votes against demolishing the Ormond Hotel, where Simon Dedalus so beautifully sang “Martha” in the front room, while, in the back room (having told a waiter to keep the door between the rooms open so he could hear), Leopold Bloom so feelingly listened. (To hear more or less what Simon Dedalus would have sounded like singing that afternoon, go here and click on Play Music Clip.)

In its plans [the developer] argued that the original fabric of the hotel no longer existed and that the literary associations would be best preserved through the retention of the name of the hotel, the erection of a tourism plaque, and the use of the name ‘Sirens’ for the bar.

The James Joyce Centre was among several objectors [there was also a petition] to the development on the site of the hotel which was the setting for the Sirens episode of Ulysses.

A city preserves a real hotel because an imaginary character sang in it while another imaginary character listened to the singing. UD finds this civic act more moving than, say, New York City preserving the site of the Algonquin Room, where real people met…

Fictive realer than real. Aristotle. Plausible, and free of the need to be faithful to what actually was. In the hands of a genius read by all and then … percolates over time into the real city. Seeps. Visitors see the city through the mist of its genius-recreator…

There. A little Leopold Bloomesque stream of consciousness to try to get at why a room with Dorothy Parker in it may mean less to us than a room with Blazes Boylan in it.

Here’s some of what was said and thought about music in the bar of the Ormond Hotel on June 16, 1904. This is from the Sirens chapter of Ulysses:

[An unidentified narrator admires and somewhat ridicules Simon Dedalus’s sentimental rendition of a sentimental song.] It soared, a bird, it held its flight, a swift pure cry, soar silver orb it leaped serene, speeding, sustained, to come, don’t spin it out too long long breath he breath long life, soaring high, high resplendent, aflame, crowned, high in the effulgence symbolistic, high, of the etherial bosom, high, of the high vast irradiation everywhere all soaring all around about the all, the endlessnessnessness …….


[Bloom thinks about Simon’s voice as he sings the sad Martha song.] That voice was a lamentation. Calmer now. It’s in the silence after you feel you hear. Vibrations. Now silent air.


[After he sings “Martha,” Simon gets excited, recalling, with one of his friends at the bar, how he first heard Italians singing.] It was the only language Mr Dedalus said to Ben. He heard them as a boy in Ringabella, Crosshaven, Ringabella, singing their barcaroles. Queenstown harbour full of Italian ships. Walking, you know, Ben, in the moonlight with those earthquake hats. Blending their voices. God, such music, Ben. Heard as a boy. Cross Ringabella haven mooncarole.


[Bloom’s thoughts as he ponders the omnipresence of music.] Sea, wind, leaves, thunder, waters, cows lowing, the cattlemarket, cocks, hens don’t crow, snakes hissss. There’s music everywhere. Ruttledge’s door: ee creaking. No, that’s noise. Minuet of Don Giovanni he’s playing now. Court dresses of all descriptions in castle chambers dancing. Misery. Peasants outside. Green starving faces eating dockleaves. Nice that is. Look: look, look, look, look, look: you look at us.

That’s joyful I can feel. Never have written it. Why? My joy is other joy. But both are joys. Yes, joy it must be. Mere fact of music shows you are. Often thought she was in the dumps till she began to lilt. Then know.


[Later, the narrator writes this, as another person performs The Croppy Boy.] The voice of dark age, of unlove, earth’s fatigue made grave approach and painful, come from afar, from hoary mountains, called on good men and true.


[Ultimately:] And deepmoved all…


Vibrations sustained almost a century now over silent air.
Strings plucked again each moment a lover of art opens the novel.

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3 Responses to “In time for Saint Patrick’s Day, the Dublin City Council…”

  1. Janet Gool Says:

    Kudos to the city of Dublin! I can’t think of another city that honors an author and his book the way Dublin honors Joyce and Ulysses, with the annual Bloomsday and other programs.
    Of course, there are other cities that honor their authors. We saw that in Prague, where there are a number of monuments to Kafka. Closer to home, I once took a tour of Jerusalem in the footprints of Amos Oz’s “A Tale of Love and Darkness.” But having said that, no one comes close to Dublin.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Janet: And it’s not just Dublin. Bloomsday happens all over the world.

  3. janet gool Says:

    Margaret, Yes, I saw that on Wikkipedia. The Hungarian city that Bloom’s father was from has a special celebration, for instance.
    I think I’ll put June 16, Dublin, on my bucket list.

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