secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants willing to be dethroned... Joyce, Milton, Blake


Fabled by the daughters of memory. And yet it was in some way if not as memory fabled it. A phrase, then, of impatience, thud of Blake's wings of excess. I hear the ruin of all space, shattered glass and toppling masonry, and time one livid final flame. What's left us then?

Had Pyrrhus not fallen by a beldam's hand in Argos or Julius Caesar not been knifed to death? They are not to be thought away. Time has branded them and fettered they are lodged in the room of the infinite possi­bilities they have ousted. But can those have been possible seeing that they never were? Or was that only possible which came to pass? Weave, weaver of the wind.

- Weep no more, woeful shepherd, weep no more
For Lycidas, your sorrow is not dead,
Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor...

Fed and feeding brains about me: under glowlamps, impaled, with faintly beating feelers: and in my mind's darkness a sloth of the underworld, reluctant, shy of brightness, shifting her dragon scaly folds. Thought is the thought of thought. Tranquil brightness. The soul is in a manner all that is: the soul is the form of forms. Tranquility sudden, vast, candescent: form of forms.

He held out his copybook. The word Sums was written on the headline. Beneath were sloping figures and at the foot a crooked signature with blind loops and a blot. Cyril Sargeant: his name and seal.

Stephen touched the edges of the book. Futility.

Ugly and futile: lean neck and tangled hair and a stain of ink, a snail's bed. Yet someone had loved him, borne him in her arms and in her heart. But for her the race of the world would have trampled him under foot, a squashed boneless snail. She had loved his weak watery blood drained from her own. Was that then real? The only true thing in life?

Like him was I, these sloping shoulders, this gracelessness. My childhood bends beside me. Too far for me to lay a hand there once or lightly. Mine is far and his secret as our eyes. Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts: secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants willing to be dethroned."


"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom," Blake writes, and, "No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings." At the start of the passage Stephen Dedalus asks a boy about the battle of Asculum, where King Pyrrhus, although victorious, suffered irreplaceable casualties;

"- And he said: Another victory like that and we are done for.
That phrase the world has remembered. A dull ease of the mind."

Joyce has Stephen, who is teaching a history class to privileged but dull boys, referring to William Blake's description of history as allegory - "a totally distinct and inferior kind of Poetry . . . Form'd by the daughters of Memory" from the "Vanities of Time and Space." In his notes for the Vision of the Last Judgment, Blake insists that "Vision or Imagination is a Representation of what Eternally Exists, Really and Unchangeably." The romantic poet would destroy the edifice of past history because it contradicts pure imaginative thought. But if time collapses into "one livid final flame," Stephen asks, "What's left us then?"