A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
by James Joyce
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Literature and Writing Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Section.Paragraph). Within each chapter you will find unnumbered sections. These sections are separated by asterisks; in our citations, we’ve numbered these sections for simplicity’s sake.
What are you laughing at? asked Stephen.
You, said Heron. Byron the greatest poet! He's only a poet for uneducated people.
He must be a fine poet! said Boland.
You may keep your mouth shut, said Stephen, turning on him boldly. All you know about poetry is what you wrote up on the slates in the yard and were going to be sent to the loft for. (2.3.32)
Nash pinioned his arms behind while Boland seized a long cabbage stump which was lying in the gutter. Struggling and kicking under the cuts of the cane and the blows of the knotty stump Stephen was borne back against a barbed wire fence.
Admit that Byron was no good.
At last after a fury of plunges he wrenched himself free. His tormentors set off towards Jones's Road, laughing and jeering at him, while he, half blinded with tears, stumbled on, clenching his fists madly and sobbing. (2.3.36)
This is a very notable moment – it’s the first time we see Stephen stand up for himself, despite the threat (and eventual reality) of physical violence. Of course, the reason for his rebellion is poetry.
The rain-laden trees of the avenue evoked in him, as always, memories of the girls and women in the plays of Gerhart Hauptmann […] he foreknew that as he passed the sloblands of Fairview he would think of the cloistral silver-veined prose of Newman; that as he walked along the North Strand Road, glancing idly at the windows of the provision shops, he would recall the dark humour of Guido Cavalcanti and smile; that as he went by Baird's stonecutting works in Talbot Place the spirit of Ibsen would blow through him like a keen wind, a spirit of wayward boyish beauty; and that passing a grimy marine dealer's shop beyond the Liffey he would repeat the song by Ben Jonson… (5.1.10)
Amidst the squalor of Stephen’s home and his city, he takes refuge in the literature he loves. This reminds us of his thoughts in the first chapter, when he took his mind off the unpleasantness of Clongowes by focusing on the words he enjoys in his textbooks.
The pages of his time-worn Horace never felt cold to the touch even when his own fingers were cold; they were human pages […] even for so poor a Latinist as he, the dusky verses were as fragrant as though they had lain all those years in myrtle and lavender and vervain… (5.1.18)
This reference to Horace embodies the passion that Stephen feels for great literature. Even ancient works still have human life and warmth, despite their age, proving that art is eternal.