June 15, 2012



Tomorrow is Bloomsday, the day when James Joyce enthusiasts across the globe gather to celebrate the events comprising Ulysses, the author’s masterpiece. With this in mind, it seems fitting this week to direct your attention to a song referenced in the novel.

Fortunately, Joyce was musically inclined and sprinkled numerous allusions to folks songs, operas, hymns, and more throughout his work. The above photo, taken in Zurich, 1915, by Ottocaro Weissin, shows Joyce playing the guitar, the very guitar, by the way, that was recently restored — the instrument dates back to the 1830s — and is now on display in the National Museum of Ireland.

But back to Bloomsday, and Ulysses, and this week’s music/literary/book/video thingamajig.

The song in the video below, “The Croppy Boy,” is referred to in the Sirens chapter of Ulysses. In the chapter, a renowned Dublin tenor, Ben Dollard, sings the song in the Ormond Hotel. The audience grows sentimental, and by the end of the song everyone is cheering and crying. It’s a moving scene in one of the book’s most music-oriented chapters.

“The Croppy Boy” is an old Irish ballad that tells the tale of a doomed Irish soldier participating in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, here sung by Anne Byrne.

Happy (almost) Bloomsday!



Kevin Murphy is the digital media marketing manager of Melville House.