Ulysses By James Joyce Chapter 15 - Circe

THE NYMPH: I do. You bore me away, framed me in oak and tinsel, set me above your marriage couch. Unseen, one summer eve, you kissed me in four places. And with loving pencil you shaded my eyes, my bosom and my shame.

BLOOM: (Humbly kisses her long hair) Your classic curves, beautiful immortal, I was glad to look on you, to praise you, a thing of beauty, almost to pray.

THE NYMPH: During dark nights I heard your praise.

BLOOM: (Quickly) Yes, yes. You mean that I . . . Sleep reveals the worst side of everyone, children perhaps excepted. I know I fell out of bed or rather was pushed. Steel wine is said to cure snoring. For the rest there is that English invention, pamphlet of which I received some days ago, incorrectly addressed. It claims to afford a noiseless, inoffensive vent. (He sighs) 'Twas ever thus. Frailty, thy name is marriage.

THE NYMPH: (Her fingers in her ears) And words. They are not in my dictionary.

BLOOM: You understood them?


THE NYMPH: (Covers her face with her hands) What have I not seen in that chamber? What must my eyes look down on?

BLOOM: (Apologetically) I know. Soiled personal linen, wrong side up with care. The quoits are loose. From Gibraltar by long sea long ago.

THE NYMPH: (Bends her head) Worse, worse!

BLOOM: (Reflects precautiously) That antiquated commode. It wasn't her weight. She scaled just eleven stone nine. She put on nine pounds after weaning. It was a crack and want of glue. Eh? And that absurd orangekeyed utensil which has only one handle.

(The sound of a waterfall is heard in bright cascade.)


Poulaphouca Poulaphouca Poulaphouca Poulaphouca.

THE YEWS: (Mingling their boughs) Listen. Whisper. She is right, our sister. We grew by Poulaphouca waterfall. We gave shade on languorous summer days.

JOHN WYSE NOLAN: (In the background, in Irish National Forester's uniform, doffs his plumed hat) Prosper! Give shade on languorous days, trees of Ireland!

THE YEWS: (Murmuring) Who came to Poulaphouca with the High School excursion? Who left his nutquesting classmates to seek our shade?

BLOOM: (Scared) High School of Poula? Mnemo? Not in full possession of faculties. Concussion. Run over by tram.


BLOOM: (Pigeonbreasted, bottleshouldered, padded, in nondescript juvenile grey and black striped suit, too small for him, white tennis shoes, bordered stockings with turnover tops and a red schoolcap with badge) I was in my teens, a growing boy. A little then sufficed, a jolting car, the mingling odours of the ladies' cloakroom and lavatory, the throng penned tight on the old Royal stairs (for they love crushes, instinct of the herd, and the dark sexsmelling theatre unbridles vice), even a pricelist of their hosiery. And then the heat. There were sunspots that summer. End of school. And tipsycake. Halcyon days.

(Halcyon days, high school boys in blue and white football jerseys and shorts, Master Donald Turnbull, Master Abraham Chatterton, Master Owen Goldberg, Master Jack Meredith, Master Percy Apjohn, stand in a clearing of the trees and shout to Master Leopold Bloom.)

THE HALCYON DAYS: Mackerel! Live us again. Hurray! (They cheer)

BLOOM: (Hobbledehoy, warmgloved, mammamufflered, starred with spent snowballs, struggles to rise) Again! I feel sixteen! What a lark! Let's ring all the bells in Montague street. (He cheers feebly) Hurray for the High School!


THE YEWS: (Rustling) She is right, our sister. Whisper. (Whispered kisses are heard in all the wood. Faces of hamadryads peep out from the boles and among the leaves and break, blossoming into bloom.) Who profaned our silent shade?

THE NYMPH: (Coyly, through parting fingers) There? In the open air?

THE YEWS: (Sweeping downward) Sister, yes. And on our virgin sward.


Poulaphouca Poulaphouca Phoucaphouca Phoucaphouca.

THE NYMPH: (With wide fingers) O, infamy!

BLOOM: I was precocious. Youth. The fauna. I sacrificed to the god of the forest. The flowers that bloom in the spring. It was pairing time. Capillary attraction is a natural phenomenon. Lotty Clarke, flaxenhaired, I saw at her night toilette through illclosed curtains with poor papa's operaglasses: The wanton ate grass wildly. She rolled downhill at Rialto bridge to tempt me with her flow of animal spirits. She climbed their crooked tree and I . . . A saint couldn't resist it. The demon possessed me. Besides, who saw?

(Staggering Bob, a whitepolled calf, thrusts a ruminating head with humid nostrils through the foliage.)


BLOOM: Simply satisfying a need I . . . (With pathos) No girl would when I went girling. Too ugly. They wouldn't play . . .

(High on Ben Howth through rhododendrons a nannygoat passes, plumpuddered, buttytailed, dropping currants.)

THE NANNYGOAT: (Bleats) Megeggaggegg! Nannannanny!

BLOOM: (Hatless, flushed, covered with burrs of thistledown and gorsespine) Regularly engaged. Circumstances alter cases. (He gazes intently downwards on the water) Thirtytwo head over heels per second. Press nightmare. Giddy Elijah. Fall from cliff. Sad end of government printer's clerk. (Through silversilent summer air the dummy of Bloom, rolled in a mummy, rolls roteatingly from the Lion's Head cliff into the purple waiting waters.)

THE DUMMYMUMMY: Bbbbblllllblblblblobschbg!

(Far out in the bay between bailey and kish lights the Erin's King sails, sending a broadening plume of coalsmoke from her funnel towards the land.)

COUNCILLOR NANNETII: (Alone on deck, in dark alpaca, yellowkitefaced, his hand in his waistcoat opening, declaims) When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written. I have . . .

BLOOM: Done. Prff!

THE NYMPH: (Loftily) We immortals, as you saw today, have not such a place and no hair there either. We are stonecold and pure. We eat electric light. (She arches her body in lascivious crispation, placing her forefinger in her mouth) Spoke to me. Heard from behind. How then could you . . . ?

BLOOM: (Pawing the heather abjectly) O, I have been a perfect pig. Enemas too I have administered. One third of a pint of quassia to which add a tablespoonful of rocksalt. Up the fundament. With Hamilton Long's syringe, the ladies' friend.

THE NYMPH: In my presence. The powderpuff. (She blushes and makes a knee) And the rest!

BLOOM: (Dejected) Yes. Peccavi! I have paid homage on that living altar where the back changes name. (With sudden fervour) For why should the dainty scented jewelled hand, the hand that rules . . . ?

(Figures wind serpenting in slow woodland pattern around the treestems, cooeeing)

THE VOICE OF KITTY: (In the thicket) Show us one of them cushions.


(A grouse wings clumsily through the underwood.)

THE VOICE OF LYNCH: (In the thicket) Whew! Piping hot!

THE VOICE OF ZOE: (From the thicket) Came from a hot place.

THE VOICE OF VIRAG: (A birdchief, bluestreaked and feathered in war panoply with his assegai, striding through a crackling canebrake over beechmast and acorns) Hot! Hot! Ware Sitting Bull!

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

At the graveside where Paddy Dignam is to be buried, the mysterious man in a Macintosh coat turns out to be