Thursday 23 November 2017

Poetry: Joyce and the boots of the Collopy brothers

Bloomsday: In 1982 Ulick O'Connor and Professor Gus Martin, a committee of two, had a Joyce statue unveiled in Stephen's Green.
Bloomsday: In 1982 Ulick O'Connor and Professor Gus Martin, a committee of two, had a Joyce statue unveiled in Stephen's Green.

Last Tuesday was Bloomsday. I think James Joyce would have been immensely pleased to discover that a day had been called after Leopold Bloom, the chief character in Ulysses, which is recognised as the best novel ever.

A surprising thing I learnt about Joyce from a friend of his was that he had become, when he lived in Paris, an ardent rugby fan.

I learnt this from Willie Fallon, a fellow barrister in the Law Library. He had been in class with Joyce at Belvedere and University College. When Fallon went over to the 1933 rugby international between Ireland and France, he was surprised to meet Joyce at the match.

Joyce, he said, "rolled off the names of the Irish players who had taken part in the game and their respective clubs. Then, to my astonishment, he talked of prominent players in the famous 1923 side and added he had attended all the international matches that Ireland played since he came to Paris. The most part of our conversations is taken talking about the match and the players".

Joyce never forgot the 1923 match which was the first time Ireland had won in Paris. Their victory that day was helped very much by two brothers who played in the second row and had been removed from the pitch for a time because of their over robust use of the boot.

These two players were the Collopy brothers who were members of Bective Rangers. Joyce mentions them on page 353 of Finnegans Wake: "By the horns of the two St Collopys I'll beat the Bective out of them".

Away from the ferocious crash of the football field, it's hard to imagine that the same person has written the poem below.

I can't give the title because Jemser Joyce didn't do titles. But it has its own picture dancing in front of you with the rose brick of Henrietta Street, where it was written, acting as a backdrop.


Lean out of the window,


I heard you singing

A merry air.

My book is closed;

I read no more,

Watching the fire dance

On the floor.

I have left my book:

I have left my room:

For I heard you singing

Through the gloom,

Singing and singing

A merry air.

Lean out of the window,


James Joyce 1882-1941

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