More poems by Joyce (and Turgenev)

2022-10-11 @Literature

It turns out Joyce published a poetry collection Pomes Penyeach circa 1927 which consolidates a mere dozen or so short poems written over a twenty year period. How I’d not come upon this bag of pearls earlier, one can only speculate.

Though fairly scarce the collection, the nature and quality gives a distinct impression that Joyce, perhaps not strictly innate as a poet, refined each lyric to not necessarily some intractably attainable degree of perfection, but at least a remarkable state of linguistic craftsmanship.

Pomes Penyeach likewise incorporates two of the poems I divulged in my previous sampling, Tilly and She weeps over rahoon, unbeknownst to me at the time. If captivated by the material below, do also be sure to glance at those, or better yet, at the complete collection you can surely dig up elsewhere online.

Appended beneath two of Ivan Turgenev’s early poems. The western audience likely knows him for the novel Отцы и дети. But Turgenev also published verse poetry, prose poetry (that I’ve never yet taken a liking to), short stories and plays. I’ve not read most of this material.

But how do these two poems factor in? The disparate language families aside (which raises a huge issue whenever I attempt to juxtapose the two languages in general), Turgenev’s verse feels a few notches more sentimental, the vocabulary, warmer. Nothing odd considering the 80-year span separating the two traditions. The two don’t compliment each other as I might argue for Byron and Pushkin, or Gumilev and Yeats.

And yet I detected some commonality, or at least welcomed the brain teasing exercise. For one, the alternating line form of Луна плывет approximates the rhythm of no less than several of Joyce’s lyrics in Pomes Penyeach, ie this or Rahoon.

Both feature that crafty word repetition and inversion techniques I see Joyce often appeal to. Nothing singular, and I’ve been reading much Russian poetry in general for which one could make similarly ethereal arguments. But it were precisely the Turgenev lines which immediately evoked Joyce.


Watching the needleboats at san sabba (1912)

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.

[VP: Note the repetition, the inversions, the handful of neologisms.]

A flower given to my daughter (1913)

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.

[VP: Exquisite lexicon, repetition and alliteration. Joyce didn’t discharge lyric like the cataract that was Pushkin, or Byron, or Swinburne - these altogether of a different tradition anyway. But where else would you encounter ‘rosefrail’ and ‘blueveined’?]

Flood (1915)

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 in thine Incertitude!

[VP: More curated adjective usage, granting an otherwise primitive motive an elevated character.]

Nightpiece (1915)

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. Seraphim, 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 insense surges, cloud on cloud, Voidward from the adoring Waste of souls.

[VP: One of my favourites of the lot. Neologisms (sindark, voidward), mastery of construction, wicked imagery, challenging syntax: the sensation heightened all the further by the sheer parsing effort demanded.]

A memory of the players in a mirror at midnight (1917)

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!

[VP: Even after a dozen iterations, have yet to adequately parse the challenging syntax. But the lyric does emit a jarring sort of aftertaste, a bit violent, the endings largely masculine, yet the effect all the more evocative.]

Иван Тургенев — Луна плывет высоко над землею (1840)

Луна плывет высоко над землею Меж бледных туч; Но движет с вышины волной морскою Волшебный луч. Моей души тебя признало море Своей луной… И движется и в радости и в горе Тобой одной… Тоской любви, тоской немых стремлений Душа полна… Мне тяжело… но ты чужда смятений, Как та луна.

Иван Тургенев — Весенний вечер (1843)

Гуляют тучи золотые Над отдыхающей землей; Поля просторные, немые Блестят, облитые росой; Ручей журчит во мгле долины, Вдали гремит весенний гром, Ленивый ветр в листах осины Трепещет пойманным крылом. Молчит и млеет лес высокий, Зеленый, темный лес молчит. Лишь иногда в тени глубокой Бессонный лист прошелестит. Звезда дрожит в огнях заката, Любви прекрасная звезда, А на душе легко и свято, Легко, как в детские года.

Questions, comments? Connect.