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.
It was nice and warm to see the lights in the castle. It was like something in a book. Perhaps Leicester Abbey was like that. And there were nice sentences in Doctor Cornwell's Spelling Book. They were like poetry but they were only sentences to learn the spelling from.
Wolsey died in Leicester Abbey
Where the abbots buried him.
Canker is a disease of plants,
Cancer one of animals.
It would be nice to lie on the hearthrug before the fire, leaning his head upon his hands, and think on those sentences. (1.2.11)
Here, we witness Stephen’s first moment of proto-poetic creation. Unbeknownst to him, he actually crafts what we fancypants writer types would call a "found poem," in which the writer re-shapes a prose text into a poetry. Even though Stephen doesn’t yet possess the vocabulary of literature (he can describe things as "nice" at best), he already has a vague sense of what poetry is.
Stephen Dedalus is my name
Ireland is my nation.
Clongowes is my dwellingplace
And heaven my expectation.
He read the verses backwards but then they were not poetry. (1.2.39)
Stephen is beginning to understand what makes poetry: rhyme and rhythm.
…by dint of brooding on the incident, he thought himself into confidence. During this process all those elements which he deemed common and insignificant fell out of the scene. There remained no trace of the tram itself nor of the tram-men nor of the horses: nor did he and she appear vividly. The verses told only of the night and the balmy breeze and the maiden lustre of the moon. Some undefined sorrow was hidden in the hearts of the protagonists as they stood in silence beneath the leafless trees and when the moment of farewell had come the kiss, which had been withheld by one, was given by both. (2.2.23)
For the first time, we witness Stephen writing his own poetry. The poem he comes up with doesn’t sound like a work of genius, but we excuse him for that – after all, it’s only the second real poem he’s ever composed. It’s romantic and derivative of his reading (Byron and the good ol’ Count of Monte Cristo), but it’s remarkable to see the young man finally start to become the artist.