Friday, July 11, 2008

Of the many, many musical references that Joyce uses
in Ulysses, there are some that are quite significant
and some that are only briefly alluded to. One of the
more significant references, though it's appearance is
much more concise than songs like The Croppy Boy and
Love's Old Sweet Song is the traditional Irish song
Suil a Run. It is used in the Ithaca chapter. Chapter
17 of Ulysses (Ithaca) is written entirely in question
and answer form, like a catechism.

At one point as Stephen and Bloom walk back to Bloom's
house, they each refer to one song, which represents
their culture. Bloom picks a Hebrew song with which I
am unfamiliar. Stephen chooses a song which tells of a
young woman who is pining for her lover, who has fled to
France. If you don't have your copy of Ulysses handy, you
can find this portion on the internet here. But this
particular question and answer are below:

"What fragments of verse from the ancient Hebrew and ancient
Irish languages were cited with modulations of voice and
translation of texts by guest to host and by host to guest?
By Stephen: suil, suil, suil arun, suil go siocair agus suil
go cuin (walk, walk, walk your way, walk in safety, walk with
care). By Bloom: kifeloch, harimon rakatejch m'baad l'zamatejch
(thy temple amid thy hair is as a slice of pomegranate). "

There are many recordings of Suil a Run. The best is on the
album All of It by the band Skylark. Instrumentally, the song
is simple and perfect and no one sings it as beautifully as
Len Graham does in this recording. Suil Arun (the spelling
varies) is also a song from Joyce's personal repertoire. Listen
to it if you get the chance. The link above provides a sample
of the song.

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