Tuesday, August 14, 2007


They turned to the left and walked on as before. When they had gone on so for some time Stephen said:
-- Cranly, I had an unpleasant quarrel this evening.
-- With your people? Cranly asked.
-- With my mother.
-- About religion?
-- Yes, Stephen answered.

After a pause Cranly asked:
-- What age is your mother?
-- Not old, Stephen said. She wishes me to make my easter duty.
-- And will you?
-- I will not, Stephen said.
-- Why not? Cranly said.
-- I will not serve, answered Stephen.
-- That remark was made before, Cranly said calmly.
-- It is made behind now, said Stephen hotly.

Cranly pressed Stephen's arm, saying:
-- Go easy, my dear man. You're an excitable bloody man, do you know.

He laughed nervously as he spoke and, looking up into Stephen's face with moved and friendly eyes, said:
-- Do you know that you are an excitable man?
-- I daresay I am, said Stephen, laughing also.

Their minds, lately estranged, seemed suddenly to have been drawn closer, one to the other.
-- Do you believe in the eucharist? Cranly asked.
-- I do not, Stephen said.
-- Do you disbelieve then?
-- I neither believe in it nor disbelieve in it, Stephen answered.
-- Many persons have doubts, even religious persons, yet they overcome them or put them aside, Cranly said. Are your doubts on that point too strong?
-- I do not wish to overcome them, Stephen answered.

Cranly, embarrassed for a moment, took another fig from his pocket and was about to eat it when Stephen said:
-- Don't, please. You cannot discuss this question with your mouth full of chewed fig.

Cranly examined the fig by the light of a lamp under which he halted. Then he smelt it with both nostrils, bit a tiny piece, spat it out and threw the fig rudely into the gutter.

Addressing it as it lay, he said:
-- Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire! Taking Stephen's arms, he went on again and said:
-- Do you not fear that those words may be spoken to you on the day of Judgement?
-- What is offered me on the other hand? Stephen asked. An eternity of bliss in the company of the dean of studies?
-- Remember, Cranly said, that he would be glorified.
-- Ay, Stephen said somewhat bitterly, bright, agile, impassible and, above all, subtle.
-- It is a curious thing, do you know, Cranly said dispassionately, how your mind is supersaturated with the religion in which you say you disbelieve. Did you believe in it when you were at school? I bet you did.
-- I did, Stephen answered.
-- And were you happier then? Cranly asked softly, happier than you are now, for instance?
-- Often happy, Stephen said, and often unhappy. I was someone else then.
-- How someone else? What do you mean by that statement?
-- I mean, said Stephen, that I was not myself as I am now, as I had to become.
-- Not as you are now, not as you had to become, Cranly repeated. Let me ask you a question. Do you love your mother?

Stephen shook his head slowly.
-- I don't know what your words mean, he said simply.
-- Have you never loved anyone? Cranly asked.
-- Do you mean women?
-- I am not speaking of that, Cranly said in a colder tone. I ask you if you ever felt love towards anyone or anything?

Stephen walked on beside his friend, staring gloomily at the footpath.
-- I tried to love God, he said at length. It seems now I failed. It is very difficult. I tried to unite my will with the will of God instant by instant. In that I did not always fail. I could perhaps do that still--

Cranly cut him short by asking:
-- Has your mother had a happy life?

-- How do I know? Stephen said.
-- How many children had she?
-- Nine or ten, Stephen answered. Some died.
-- Was your father Cranly interrupted himself for an instant, and then said: I don't want to pry into your family affairs. But was your father what is called well-to-do? I mean, when you were growing up?
-- Yes, Stephen said.
-- What was he? Cranly asked after a pause.

Stephen began to enumerate glibly his father's attributes.

-- A medical student, an oarsman, a tenor, an amateur actor, a shouting politician, a small landlord, a small investor, a drinker, a good fellow, a story-teller, somebody's secretary, something in a distillery, a tax-gatherer, a bankrupt and at present a praiser of his own past.

Cranly laughed, tightening his grip on Stephen's arm, and said:
-- The distillery is damn good.
-- Is there anything else you want to know? Stephen asked.
-- Are you in good circumstances at present?
-- Do, look it? Stephen asked bluntly.
-- So then, Cranly went on musingly, you were born in the lap of luxury.

He used the phrase broadly and loudly as he often used technical expressions, as if he wished his hearer to understand that they were used by him without conviction.
-- Your mother must have gone through a good deal of suffering, he said then. Would you not try to save her from suffering more even ifor would you?
-- If I could, Stephen said, that would cost me very little.
-- Then do so, Cranly said. Do as she wishes you to do. What is it for you? You disbelieve in it. It is a form: nothing else. And you will set her mind at rest.

He ceased and, as Stephen did not reply, remained silent. Then, as if giving utterance to the process of his own thought, he said:
-- Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother's love is not. Your mother brings you into the world, carries you first in her body. What do we know about what she feels? But whatever she feels, it, at least, must be real. It must be. What are our ideas or ambitions? Play. Ideas! Why, that bloody bleating goat Temple has ideas. MacCann has ideas too. Every jackass going the roads thinks he has ideas.

Stephen, who had been listening to the unspoken speech behind the words, said with assumed carelessness:
-- Pascal, if I remember rightly, would not suffer his mother to kiss him as he feared the contact of her sex.
-- Pascal was a pig, said Cranly.
-- Aloysius Gonzaga, I think, was of the same mind, Stephen said.
-- And he was another pig then, said Cranly.
-- The church calls him a saint, Stephen objected.
-- I don't care a flaming damn what anyone calls him, Cranly said rudely and flatly. I call him a pig.

Stephen, preparing the words neatly in his mind, continued:
-- Jesus, too, seems to have treated his mother with scant courtesy in public but Suarez, a jesuit theologian and Spanish gentleman, has apologized for him.
-- Did the idea ever occur to you, Cranly asked, that Jesus was not what he pretended to be?
-- The first person to whom that idea occurred, Stephen answered, was Jesus himself.
-- I mean, Cranly said, hardening in his speech, did the idea ever occur to you that he was himself a conscious hypocrite, what he called the jews of his time, a whited sepulchre? Or, to put it more plainly, that he was a blackguard?
-- That idea never occurred to me, Stephen answered. But I am curious to know are you trying to make a convert of me or a pervert of yourself?

He turned towards his friend's face and saw there a raw smile which some force of will strove to make finely significant.

Cranly asked suddenly in a plain sensible tone:
-- Tell me the truth. Were you at all shocked by what I said?
-- Somewhat, Stephen said.
-- And why were you shocked, Cranly pressed on in the same tone, if you feel sure that our religion is false and that Jesus was not the son of God?
-- I am not at all sure of it, Stephen said. He is more like a son of God than a son of Mary.
-- And is that why you will not communicate, Cranly asked, because you are not sure of that too, because you feel that the host, too, may be the body and blood of the son of God and not a wafer of bread? And because you fear that it may be?
-- Yes, Stephen said quietly, I feel that and I also fear it.
-- I see, Cranly said.

Stephen, struck by his tone of closure, reopened the discussion at once by saying:
-- I fear many things: dogs, horses, fire-arms, the sea, thunder-storms, machinery, the country roads at night.
-- But why do you fear a bit of bread?
-- I imagine, Stephen said, that there is a malevolent reality behind those things I say I fear.
-- Do you fear then, Cranly asked, that the God of the Roman catholics would strike you dead and damn you if you made a sacrilegious communion?
-- The God of the Roman catholics could do that now, Stephen said. I fear more than that the chemical action which would be set up in my soul by a false homage to a symbol behind which are massed twenty centuries of authority and veneration.
-- Would you, Cranly asked, in extreme danger, commit that particular sacrilege? For instance, if you lived in the penal days?
-- I cannot answer for the past, Stephen replied. Possibly not.
-- Then, said Cranly, you do not intend to become a protestant?
-- I said that I had lost the faith, Stephen answered, but not that I had lost self-respect. What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?

They had walked on towards the township of Pembroke and now, as they went on slowly along the avenues, the trees and the scattered lights in the villas soothed their minds. The air of wealth and repose diffused about them seemed to comfort their neediness. Behind a hedge of laurel a light glimmered in the window of a kitchen and the voice of a servant was heard singing as she sharpened knives. She sang, in short broken bars:

Rosie O'Grady.

Cranly stopped to listen, saying:

-- Mulier cantat.

The soft beauty of the Latin word touched with an enchanting touch the dark of the evening, with a touch fainter and more persuading than the touch of music or of a woman's hand. The strife of their minds was quelled. The figure of a woman as she appears in the liturgy of the church passed silently through the darkness: a white-robed figure, small and slender as a boy, and with a falling girdle. Her voice, frail and high as a boy's, was heard intoning from a distant choir the first words of a woman which pierce the gloom and clamour of the first chanting of the passion:

Et tu cum Jesu Galilaeo eras.

And all hearts were touched and turned to her voice, shining like a young star, shining clearer as the voice intoned the pro-paroxytone and more faintly as the cadence died.

The singing ceased. They went on together, Cranly repeating in strongly stressed rhythm the end of the refrain:

And when we are married,
O, how happy we'll be
For I love sweet Rosie O'Grady
And Rosie O'Grady loves me.

-- There's real poetry for you, he said. There's real love.

He glanced sideways at Stephen with a strange smile and said:

-- Do you consider that poetry? Or do you know what the words mean?
-- I want to see Rosie first, said Stephen.
-- She's easy to find, Cranly said.

- from James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Chapter Five

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