the counter as his father and his two cronies drank to the memory of their past. An abyss of fortune or of temperament sundered him from them. His mind seemed older than theirs: it shone coldly on their strifes and happiness and regrets like a moon upon a younger earth. No life or youth stirred in him as it had stirred in them. He had known neither the pleasure of companionship with others nor the vigour of rude male health nor filial piety. Nothing stirred within his soul but a cold and cruel and loveless lust. His childhood was dead or lost and with it his soul capable of simple joys and he was drifting amid life like the barren shell of the moon.

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless…?

He repeated to himself the lines of Shelley’s fragment. Its alternation of sad human ineffectiveness with vast inhuman cycles of activity chilled him and he forgot his own human and ineffectual grieving.

___________________________

Shelley’s fragment in full:

To the Moon

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?

 

photo credit: jellie_mac

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *