Pyrrhus, Pyrrhic victory, James Joyce, Ulysses

Ep. 12 – Wings of Excess

Pyrrhus_and_his_Elephants
Pyrrhus and his Elephants

“One more victory like that and we’re done for.” Kelly and Dermot discuss the ancient Greek warrior king Pyrrhus and his relation to the excesses of the 20th century. In addition to ancient Greeks, Vico and figroll-munching children, the impact of the Easter Rising of 1916 and World War I on James Joyce and Ulysses are also discussed.

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Ulysse, James Joyce, Mr. Deasy, anti-semitism

Never Let Them In

—They sinned against the light, Mr Deasy said gravely. And you can see the darkness in their eyes. And that is why they are wanderers on the earth to this day.

We’ve already discussed Mr. Deasy’s retrograde and inaccurate views on the trustworthiness of women and his misinformed defense of the anti-Catholic Orange Order, so today we’ll complete the Mr. Deasy bigotry hattrick by taking a look at his anti-semitism. His disgust for the Jews stands out not only because it is his most impassioned prejudicial proclamation, but also because it’s the only one openly refuted by Stephen Dedalus. It’s also worth digging into because it sets the stage for the arrival of Mr. Leopold Bloom in the episode after next.

Mr. Deasy doesn’t waste words on subtleties; his hatred of the Jews is on display in this passage. Naturally, the anglophilic headmaster focuses on the corruption of England rather than Ireland :

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Orange Order, Diamond Dan, Ulysses, James Joyce

Decoding Dedalus: Glorious, Pious and Immortal Memory

This is a post in a series called Decoding Dedalus where I take a paragraph of Ulysses and  break it down line by line.

The passage below comes from “Nestor,” the second episode of Ulysses. It appears on page 31 in my copy (1990 Vintage International).

Glorious, pious and immortal memory. The lodge of Diamond in Armagh the splendid behung with corpses of papishes. Hoarse, masked and armed, the planters’ covenant. The black north and true blue bible. Croppies lie down.

Having listened to Mr. Deasy’s imprecise recitation of history, Stephen Dedalus returns a silent retort. With great efficiency, Stephen rebuts the headmaster’s assertion that the orange lodges had actually supported the repeal of the Union, even before Catholic political hero Daniel O’Connell had. (You can find a discussion of Mr. Deasy’s comments here). While the old headmaster is eager to lessen the sectarian nature of Ireland’s historical strife, Stephen can’t look away.

Glorious, pious and immortal memory.

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A banner from an Orange Lodge in Ontario

These words are included in the opening of the Orange Toast. Though it sounds like a delicious brunch menu item, the Orange Toast is actually a proclamation recited in memory of King William III, also known as William of Orange, by the Orange Order (previously the Orange Society). A protestant fraternal organization, not unlike the freemasons, chapters of the Orange Order meet in the orange lodges cited by Mr. Deasy. Though they have rebranded in recent years, the Orange Order have historically been a strictly pro-Union, pro-monarchy and anti-Catholic organization, at times violently so. Continue reading “Decoding Dedalus: Glorious, Pious and Immortal Memory”

James Joyce Ulysses Mr Deasy Nestor The Odyssey Homer

Deasy of West Britain

Horn of a bull, hoof of a horse, smile of a Saxon.

For all posts on Mr. Deasy, click here.

The conversation between Stephen and Mr. Deasy in ‘Nestor’ rings familiar to anyone who’s ever had to sit across from, let’s say, a conservative uncle at a holiday dinner. This chapter deftly captures the experience of listening to an elder’s bloviating nonsense, but the bloviating nonsense of an elder that you can’t tell to get stuffed. Mr. Deasy is Stephen’s boss, though Stephen calculates how he could get out from under Deasy’s thumb:

The same room and hour, the same wisdom: and I the same. Three times now. Three nooses round me here. Well? I can break them in this instant if I will.

For now, he’s stuck in this office collecting his salary. Money is what brings these two together on the morning of the 16th of June. A wealthy man like Deasy hopes to enlighten the young Artist, who is more likely to rack up debt than meticulously save:

—Because you don’t save, Mr Deasy said, pointing his finger. You don’t know yet what money is. Money is power. When you have lived as long as I have. I know, I know. If youth but knew. But what does Shakespeare say? Put but money in thy purse.

Which is, of course, a quote from Iago, one of Shakespeare’s most odious villains. Stephen catches the blunder, but Mr. Deasy is not to be derailed:

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Averroes, Maimonides, Ulysses, James Joyce

Decoding Dedalus: Dark Men of Mien and Movement

This is a post in a series called Decoding Dedalus where I take a paragraph of Ulysses and  break it down line by line.

The passage below comes from “Nestor,” the second episode of Ulysses. It appears on page 28 in my copy (1990 Vintage International).


Across the page the symbols moved in grave morrice, in the mummery of their letters, wearing quaint caps of squares and cubes. Give hands, traverse, bow to partner: so: imps of fancy of the Moors. Gone too from the world, Averroes and Moses Maimonides, dark men in mien and movement, flashing in their mocking mirrors the obscure soul of the world, a darkness shining in brightness which brightness could not comprehend.

These thoughts traverse Stephen’s mind as he sits to help young Sargent with his algebra. Stephen, distracted as ever, ponders the greater mysteries and histories behind something so seemingly simple as a young student’s algebra problem. However, as you’ve certainly guessed by now, nothing is ever simple in Ulysses. Oh my god, there is so much in this one, you guys.

Let’s dive in.

Across the page the symbols moved in grave morrice, in the mummery of their letters, wearing quaint caps of squares and cubes. Give hands, traverse, bow to partner: so: imps of fancy of the Moors.

Let’s start with the word “morrice.” Usually spelled Morris dance today, this is  a traditional/ historical form of folk dance from England and Wales and, as a result, has had a lot of different spellings over the years. Morris dance does indeed involve a certain amount of mummery and the wearing of quaint caps. Some styles include blackface as part of the costume.

Stephen is slipping into a daydream as young Sargent works his algebra, watching the numbers come alive and dance across the page. It’s sort of like John Cusack in Better Off Dead, except less whimsical and less 80’s. The last line is key here. “The Moors” refer to the inhabitants of medieval Muslim Spain. While the origins of Morris dance are unknown, some believe “Morris” to have evolved from “Moorish.” The costumes of some styles of Morris dance and the unfortunate blackface seem to reflect this to me. Stephen thinks of the Moors in particular, though, because algebra was introduced to Europe by Muslim scholars.

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Ep. 5 – Sweny’s Pharmacy

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P.J., Kelly & Jack

Kelly and Dermot sit down with P.J. Murphy and Jack Walsh, two volunteers who are keeping the legacy of Sweny’s Pharmacy alive.  Sweny’s, of course, is the location where Leopold Bloom bought his lemon soap. We talk the history of Sweny’s, their Joyce connection and the challenges of preserving Joycean landmarks in 21st century Dublin. P.J. even shares a song at the end. Donate to Sweny’s here.

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Pyrrhus, Pyrrhic victory, James Joyce, Ulysses

Pyrrhus: A Disappointed Bridge

To listen to a discussion of this topic, check out the podcast episode here.

In the Gilbert schema, the art of ‘Nestor’ is listed as history, so it is fitting that the episode opens with Stephen delivering a history lesson. The topic is Pyrrhus, an ancient Greek king mostly remembered by the phrase “Pyrrhic victory.” The basic facts of the battle are there, but let’s indulge in the art of history ourselves and expand on the details the young student Cochrane lays out in his recitation.

First, a definition: a Pyrrhic victory is a victory in which the victor incurs such heavy losses that it may as well be a loss. You can drop this phrase in conversation at fancy dinner parties to sound smarter when talking about politics or sports. I’m assuming. I don’t go to a lot of fancy dinner parties. Pyrrhus, as mentioned above, was a military leader in ancient Greece fighting against an early but ascendant Rome. Tarentum, as recalled by Cochrane, was a Greek city in the instep of the boot of the Italian peninsula. Pyrrhus’ army, which included several dozen war elephants because PETA didn’t exist back then, helped push the Romans out of Tarentum in 280 BCE.

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