On this day in 1941 the author James Joyce died in Zurich. Regularly considered one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, Joyce grew up in Dublin in a family damaged by his father’s drinking.
A brilliant student, though feckless with money and a heavy drinker, he went to live in Europe with his long-time girlfriend Norah Barnacle, mostly in Trieste, Zurich and then Paris where, over a number of years, he wrote his great work Ulysses. Joyce was also an accomplished pianist and guitar player as well as a poet of merit. He was sometimes a diffident man for all his scholarship and described himself to Carl Jung as ‘A man of small virtue, inclined to extravagance and alcoholism’.
His first short poems were published under the title Chamber Music which, he joked, was the sound of urine hitting a chamber pot. Here is an example:
Who goes amid the green wood
With springtide all adorning her?
Who goes amid the merry green wood
To make it merrier?
Who passes in the sunlight
By ways that know the light footfall?
Who passes in the sweet sunlight
With mien so virginal?
The ways of all the woodland
Gleam with a soft and golden fire –
For whom does all the sunny woodland
Carry so brave attire?
O, it is for my true love
The woods their rich apparel wear –
O, it is for my own true love,
That is so young and fair.
Today I give thanks for my health and ask that I be kept free from the scourge of alcoholism.