Joyce’s Process

The Drafting of “Proteus” Lines 390-398

A side eye at my Latin Quarter hat. Walking across the sands of all the world, origin of the sun’s flaming sword to the west, to evening lands. She trudges; schlepps, trains, drags, trascines her load. A tide westering, moondrawn, in her wake. Moondrawn tides within her, a [illegible], winedark sea, myriadislanded. Behold the handmaid of the moon, of the wet sign nude her [illegible] invokes her. Rise up, according to the word. Omnis caro ad te veniet. He comes the pale vampire, bat vampire, through storm his eyes, his bat sails bloodying the sea, mouth to her mouth’s kiss.

All versions of the passage from Joyce’s notebook are found in Michael Groden, James Joyce: Ulysses, Notes & ‘Telemachus’-‘Scylla and Charybdis’, A Facsimile of Notes for the Book & Manuscripts & Typscripts for Episodes 1-9 (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. 1978), 238.

The above lines appear to be from Joyce’s original draft of the “Proteus” episode of Ulysses, lines 390 to 398 in the Gabler edition. Reflection altered Joyce’s vision of this passage and his notebook gives evidence of at least two phases of revision. Although it is not clear which came first, it is clear that Joyce, at some point, read back through the passage, striking some words entirely and replacing others. These changes result in the passage as rendered below, with the words struck by Joyce indicated by strikethrough and any words inserted by Joyce following in [brackets].

A side eye at my Latin Quarter [Hamlet] hat. Walking across the sands of all the world, origin of [following] the sun’s flaming sword to the west, to evening lands. She trudges; schlepps, trains, drags, trascines her load. A tide westering, moondrawn, in her wake. Moondrawn [Red] tides within her,[myriadislanded] a [illegible] [oinopa ponton], [a] winedark sea, myriadislanded [blood not mine]. Behold the handmaid of the moon, of the wet sign nude her [illegible] invokes [calling] her. Rise up, according to the word. Omnis caro ad te veniet. He comes the pale vampire, bat vampire, through storm his eyes, his bat sails bloodying the sea, mouth to her mouth’s kiss.

With these edits, the passage would read:

A side eye at my Hamlet hat. Across the sands of all the world, following the sun’s flaming sword to the west, to evening lands. She trudges; schlepps, trains, drags, trascines her load. A tide westering, moondrawn in her wake. Red tides within her, myriadislanded, oinopa ponton, a winedark sea, blood not mine. Behold the handmaid of the moon, of the wet sign calling her. Omnis caro ad te veniet. He comes the pale vampire, through storm his eyes, his bat sails bloodying the sea, mouth to her mouth’s kiss.

Rendered as above, we begin to get a sense of the passage now available in print. A few of the changes noted above are of particular interest. First, the change to Stephan’s hat. Joyce strikes the Latin Quarter hat in favor of a Hamlet hat. Hats are important markers of identity in Ulysses, and Stephen’s Latin Quarter hat had tied him to a Bohemian community of artists with which he had spent some time in Paris. Walking the beach alone with his thoughts, the Hamlet hat marks Stephen more explicitly as a troubled outsider and indicates his particular neurosis, namely, his desire to be free of his parents and establish himself as his own creator (Hamlet’s feigned madness excuses him from the responsibilities of his position in the royal family and provides an escape from the conspiracy of his mother and uncle). This means severing ties with communities fraternal and familial to set himself up as the sole arbiter of his own fate. This is madness, of course, and Stephen is haunted by the sea and the feminine in the subsequent sentences, recalling again Stephen’s guilt and the death of his mother who “haunted” him in previous episodes. Seemingly emphasizing Stephen’s ghostly traversing of the beach, Joyce strikes “walking” entirely, leaving us to float “across the sands of all the world” and thereby generalizing and universalizing Stephen’s solitude, as Stephen believes all true artists ought to be likewise. This thematic of the lonely island to himself is repeated in the “myriadislanded” concoction that Joyce had an obvious preference for; he strikes it only so that he can find the most effective home for it. The phrase is placed just following the introduction of language of death into the passage, the westering sun, the feminine pronoun “she” carrying her load unto and into death, death as once the great individualizer and the great equalizer. Everybody dies, but, as these myriad islands, everyone dies alone. Thus, in this key passage, Stephen’s fears become conflated and identified: his fear of death coupled with the feminine other, a feminine who is master of water and the tides, water the fluid and uncontainable manifestation of Stephen’s fears. Stephen wants clear structure and absolute truths, which he hopes to find in his solitude. The water threatens to erase those lines, it being a symbol of ambiguity, change, and a place where Stephen’s clear identity becomes unstable and irresolute. These myriad islands are in a winedark sea, Joyce reintroducing the Homeric phrase here in Greek and repeating it in translation, stressing not only the relationship between Ulysses and the Odyssey, but also elevating Stephen’s internal, psychological drama into the realm of the epic, giving Stephen’s island over to a winedark (read: red, as red tides, and, as we shall see, of menstrual blood) sea that is of “blood not mine.” Introducing this phrase into the text, “blood not mine”, re-inscribes Stephen’s struggle toward self-creation, again casting doubt upon this possibility as his island is shown rising from an origin not his, from “blood not mine”. He is determined by something other than himself. The vampire comes to take from the sea, to drain it, bloodying it, complicating Stephen’s vision so that he comes from not just one other, but myriad others, not just from the feminine, but through death, the death of his solitude as the death of his self-created fantasy.

Notes in the margin of Joyce’s notebook further elucidate the themes converging in this passage, a passage I maintain is key to understanding the development of Stephen’s character to this point. As I’ve noted above, here we see the confluence of Stephen’s symbolic constitution. Joyce brings together the psychological themes that drive Stephen’s thought process and offer explanatory mechanism for his behavior in both word and deed. Turning to the margins will further substantiate this reading

In the margin, Joyce had written, “What if I were suddenly naked? No I am not.” Then, just below, “J B’s letter: headache, menstruous, (monthly)”. There is a bit of space as Joyce’s hand drops to the margin next to the bottom of the passage, where we “Behold the handmaid of the moon” in line 395, and there he writes, “And bid her rise. Bridebed, childbed, bed of death, ghost / candled”, the eventual “ghostcandled” neologism here separated by a line break.

Joyce had struck the reference to the female nude that had originally followed the “wet sign” phrase found in line 395. When he writes in Stephen contemplating his own nudity, he has placed Stephen in the vulnerable position of nakedness and more firmly establish the female as master of the tides, of the water, and thus, of Stephen’s fear. And yet, Stephen denies his nakedness. “No, I am not.” Stephen thereby denies his vulnerability even as he is threatened by mortality and the potential dissolution of his (masculine) identity in the tides of the winedark sea. Tides, menstruation, cycles, and also cycles of renewal, of rebirth. This double entendre of cleansing on the one hand, and yet revolting in Stephen’s negative interpretation of the feminine mirrors the coupling of sex and death, the desirable and horrific, the entrance and exit to life. Stephen is can thereby be shown as being drawn toward and repulsed; he is seduced by his own fears, drawn into the sea and afraid.

The marginal notes discussed above are inserted into the passage as follows, the lines originating in the margin indicated here in [brackets]:

A side eye at my Hamlet hat. [What if I were suddenly naked? No I am not.] Across the sands of all the world, following the sun’s flaming sword to the west, to evening lands. She trudges; schlepps, trains, drags, trascines her load. A tide westering, moondrawn in her wake. Red tides within her, myriadislanded, oinopa ponton, a winedark sea, blood not mine. Behold the handmaid of the moon, of the wet sign calling her, [and bid her rise. Bridebed, childbed, bed of death, ghost candled.] Omnis caro ad te veniet. He comes the pale vampire, through storm his eyes, his bat sails bloodying the sea, mouth to her mouth’s kiss.

Note that Joyce’s observations regarding “LB” and menstruation are not developed into lines of the passage. Rather, Joyce seems to indicate connections to other parts of the text, drawing connections between Stephen and Leopold Bloom (supposedly “LB”). Moreover, Stephen’s vulnerability and his denial of it is foregrounded, it comes right at the beginning, after his connection with Hamlet is established by a “side eye” glance. The “side eye” deserves some attention, as it gives a clandestine, sneaky-toned introduction to the passage, and coupled with nakedness, now smacks of voyeurism. Stephen’s “No, I am not” remains in doubt, a form of denialism, as the tides come in in spite of his protestations. He seems helpless throughout the remainder of this paragraph.

The line “and bid her rise” is neatly substituting for the original “Rise up, according to the word” and has a less epic/biblical tone and resonates more with romantic insinuations. I reassert my claim that Stephen is seduced by his fears in spite of himself, that he finds a solicitude in passivity regardless of his rhetoric of self-creation. Stephen is more water than stone after all, water the symbolic that marks the manifestation of his subconscious and reflects him to himself, the true Narcissist, in love with the idea of his own greatness, an ideal greatness reflected in that which bears his death. Like a reflection in a mirror, Stephen too is an inverse image of himself. He can run through the stages of life, bound up in sex and death, from the bridebed to the childbed and the bed of death, “all flesh shall come unto thee” quotes Joyce in Latin, omnis caro ad te veniet. The “bed” triplet here adds real symbolic and rhetorical power to the Latin phrase and enhances its significance to the overall effect of the passage. Again, the universalization central to Stephen’s epistemic desires is invoked in the bride-, child-, deathbeds; perhaps the only absolute knowledge offered through Stephen. All else to the sea.

The passage prints with only minor edits, and remains the same in both the 1961 edition and the Gabler critical edition. The passage we see today reads as follows, with final additions indicated in [brackets] and omissions by strikethrough:

A side eye at my Hamlet hat. If I were suddenly naked [here as I sit]? No, I am not. Across the sands of all the world, following[ed by] the sun’s flaming sword, to the west, [trekking] to evening lands. She trudges, schlepps, trains, drags, trascines her load. A tide westering, moondrawn, in her wake. Red Tides within her, myriadislanded, [within her], [blood not mine], oinopa ponton, winedark sea, blood not mine. Behold the handmaid of the moon, of the wet sign calling her and bid her rise. [In sleep the wet sign calls her hour, bids her rise.] Bridebed, childbed, bed of death, ghost candled [ghostcandled]. Omnis caro as te veniet. He comes, pale vampire, through storm his eyes, bat sails bloodying the sea, mouth to her mouth’s kiss.

With all the visible edits put into place, the finished passage reads:

A side eye at my Hamlet hat. If I were suddenly naked here as I sit? I am not. Across the sands of all the world, followed by the sun’s flaming sword, to the west, trekking to evening lands. She trudges, schlepps, trains, drags, trascines her load. A tide westering, moondawn, in her wake. Tides, myriadislanded, within her, blood not mine, oinopa ponton, winedark sea. Behold the handmaid of the moon. In sleep the wet sign calls her hour, bids her rise. Bridebed, childbed, bed of death, ghostcandled. Omnis caro as te veniet. He comes, pale vampire, through storm his eyes, bat sails bloodying the sea, mouth to her mouth’s kiss.

These final additions and rearrangements indicate some tidying up. Nothing jumps out as a change of great significance, but it is clear that the aesthetic eye and ear is in play to bring a certain poetic acumen to bear on the lines. This work can be seen particularly in lines 395-97 where Joyce makes more judicious use of the “wet sign” that now “calls her hour.” These signification had been previously obscured by being made an ambiguous dependent clause to “Behold the handmaid of the moon…” In this last revision, “the wet sign that calls her hour, bids her rise” gains full rhetorical force by being separated from the foregoing sentence and let stand on it own, to “call” the handmaid more clearly, making a stark announcement of the female ghost, now shaded with a sense of waking.

The rewrites of this important passage thus shed light on the symbolic significance woven into Stephen’s psychological portrait. Here, his fears can be seen coming together, and the tension he feels within himself, at once reticent and enticed, is made more explicit. Water continually reemerges and is carefully and explicitly connected to the feminine in the passage under consideration, while hints of gender inversion remain present throughout. And, though the passage is recognizable in its more original form, the changes that took place in subsequent drafts reveal a careful process that is not only attentive to symbolics, but also to the sound and lyricism of the words that allows the underlying symbols to appear more powerfully.

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