And when I makes water…
The contextual note I’m covering is Thomas Moore’s “The Meeting of the Waters,” which appears in the Lestrygonians (8.414-418). In this passage Bloom strolls along past the urinal by Trinity College on the river Avoca, which actually begins as two rivers in County Wicklow south of Dublin: the Avonmore (“big river”) and the Avonberg (remarkably, “small river”). One of the more famous statues in Dublin is in this location, a bust of Mr. Moore himself. In typical Bloom fashion, the first thing Bloom thinks when he approaches the statue of “Tommy Moore’s roguish finger” (414) is that they did a good thing by putting him “over a urinal, a meeting of the waters,” (414-415) and he pragmatically (also in classic Bloom form) wonders why there is not such a place for women to urinate as well. The poem/song is as follows (thank you bartleby.com):
“The Meeting of the Waters”
There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet
As that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet;
Oh! the last rays of feeling and life must depart,
Ere the bloom of that valley shall fade from my heart.
Yet it was not that nature had shed o’er the scene
Her purest of crystal and brightest of green;
’Twas not her soft magic of streamlet or hill,
Oh! no—it was something more exquisite still.
’Twas that friends, the beloved of my bosom, were near,
Who made every dear scene of enchantment more dear,
And who felt how the best charms of nature improve,
When we see them reflected from looks that we love.
Sweet vale of Avoca! how calm could I rest
In thy bosom of shade, with the friends I love best,
Where the storms that we feel in this cold world should cease,
And our hearts, like thy waters, be mingled in peace.
Bloom goes on to quote the first line of the poem in 416-417: “There is not in this wide world a vallee,” though the spelling of “valley” he uses possesses some significance of which I cannot understand at the moment. The reason Joyce chose this poem in this context makes sense, since Bloom is wandering down by the waters. However, I couldn’t find a lot of commentary on this poem independent of Ulysses or otherwise. It seems quite like Joyce to take something perhaps obscure and make it seem like it’s something we should all know about. As Brady pointed out in his obsession post I believe, Thomas Moore’s songs are repeated throughout the text, such as “The Young May Moon” and “The Harp that Once Through Tara’s Halls.” I can only imagine the use of these Irish ballads that are not seen out of Ireland suggest the sort of isolation that Bloom is feeling at this point in the novel.
Thomas Moore (1779-1852) was a slippery character from what I can gather. Apparently he was Dublin born, Trinity College educated, but made most of his living in England (London to be exact) writing… Irish poems and songs. Really, sir? I suppose he might as well exploit the British for all they’re worth, namely their famous sentimentality. I just found this fascinating, with Moore being Ireland’s National Bard and all. He also bro’d around with Lord Byron and in fact became his literary executor when he died. The two also shared a great love of debt, and apparently Moore eventually got the boot from England because of this.
I’ve been listening to Sunday Bloody Sunday on repeat as I write this. Why, we don’t know.
All biographical information on Thomas Moore from:
DeFord, Miriam Allen. Thomas Moore. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc. 1967.
(the spacing is also being weird on this, my apologies).