Ode To Love Revisted
Better pass boldly
into that other world,
in the full glory of some passion,
than fade and wither dismally
~ James Joyce
For the literary, there is no greater day devoted to words than those of love on Valentine’s day. This past week, one of my most favored literary sites, The Writer’s Almanac has been featuring lyrical love letters, one of which, I posted by John Keats, Ode to Love, a few days ago, only to discover, and sadly, I might add, that a newer generation is neither enthralled nor admiring of his writings. Perhaps the missives of James Joyce will be met with a kinder fate.
James Joyce said things like, “A man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”
But he often apologized wholeheartedly to his wife, Nora. And said things like, “I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.”
Yet to Nora Barnacle, he wrote things like — on October, 25th, 1909 —
“You are my only love. You have me completely in your power. I know and feel that if I am to write anything fine or noble in the future I shall do so only by listening to the doors of your heart. … I love you deeply and truly, Nora. … There is not a particle of my love that is not yours. … If you would only let me I would speak to you of everything in my mind but sometimes I fancy from your look that you would only be bored by me.
Anyhow, Nora, I love you. I cannot live without you. I would like to give you everything that is mine, any knowledge I have (little as it is) any emotions I myself feel or have felt, any likes or dislikes I have, any hopes I have or remorse. I would like to go through life side by side with you, telling you more and more until we grew to be one being together until the hour should come for us to die.
Even now the tears rush to my eyes and sobs choke my throat as I write this. Nora, we have only one short life in which to love. O my darling be only a little kinder to me, bear with me a little even if I am inconsiderate and unmanageable and believe me we will be happy together. Let me love you in my own way. Let me have your heart always close to mine to hear every throb of my life, every sorrow, every joy.”
On that note and this occasion when I’ve been swilling quite a few cocktails of distinction these past days, shall we raise a glass to the inestimable Mr. Joyce?
James Joyce Cocktail
* 1 1/2 ounces Irish whiskey
* 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
* 3/4 ounce Cointreau
* 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake until cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Photo of James Joyce, C. Ruf, Zurich, ca. 1918
Letters (27 October 1909 to Nora, in Trieste. Found in James Joyce Letters Vol. 2, edited by Richard Ellmann, 1966)