Wednesday

Jun. 16, 2004

Song: To Celia (1)

by Ben Jonson

WEDNESDAY, 16 JUNE, 2004
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Poem: "Song: To Celia (I)," by Ben Jonson.

Song: To Celia (I)

Come, my Celia, let us prove,
While we can, the sports of love.
Time will not be ours forever;
He at length our good will sever.
Spend not then his gifts in vain.
Suns that set may rise again;
But if once we lose this light,
'Tis with us perpetual night.
Why should we defer our joys?
Fame and rumour are but toys.
Cannot we delude the eyes
Of a few poor household spies,
Or his easier ears beguile,
So removed by our wile?
'Tis no sin love's fruit to steal;
But the sweet thefts to reveal,
To be taken, to be seen,
These have crimes accounted been.


Literary and Historical Notes:

Today is Bloomsday, a day to celebrate James Joyce's novel Ulysses, whose action takes place on June 16th, 1904. It's called Bloomsday because the main character in the book is Leopold Bloom, a Jewish ad salesman who lives on the north side of Dublin.

Bloom is introduced in the fourth chapter of Ulysses; he eats breakfast and serves his wife breakfast in bed. Joyce wrote: "Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencod's roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine. Kidneys were in his mind as he moved about the kitchen softly, righting [his wife's] breakfast things on the humpy tray. Gelid light and air were in the kitchen but out of doors gentle summer morning everywhere."

Bloom doesn't have much work to do on June 16th, so he spends most of his day wandering around Dublin doing errands. In the morning, he leaves his house on 7 Eccles Street, walks south across the River Liffey, picks up a letter, buys a bar of soap, and goes to the funeral of a man he didn't know very well. In the afternoon he eats a cheese sandwich, feeds some gulls in the Liffey, helps a blind man cross the street, and visits a couple of pubs. He thinks about his job, his wife, his daughter, his stillborn son; he muses about life and death and reincarnation. He knows that his wife is planning to cheat on him that afternoon at his house, and he spends a lot of time thinking about the days when his marriage was happier.

Late in the afternoon, he goes to the beach. At one point he gazes across the sand at a young woman, while fireworks go off over the ocean. Joyce wrote: "And she saw a long Roman candle going up over the trees up, up, and, in the tense hush, they were all breathless with excitement as it went higher and higher and she had to lean back more and more to look up after it, high, high, almost out of sight, and her face was suffused with a divine, an entrancing blush from straining back and he could see her other things too, nainsook knickers, the fabric that caresses the skin . . . and she let him and she saw that he saw and then it went so high it went out of sight a moment and she was trembling in every limb from being bent so far back he had a full view high up above her knee . . . and she wasn't ashamed and he wasn't either to look in that immodest way like that because he couldn't resist the sight of the wondrous revealment half offered like those skirtdancers behaving so immodest before gentlemen looking and he kept on looking, looking. . . . And then a rocket sprang and bang shot blind and O! then the Roman candle burst and it was like a sigh of O! and everyone cried O! O! in raptures and it gushed out of it a stream of rain gold hair threads and they shed and ah! they were all greeny dewy stars falling with golden, O so lively! O so soft, sweet, soft!"

This year is the centennial of Bloomsday, and there are official Bloomsday festivities in more than sixty countries around the world. Some of the most notable celebrations are in Tokyo, Sydney, San Francisco, Paris, Toronto, Buffalo and New York City—but the biggest celebration is always in Dublin. This year, Dublin's Bloomsday has been extended into a five-month festival from April to August, full of Joyce exhibitions at museums, plays, songs, reenactments of scenes from Ulysses, academic conferences, and James Joyce look-alike contests. Today, June 16th, thousands of people will retrace the steps of Leopold Bloom as he made his way through the streets and pubs of Dublin.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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