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.
Smoke went up from the whole earth, from the vapoury oceans, smoke of her praise. The earth was like a swinging swaying censer, a ball of incense, an ellipsoidal fall. The rhythm died out at once; the cry of his heart was broken. His lips began to murmur the first verses over and over; then went on stumbling through half verses, stammering and baffled; then stopped. The heart's cry was broken. (5.2.6)
The "heart’s cry" of inspiration urges Stephen to write. In this moment of poetic creation, we see Stephen struggling through the transition from idea to verse; Joyce describes a process familiar to any would-be writer.
The simplest epical form is seen emerging out of lyrical literature when the artist prolongs and broods upon himself as the centre of an epical event and this form progresses till the centre of emotional gravity is equidistant from the artist himself and from others. The narrative is no longer purely personal. The personality of the artist passes into the narration itself, flowing round and round the persons and the action like a vital sea. This progress you will see easily in that old English ballad Turpin Hero which begins in the first person and ends in the third person. (5.1.150)
This is Joyce’s clever reference to Portrait of the Artist itself, which moves from the third person to the first person. Incidentally, the original title of Joyce’s coming-of-age story was Stephen Hero, which makes this comparison all the more evident.
Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race […] Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead. (5.5.35)
Stephen rejoices at the thought of the world waiting for him, but he asserts his Irish identity even as he plans to leave the country. In doing so, he declares the true mission of his art: to understand and create the essence of one’s people. This is a lofty goal, and perhaps an arrogant one – after all, he doesn’t just say he will express the soul of the Irish people, he claims that he will "forge" it, which implies that Ireland’s conscience is still undefined. In his final line, Stephen calls upon Daedalus, his "old father." With country, family, and religion all left behind, his only allegiance now is to his art. He asks for the master craftsman’s protection in the struggles yet to come.