In Molly’s hand there steals another

U 18.78-80: ... the night Boylan gave my hand a great squeeze going along by the Tolka in my hand there steals another I just pressed the back of his like that with my thumb to squeeze back singing the young May moon shes beaming love ...

Commentators (the earliest in 1943 in the Wilson Library Bulletin) have been unanimous in the assumption that “in my hand there steals another” is an allusion to a song - and they were right.

Like most of the other snippets of songs in Ulysses this allusion evokes a micro-plot of its own, once the reader is able to share the character’s familiarity with the full text of the song. Walking along by the Tolka with her husband and Boylan on 29 May ("Sunday fortnight" - 8.587) the squeeze of his hand makes Molly think of a song whose first line reads: “Once again I saw the river ...” and later: “In my hand there steals another”.

The title of the once well-known song Molly remembers is “Dreaming”. For the reader, who has developed his own sceptical view of Boylan at that late stage in the narrative, the highly romantic little ballad provides a deeply ironic contrast to Molly’s and Boylan’s rather earthy love affair.

Once again I saw the river

Where the waterlilies grow,

Where the willow branches quiver

As the gentle zephyrs blow;

And I heard those well lov'd accents

That once held my heart in thrall,

And they whisper'd words of promise, -

I was dreaming, that was all!

In my hand there steals another

And my heart is throbbing fast,

As he whispers that together

We will cling unto the last!

Then I murmur that I'll love him

Whatsoever may befall,

And my soul is filled with rapture -

'Tis no dreaming after all!

'Tis no dreaming after all!

'Tis no dreaming, 'tis no dreaming,

'Tis no dreaming after all!

'Tis no dreaming, 'tis no dreaming

'Tis no dreaming after all!

The song by Milton Wellings (1850-1929), words by Edward Oxenford (1846-1929), was first published in 1882 by Enoch & Sons in London, and soon became very popular in America as a number in Harry Pepper's adaptation of Offenbach's Orpheus and Eurydice. In 1884 the Freeman’s Journal advertised a concert in which Miss Kate Keane, R.I.A.M., performed the “ballad” in Dublin (27 May).

Click here to see the sheet music.

Harald Beck

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