Stephen’s stroll on the strand
At the opening of the third chapter of Ulysses (Proteus) we encounter Stephen Dedalus mid-thought and mid-stride on Sandymount strand. A few lines before, at the end of the previous chapter (Nestor), we had just left him, over seven miles away, departing down the gravel path of Mr Deasy’s school (Summerfield Lodge) in Dalkey.
To the initial reader the how, why and when Stephen is on the strand is not clear and true to the protean nature of this chapter his movements are difficult to pin down with any certainty. Later in the chapter at 3:61 we get a first hint of a material reason why Stephen is there:
The ‘when’ is only clearly anchored in chapter six (Hades) where at 6:38-43 as the funeral cortège progresses up Irishtown road past Watery Lane (Dermott O’Hurley Avenue) we read:
This is Stephen Dedalus heading south-east towards the strand. We can now place this incident as being about 11.10 with Paddy Dignam’s funeral cortège having set off from Newbridge avenue just after 11.00. So when we stumble into Stephen’s thoughts at the start of Proteus it is about 11.25 am and he has ventured out across the strand.
There is little doubt that Joyce would have considered how Stephen had arrived at the strand even though it occurs outside the text of the narrative. Joyce’s desire for verisimilitude meant that we spent most of the text devoted to the Proteus chapter in James Joyce’s Dublin, A Topographical Guide to the Dublin of Ulysses (2004) discussing the ‘how’ of Stephen’s arrival at Sandymount. The Nestor/Proteus nexus has been dealt with in detail on pages 28-31 of James Joyce’s Dublin. Apart from a few minor adjustments, there is no point in repeating it all here, but suffice to say that Stephen most likely catches the 10.00 train from Bray at Dalkey station at 10.10 and arrives in Westland Row station at 10.42. He then sets out along Brunswick street towards Irishtown and eventually Sandymount strand.
After some fieldwork on the Strand, timings for the episode are now offered as:
10.10 Train from Dalkey
It was in looking at the maps offered in James Joyce’s Dublin that I felt the map on page 31 depicting Stephen’s route on the strand was, while correct, rather timid and unsatisfactory in covering a whole chapter of Ulysses. However, pinning anything to the shifting sands of Proteus was always going to be less than definitive, but certain features and actions were discernible. So with ‘Dan Occam’ (3:123) whispering in my ear “keep it simple” I decided to attempt a more informative two-page spread map of Stephen’s stroll on the strand for the revised edition of the book.
Stephen’s Stroll on Sandymount strand
The walk on Strand happens between the sighting of Stephen by Watery Lane and his catching a tram back to central Dublin on his way to the newspaper office via College Green post office. The map above is an attempt to offer a possible simple solution to Stephen’s perambulations by highlighting six passages from the text.
Stephen initially intends to visit his Aunt Sara at Strasburg terrace but obviously avoids going there directly and heads for the strand via The Green.
3:3 the nearing tide
3:18-19 Am I walking into
eternity along Sandymount strand?
Sandymount strand 2012: photograph Ian Gunn
3:29 They came down the steps from Leahy’s terrace
3:55-6 They are coming, waves.
3:61 His pace slackened.
Here. Am I going to aunt Sara’s or not?
3:147 The grainy sand had gone from under his
3:158-60 He halted. I have
passed the way to aunt Sara’s. Am I not going there? Seems not. No-one about.
He turned northeast and crossed the firmer sand towards the pigeonhouse.
3:205-6 His feet marched in
sudden proud rhythm over the sand furrows, along by the boulders of the south
3:265-9 He had come nearer
the edge of the sea and wet sand slapped his boots. […] Here, I am not walking out to the Kish lightship am I? He
stood suddenly, his feet beginning to sink slowly in the quaking soil. Turn
3:270-1 Turning, he scanned
the shore south, his feet sinking again slowly in new sockets. The cold domed
room of the tower waits.
3:278-9 He lifted his feet up
from the suck and turned back by the mole of boulders.
3:282-5 The flood is
following me. I can watch it flow past from here. Get back then by the Poolbeg
road to the strand there. He climbed over the sedge and eely oarweeds and sat
on a stool of rock, resting his ashplant in a grike.
3:326-7 Do you see the tide flowing quicky in on all sides, sheeting the lows
of sand quickly, shellcocoacoloured?
3:453-4 In long lassoes from
the Cock lake the water flowed full,
covering greengoldenly lagoons of sand, rising, Flowing.
the upswelling tide he saw the writhing weeds lift languidly …
3:503 He turned his face over a
shoulder, rere regardant. Moving through the air high spars of a threemaster …
The most difficult location to determine is where Stephen stops and climbs up off the strand to a rock. He does not really have enough time to make it all the way along to the Pigeonhouse but he needs to be far enough east to observe the incoming tidal streams running from the Cock lake. He also needs a point where he can clamber up fairly easily and be able to see the ‘threemaster’ by just turning his head.
The route today: overlay on GoogleEarth composite imageThe reclamation of Joyce’s reputation as a writer in the Dublin of the 1960s ran apace with the reclamation of Sandymount strand. As the map above shows, the proposed route placed over a modern aerial photograph indicates that retracing Stephen’s stroll would require no sand-covered footsteps today.
In 2012 I endeavoured to replicate the stroll with a stop-watch. While the fieldwork required detouring round a hurley match, weaving between houses and accommodating a blocked container yard access, it was still possible to get a good idea of the time required to cover the route. From the moment Stephen steps on to the strand to the point where he sits down on the rock on the breakwater appears to take a leisurely 35 minutes and with a 10-minute stay before setting off would give Stephen adequate time to return to central Dublin by catching a tram near Bridge road.
As suits its theme it is difficult to be certain about much topographically in this chapter and there are no doubt other ways to join the dots on Stephen’s stroll. The current proposed map is an attempt to avoid too much complexity while accommodating as many of the set points as can be grasped in such a mutable subject. Whether it can stand the sands of time or the shifting tides of Joycean scholarship we have yet to see.
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