Friday, April 1, 2011

James Joyce

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A photograph of James Joyce at the piano, 1939, by Gisèle Freund.

Chamber Music

III

At that hour when all things have repose,
O lonely watcher of the skies,
Do you hear the night wind and the sighs
Of harps playing unto Love to unclose
The pale gates of sunrise?

When all things repose, do you alone
Awake to hear the sweet harps play
To Love before him on his way,
And the night wind answering in antiphon
Till night is overgone?

Play on, invisible harps, unto Love,
Whose way in heaven is aglow
At that hour when soft lights come and go,
Soft sweet music in the air above
And in the earth below.

(1907)

Chamber Music, which appeared originally in 1907, was the first of Joyce’s books to reach the public. Though it brought him no royalties, it was to gain him a place in the Imagist Anthology. It was thus to associate him with the Anglo-American group that included Eliot and Pound, who later helped to publicize his books.

Elusive and formal, these poems are, above all, musical. Joyce, who trained as a singer in Paris, set out to write lyrics that could be sung, and their imagery—characteristically—appeals chiefly to the ear. Echoes from books, together with images from musical instruments, contribute to Joyce’s “elegant and antique phrase.” His models are the Elizabethan lyricists, the airs of Dowland and the words of Shakespeare.

Joyce made the selection for Chamber Music, sequentially arranged, from the large amount of verse composed during his Dublin days.’

-from the ‘Publisher’s Note’ in Jonathan Cape’s 1985 edition of Chamber Music.
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Rain Has Fallen, the first song in the Three Songs to Poems of James Joyce, Op. 10, by Samuel Barber (born 9 March, 1910; died 23 January, 1981); performed here by Gerald Finley, baritone, and Julius Drake, piano. Video created by FiDiTanzer528


Rain has fallen all the day.
O come among the laden trees:
The leaves lie thick upon the way
Of memories.

Staying a little by the way
Of memories shall we depart.
Come, my beloved, where I may
Speak to your heart.

—from Chamber Music, by James Joyce (1907)


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