Observing from his quaint-perched aerie
Joyce’s early poem Et Tu, Healy, written at the age of nine after the death of Parnell in October 1891, survives only in three lines remembered by his brother Stanislaus:
I think it was in verse because of the rhythm of bits of it that I remember. One line is a pentameter. At the end of the piece the dead Chief [Parnell] is likened to an eagle, looking down on the grovelling mass of Irish politicians from
His quaint-perched aerie on the crags of Time
Where the rude din of this … century
Can trouble him no more.1
Many years ago Fritz Senn warned against accepting this verselet as evidence of the original poet in Joyce:
Someone has yet to tell us where Joyce, incipient poet at the age of almost ten, cribbed that metaphorical eagle from, "His quaint-perched aerie on the crags of Time". The source must have been well-known once; a writer hardly ever compared to Joyce, P. G. Wodehouse, played with the same phrase [in Leave It To Psmith].2
It seems that the young Joyce had been reading Jerome K. Jerome’s Three men in a boat, published two years earlier in 1889 (and not an unlikely read for the precocious Joyce). Jerome writes:
I agreed with George, and suggested that we should seek out some retired and old-world spot, far from the madding crowd, and dream away a sunny week among its drowsy lanes – some half-forgotten nook, hidden away by the fairies, out of reach of the noisy world – some quaint-perched eyrie on the cliffs of Time, from whence the surging waves of the nineteenth century would sound far-off and faint.3
Joyce’s aerie is an established variant spelling of Jerome’s eyrie.
In fact, credit for first spotting this correspondence, over fifty years ago, should go to the German author and translator Arno Schmidt in his essay Das Geheimnis von Finnegans Wake (1960).4
1 Stanislaus Joyce My brother's keeper: James Joyce's early years (London: Faber, 1958), p. 46.
2 Fritz Senn "Trivia Ulysseana" IV in James Joyce Quarterly (1982), Vol. 19, No. 2, Winter, p. 177.
3 Jerome K. Jerome Three Men in a Boat (1889), ch. 1, p. 9.
4 Arno Schmidt Essays und Aufsätze: Bargfelder Ausgabe. Werkgruppe 3, Essays und Biografisches (Arno-Schmidt-Stiftung im Haffmans Verlag, 1995), Volume 3, Pt. 4, p. 53; Schmidt’s essay was originally published in the German weekly Die Zeit on 16 December 1960.
Search by keyword (within this site): Poetry Politics Parnell Literature Germany