Pomes Penyeach by James Joyce

Illustrations below by Roger Cummiskey.©

Poems of James Joyce

Shakespeare and Company, Paris, published Pomes Penyeach, by James Joyce, in 1927.

An American, Sylvia Beach, who was a patron of Joyce, owned this publishing business and bookshop. She was the first publisher of Ulysses in 1922.

Joyce also published 36 short poems entitled Chamber Music.

I have painted a series of James Joyce’s Poems in watercolours using waterproof ink on hand made Indian paper where I have given the paper an aged appearance.

Each painting is given its attributable date of the poems composition.

The image above is the cover of the Faber and Faber edition. There are no illustrations in it.

by James Joyce

The thirteenth poem, as in the Baker's dozen, from Pomes Penyeach.

James Joyce wrote 12 poems that he sold for a shilling or twelve pence, hence the penny each. But in order to give good value he slipped in a thirteenth at no extra cost. The title also refers to the tilly of milk for the cat!

The poem, written in 1904, reflects Dublin as dependent on the live cattle trade and tells the story of the drover and his beasts.

He travels after a winter sun,
Urging the cattle along a cold red road,
Calling to them, a voice they know,
He drives his beasts above Cabra.

The voice tells them home is warm.
They moo and make brute music with their hoofs.
He drives them with a flowering branch before him,
Smoke pluming their foreheads.

Boor, bond of the herd,
Tonight stretch full by the fire!
I bleed by the black stream
For my torn bough!

Dublin, 1904. ©


Watching the Needleboats at San Sabba
by James Joyce

I heard their young hearts crying
Loveward above the glancing oar
And heard the prairie grasses sighing:
No more, return no more!

O hearts, O sighing grasses,

Vainly your loveblown bannerets mourn!
No more will the wild wind that passes
Return, no more return.

Trieste 1912 ©


A Flower given to my Daughter
by James Joyce
This poem was written on the occasion of the birth of James Joyce’s daughter Lucia, whom he adored. ©

Frail the white rose and frail are
Her hands that gave
Whose soul is sere and paler
Than time's wan wave.
Rosefrail and fair -- yet frailest
A wonder wild
In gentle eyes thou veilest,
My blueveined child.
Trieste, 1913.©

She Weeps over Rahoon 

by James Joyce

This is a poem written by James Joyce, as he was not too certain, at the time, whether his woman (later his wife), Nora Barnacle, still carried a gra for Michael Foley whom she had known in Galway before she met Joyce.
Michael died young and is buried in Rahoon cemetery in Galway.©

Rain on Rahoon falls softly, softly falling,
Where my dark lover lies.
Sad is his voice that calls me, sadly calling,
At grey moonrise.
Love, hear thou
How soft, how sad his voice is ever calling,
Ever unanswered, and the dark rain falling,
Then as now.
Dark too our hearts, O love, shall lie and cold
As his sad heart has lain
Under the moongrey nettles, the black mould
And muttering rain.
Trieste, 1913.©

Tutto è Sciolto

by James Joyce

A birdless heaven, sea-dusk and a star 
Sad in the west; 
And thou, poor heart, love’s image, fond and far, Rememberest:
 Her silent eyes and her soft foam-white brow
 And fragrant hair,
 Falling as in the silence falleth now
 Dusk from the air.

Ah, why wilt thou remember these, or why,

Poor heart, repine,
If the sweet love she yielded with a sigh
Was never thine?
 Trieste 13 July 1914. ©

On the Beach at Fontana      

by James Joyce
Wind whines and whines the shingle,
The crazy pierstakes groan;
A senile sea numbers each single
Slimesilvered stone.
From whining wind and colder
Grey sea I wrap him warm
And touch his trembling fineboned shoulder
And boyish arm.
Around us fear, descending
Darkness of fear above
And in my heart how deep unending
Ache of love!
Trieste, 1914. ©



by James Joyce

O bella bionda,
Sei come l'onda!

Of cool sweet dew and radiance mild
The moon a web of silence weaves
In the still garden where a child
Gathers the simple salad leaves.

A moondew stars her hanging hair
And moonlight kisses her young brow
And, gathering, she sings an air:
Fair as the wave is, fair, art thou!

Be mine, I pray, a waxen ear
To shield me from her childish croon
And mine a shielded heart for her
Who gathers simples of the moon.
Trieste 1914 ©


by James Joyce                                                                   

Goldbrown upon the sated flood
The rockvine clusters lift and sway.
Vast wings above the lambent waters brood
Of sullen day.

A waste of waters ruthlessly
Sways and uplifts its weedy mane
Where brooding day stares down upon the sea
In dull disdain.

Uplift and sway, O golden vine,
Your clustered fruits to love's full flood,
Lambent and vast and ruthless as is thine
Trieste 1915 ©


by James Joyce
Gaunt in gloom
The pale stars their torches
Enshrouded wave.
Ghostfires from heaven's far verges faint illume
Arches on soaring arches,
Night's sindark nave. 

The lost hosts awaken
To service till
In moonless gloom each lapses, muted, dim
Raised when she has and shaken
Her thurible. 

And long and loud
To night's nave upsoaring
A starknell tolls
As the bleak incense surges, cloud on cloud,
Voidward from the adoring
Waste of souls.
Trieste, 22 January 1915 ©

by James Joyce

The moon's greygolden meshes make
All night a veil,
The shorelamps in the sleeping lake
Laburnum tendrils trail.

The sly reeds whisper to the night
A name-- her name-
And all my soul is a delight,
A swoon of shame.

Zurich 1916 ©

A Memory of the Players in a Mirror at Midnight 
by James Joyce

They mouth love's language. Gnash
The thirteen teeth
Your lean jaws grin with. Lash
Your itch and quailing, nude greed of the flesh.
Love's breath in you is stale, worded or sung,
As sour as cat's breath,
Harsh of tongue. 

This grey that stares
Lies not, stark skin and bone.
Leave greasy lips their kissing. None
Will choose her what you see to mouth upon.
Dire hunger holds his hour.
Pluck forth your heart, saltblood, a fruit of tears.
Pluck and devour!
Zurich 1917 ©

by James Joyce

The eyes that mock me sign the way

Whereto I pass at eve of day.

Grey way whose violet signals are

The trysting and the twining star.

Ah star of evil! star of pain!

Highhearted youth comes not again 

Nor old heart's wisdom yet to know

The signs that mock me as I go.

Zurich 1918 ©

A Prayer 
by James Joyce

Come, give, yield all your strength to me!
From far a low word breathes on the breaking brain
Its cruel calm, submission's misery,
Gentling her awe as to a soul predestined.
Cease, silent love! My doom! 

Blind me with your dark nearness, O have mercy, beloved enemy of my will!
I dare not withstand the cold touch that I dread.
Draw from me still
My slow life! Bend deeper on me, threatening head,
Proud by my downfall, remembering, pitying
Him who is, him who was! 

Together, folded by the night, they lay on earth. I hear
From far her low word breathe on my breaking brain.
Come! I yield. Bend deeper upon me! I am here.
Subduer, do not leave me! Only joy, only anguish,
Take me, save me, soothe me, O spare me!
Paris 1924 ©

Ecce Puer - It´s a Boy

By James Joyce

Shakespeare and Company, Paris, first published Pomes Penyeach, by James Joyce, in 1927. An American, Sylvia Beach, who was also a patron of Joyce, owned this publishing business and the book shop in the Rue d’Odeon in Paris. She was also the first publisher of Ulysses.
I have painted a series of Joyce’s poems in watercolours using waterproof ink. Each poem is acknowledged from the time that it was written.

Joyce wrote Ecce Puer in 1932 after the death of his father, John Joyce. James was guilt ridden for not having responded to his father’s request for him to visit Ireland before the old man died. The poem also celebrates the birth of his grandson Stephen James Joyce on February 15th 1932. Stephen is still alive and well and living in Paris. It is a very sad and poignant poem. ©

Ecce Puer (It’s a Boy) 
by James Joyce
Of the dark past
A child is born;
With joy and grief
My heart is torn.

Calm in his cradle
The living lies.
May love and mercy
Unclose his eyes!

Young life is breathed
On the glass;
The world that was not
Comes to pass.

A child is sleeping:
An old man gone.
O, father forsaken,
Forgive your son!


The Holy Office
By James Joyce

Myself unto myself will give
This name, Katharsis-Purgative.
I, who dishevelled ways forsook
To hold the poets' grammar-book,
Bringing to tavern and to brothel
The mind of witty Aristotle,
Lest bards in the attempt should err
Must here be my interpreter:
Wherefore receive now from my lip
Peripatetic scholarship.
To enter heaven, travel hell,
Be piteous or terrible
One positively needs the ease
Of plenary indulgences.
For every true-born mysticist
A Dante is, unprejudiced,
Who safe at ingle-nook, by proxy,
Hazards extremes of heterodoxy,
Like him who finds joy at a table
Pondering the uncomfortable.
Ruling one's life by common sense
How can one fail to be intense?
But I must not accounted be
One of that mumming company –
With him who hies him to appease
His giddy dames' frivolities
While they console him when he whinges
With gold-embroidered Celtic fringes –
Or him who sober all the day
Mixes a naggin in his play –
Or him whose conduct 'seems to own'
His preference for a man of 'tone' –
Or him who plays the ragged patch
To millionaires in Hazelpatch
But weeping after holy fast
Confesses all his pagan past –
Or him who will his hat unfix
Neither to malt nor crucifix
But show to all that poor-dressed be
His high Castilian courtesy –
Or him who loves his Master dear –
Or him who drinks his pint in fear –
Or him who once when snug abed
Saw Jesus Christ without his head
And tried so hard to win for us
The long-lost works of Aeschylus.
But all these men of whom I speak
Make me the sewer of their clique.
That they may dream their dreamy dreams
I carry off their filthy streams
For I can do those things for them
Through which I lost my diadem,
Those things for which Grandmother Church
Left me severely in the lurch.
Thus I relieve their timid arses,
Perform my office of Katharsis.
My scarlet leaves them white as wool:
Through me they purge a bellyful.
To sister mummers one and all
I act as vicar-general
And for each maiden, shy and nervous,
I do a similar kind of service.
For I detect without surprise
That shadowy beauty in her eyes,
The 'dare not' of sweet maidenhood
That answers my corruptive 'would',
Whenever publicly we meet
She never seems to think of it;
At night when close in bed she lies
And feels my hand between her thighs
My little love in light attire
Knows the soft flame that is desire.
But Mammon places under ban
The uses of Leviathan
And that high spirit ever wars
On Mammon's countless servitors
Nor can they ever be exempt
From his taxation of contempt.
So distantly I turn to view
The shamblings of that motley crew,
Those souls that hate the strength that mine has
Steeled in the school of old Aquinas.
Where they have crouched and crawled and prayed
I stand, the self-doomed, unafraid,
Unfellowed, friendless and alone,
Indifferent as the herring-bone,
Firm as the mountain-ridges where
I flash my antlers on the air.
Let them continue as is meet
To adequate the balance-sheet.
Though they may labour to the grave
My spirit shall they never have
Nor make my soul with theirs as one
Till the Mahamanvantara be done:
And though they spurn me from their door
My soul shall spurn them evermore.


Gas from a Burner
by James Joyce

Ladies and gents, you are here assembled
To hear why earth and heaven trembled
Because of the black and sinister arts
Of an Irish writer in foreign parts.
He sent me a book ten years ago.

I read it a hundred times or so,
Backwards and forwards, down and up,
Through both the ends of a telescope.
I printed it all to the very last word
But by the mercy of the Lord
The darkness of my mind was rent
And I saw the writer's foul intent.
But I owe a duty to Ireland:
I held her honour in my hand,
This lovely land that always sent
Her writers and artists to banishment
And in a spirit of Irish fun
Betrayed her own leaders, one by one.
'Twas Irish humour, wet and dry,
Flung quicklime into Parnell's eye;
'Tis Irish brains that save from doom

The leaky barge of the Bishop of Rome
For everyone knows the Pope can't belch
Without the consent of Billy Walsh.
O Ireland my first and only love
Where Christ and Caesar are hand and glove!
O lovely land where the shamrock grows!
(Allow me, ladies, to blow my nose)

To show you for strictures I don't care a button
I printed the poems of Mountainy Mutton
And a play he wrote (you've read it I'm sure)

Where they talk of 'bastard', 'bugger' and 'whore'
And a play on the Word and Holy Paul
And some woman's legs that I can't recall

Written by Moore, a genuine gent
That lives on his property's ten per cent:
I printed mystical books in dozens:
I printed the table-book of Cousins
Though (asking your pardon) as for the verse
'Twould give you a heartburn on your arse:
I printed folklore from North and South
By Gregory of the Golden Mouth:
I printed poets, sad, silly and solemn:
I printed Patrick What-do-you-Colm:
I printed the great John Milicent Synge
Who soars above on an angel's wing
In the playboy shift that he pinched as swag

From Maunsel's manager's travelling-bag.
But I draw the line at that bloody fellow
That was over here dressed in Austrian yellow,
Spouting Italian by the hour
To O'Leary Curtis and John Wyse Power
And writing of Dublin, dirty and dear,
In a manner no blackamoor printer could bear.
Shite and onions! Do you think I'll print
The name of the Wellington Monument,
Sydney Parade and Sandymount tram,
Downes's cakeshop and Williams's jam?
I'm damned if I do-- I'm damned to blazes!
Talk about _Irish Names of Places!_

It's a wonder to me, upon my soul,
He forgot to mention Curly's Hole.
No, ladies, my press shall have no share in
So gross a libel on Stepmother Erin.
I pity the poor-- that's why I took

A red-headed Scotchman to keep my book.
Poor sister Scotland! Her doom is fell;
She cannot find any more Stuarts to sell.
My conscience is fine as Chinese silk:
My heart is as soft as buttermilk.

Colm can tell you I made a rebate
Of one hundred pounds on the estimate
I gave him for his Irish Review.
I love my country-- by herrings I do!

I wish you could see what tears I weep
When I think of the emigrant train and ship.
That's why I publish far and wide
My quite illegible railway guide,
In the porch of my printing institute
The poor and deserving prostitute
Plays every night at catch-as-catch-can
With her tight-breeched British artilleryman
And the foreigner learns the gift of the gab
From the drunken draggletail Dublin drab.
Who was it said: Resist not evil?
I'll burn that book, so help me devil.
I'll sing a psalm as I watch it burn
And the ashes I'll keep in a one-handled urn.
I'll penance do with farts and groans
Kneeling upon my marrowbones.
This very next lent I will unbare
My penitent buttocks to the air
And sobbing beside my printing press
My awful sin I will confess.
My Irish foreman from Bannockburn
Shall dip his right hand in the urn
And sign crisscross with reverent thumb
Memento homo_ upon my bum.



Popular posts from this blog

Kilfenora, The Burren, Co Clare

Bloomsday 2018

Irish Literature: What Makes Irish Writers So Good?