Thursday 8 December 2016

Tutto e Sciolto

Anthony Cronin

Published 26/03/2012 | 06:00

"They belong in the Bible or in the family album with the portraits," said Joyce's friend Ezra Pound when he handed back the poems collected in the author's second volume as Pomes Penyeach. But if the poems did not please his friends they delighted some of his enemies. Rebecca West, for example, saw in them evidence of a hidden sentimentalist, a man who permitted himself a sort of private dishonesty and indulgence behind the facade of the complex and sometimes impenetrable prose. Both sides were wrong. There is a streak of honesty, an admission of complexity and a recognition of the ironies of existence in Joyce's second volume if not in his first. The verse form in some of the poems is original and three or four of them are successful by anybody's standards. The title means "all is lost" and is from Bellini's La Sonnambula. Bloom thinks of this aria several times in Ulysses.

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A birdless heaven, seadusk, one lone star

Piercing the west,

As thou, fond heart, love's time, so faint, so far,

Rememberest.

The clear young eyes' soft look, the candid brow,

The fragrant hair,

Falling as through the silence falleth now

Dusk of the air.

Why then, remembering those shy

Sweet lures, repine

When the dear love she yielded with a sigh

Was all but thine?

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