When she passed by me with quick steps,

the end of her skirt touched me. (2)





by Tracy Boyd

© 2011





1.   T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “East Coker” III, 129.

  1. 2.  Rabindranath Tagore, When She Passed By Me from The Gardener, No. 22, (NY: The Macmillan Company, 1913. Translated by the author from the original Bengali.  <>.

  2. 3.  A closer variation on ‘between the froth and the water’ as described in Alwyn Rees and Brinley Rees, Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales. (London: Thames and Hudson,1961), p. 345.

  3. 4.  An extension of ‘neither this nor that’ as described in Ibid.

  4. 5.  See more on this at Ibid., p. 346.

  5. 6.  Ibid., p. 345.

  6. 7.  According to Arwin van Arum <>, this statement was made on the 24th of February, 1914 in a Philosophy class at Harvard taught by Josiah Royce. He cites Akroyd, Peter. T.S. Eliot. Penguin Books. London, 1984 as his source.  While I do not in the least doubt the accuracy of the statement, I was unable to locate the citation in Akroyd.

  7. 8.  Umberto Eco, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. Geoffrey Brock, Translator. (Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 2004), p. 6.

  8. 9.  Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum. Translated from the Italian by William Weaver. (San Diego: A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book/ Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1989), p. 226.

  9. 10.  Rabindranath Tagore, When She Passed By Me from The Gardener, No. 22, op. cit. Translated by the author from the original Bengali.  <>.  The author tells us in his Preface to the Macmillan edition, which is dedicated to W. B. Yeats, that “Most of the lyrics of love and life, the translations of which from the Bengali are published in this book, were written much earlier than the series of religious poems contained in the book named Gitanjali.  The translations are not always literal---the originals being sometimes abridged and sometimes paraphrased.” This edition is available online at Google Books.

  10. 11.  Ibid.

  11. 12.  For more on W. B. Yeats, see: Tracy Boyd, “The Mythic Ground of the Longing For Wisdom and Love in William Butler Yeats’s The Song of Wandering Aengus” at <>.

  12. 13.  W. B. Yeats, Introduction to Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali (Song Offerings): A Collection of prose translations made by the author from the original Bengali. With an Introduction by W. B. Yeats to William Rothenstein, 1913. <>.

  13. 14.  Ibid.

  14. 15.  Ibid.

  15. 16.  See: <>.

  16. 17.  Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds. No. 309. Translated from Bengali to English by the author. (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1916.) at <>.

  17. 18.  Ibid., No. 199.

  18. 19.  Ibid., No. 101.

  19. 20.  Ibid., No. 202.

  20. 21.  Ibid., No. 221.

  21. 22.  Ibid., No. 155.

  22. 23.  Ibid., No. 244.

  23. 24.  Ibid., No. 144.

  24. 25.  Ibid., No. 182.

  25. 26.  <>.

  26. 27.  Ibid.

  27. 28.  Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds. No. 107, op. cit., at <>.

  28. 29.  Mischa Richter for The New Yorker.

  29. 30.  To refresh the memory: In the 1984 movie, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, from which we here quote, when astronaut Dave Bowman was suspended in space, investigating the mysterious monolith, he reported back in a voice of ecstatic child-like wonder: “My God! It’s full of stars!”  He had just previously announced that he could see that something wonderful was going to happen, and warned, “You must leave.”  He repeats that what is going to happen is “Something wonderful,” and then says, “. . . You see, it's all very clear to me now. The whole thing. It's wonderful.”  Seconds later, SAL, the earth-bound twin sister (the voice-over is Candice Bergen!) of the supercomputer, HAL, afraid of what is going to happen, asks Dr. Chandra, in the most innocent voice imaginable, “Will I dream?”  Chandra soothingly responds, “Of course you will. All intelligent beings dream. Nobody knows why.”  When HAL, seconds later, asks, “. . .will I dream?,” this time, Chandra answers, “I don’t know.” (<>.

  30. 31.  <>.

  31. 32.  Joseph Campbell, Assisted by M. J. Abadie. The Mythic Image. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series C, 1974), I: The World as Dream, 1. The Lord of Sleep, Fig. 4, p. 6, and text, p. 7, and pp. 7-12 passim.

  32. 33.  Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha. Hilda Rosner, Translator. (New York: New Directions Paperbook, 1957), p. 83. Siddhartha was originally published in 1922.

  33. 34.  Ibid., p. 87.

  34. 35.  Ibid., p. 110.

  35. 36.  Ibid., pp. 110-111.

  36. 37.  See: Joseph Campbell & Henry Morton Robinson, A Skeleton Key To Finnegans Wake. (New York: The Viking Press, 1944; Viking Compass Edition, 1961, 6th Printing, 1968), “The First Four Paragraphs of Finnegans Wake”, pp. 24-37.

  37. 38.  James Joyce, Finnegans Wake. (New York: The Viking Press, Inc. Viking Compass Edition issued in 1959 with the author’s corrections incorporated in the text, Eighth Printing, 1968), “final” sentence: Part IV., p. 628.  This is the text from which we quote throughout this article.

  38. 39.  Ibid., “first” sentence, Part I.1, p. 3.

  39. 40.  This response is typically found throughout the old version of The Book of Common Prayer of the Protestant Episcopal Church.

  40. 41.  A spin on “Quick now, here, now, always––” from T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton” V. 173.

  41. 42.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Little Gidding” V. 239-242.

  42. 43.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton” I. 1-3.

  43. 44.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton” I. 6.

  44. 45.  T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday I.

  45. 46.  A spin on “. . . mixing/ Memory and desire, stirring/ Dull roots with spring rain.” from T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land, “The Burial of the Dead” I. 2-4.

  46. 47.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton” I. 11-15.

  47. 48.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton” I. 27.

  48. 49.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “The Dry Salvages” II. 93.

  49. 50.  Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke 1910-1926. Trans. Jane Bannard Greene and M. D. Herter Norton. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1947, 1948: The Norton Library, 1969), Rilke’s November 13, 1925 letter [218] to his Polish translator, Witold von Hulewicz, “further elaborating” his Elegies, Book of Hours, and Sonnets to Orpheus, p. 373; and passim, pp. 372-376.

  50. 51.  Rainer Maria Rilke, “The First Elegy”, in Duino Elegies. J. B. Leishman and Stephen Spender, Translation, Introduction, Commentary. (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1939, 1967), lines 79-84, p. 25. The Elegies were begun in 1912 and finished in a rush of poetic fervor in a matter of days in February of 1922. For the incredible history of the writing of the Elegies and, simultaneously, the Sonnets to Orpheus, see Ibid., Intro., pp. 9-18.) We quoted these same lines in the context of the endless cycles of return as exhibited in the hand of The Fool of the 1JJ Swiss Tarot Deck.  See: Tracy Boyd, “The Tarot Fool’s Hand” under the heading: “To Every Thing There Is a Season” at <>.

  51. 52.  “In the beginning” is the opening line of The Book of Genesis. See: Tracy Boyd, “Wind Over Water: The Breath of Creation” at <>.

  52. 53.  T. S. Eliot, The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, from Prufrock and Other Observations, 1917.

  53. 54.  Rearrangements and direct quotations from T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “The Dry Salvages” V. 206-207; 205; 207; 210-212.

  54. 55.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets,“Burnt Norton” V. 174-175.

  55. 56.  James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, op. cit., Part I.1, page 3.

  56. 57.  This is the warning of the thrush in T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton” I. 42-43.

  57. 58.  Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum, op. cit., p. 226.

  58. 59.  James Hillman, The Force of Character: And the Lasting Life. (New York: Random House, 1999), p. 125, and pp. 125-131 passim. The preamble on the dedication page is a single line of T. S. Eliot’s from the last part of “East Coker”: “Old men ought to be explorers,” (T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “East Coker” V. 202.) which sets the perfect tone of Hillman’s frequent quoting from the Four Quartets throughout this marvelous book.

  59. 60.  Ibid., p. 125.

  60. 61.  Rabindranath Tagore, When She Passed By Me from The Gardener, No. 22, op. cit., <>.

  61. 62.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “East Coker” V. 186-188.

  62. 63.  William Butler Yeats, The Song of Wandering Aengus from The Wind Among the Reeds, 1899. Public Domain.  See: Tracy Boyd, “The Mythic Ground of the Longing for Wisdom and Love in William Butler Yeats’s The Song of Wandering Aengus” at <>.

  63. 64.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “East Coker” III. 123-28.

  64. 65.  T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday, V.

  65. 66.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton” II. 62.

  66. 67.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton” II. 65: and II. 63.

  67. 68.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton” II. 66-69.

  68. 69.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “East Coker” III. 146.

  69. 70.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Little Gidding” V. 250-251.

  70. 71.  That state referred to in “Between Worlds” above, being a variation on ‘between the froth and the water’ in Alwyn Rees and Brinley Rees, Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales, op. cit., p. 345.

  71. 72.  William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale, IV. iii. 140-142.

  72. 73.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton” V. 137-38.

  73. 74.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton” V. 139-153.

  74. 75.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Little Gidding” V, 216-217.

  75. 76.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “East Coker” III. 134-35.

  76. 77.  T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday, I.

  77. 78.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “East Coker” III, 129.

  78. 79.  The poet rarely, if ever, eludes to his sources, a very glaring exception being the brief background Notes that he provided for The Waste Land, another, the cryptic fragments of Heraclitus which precede the Quartets, which we shall take up in detail later.  It would seem that there is an entire industry devoted to the publication of articles, dissertations, books, and now, scholarly on-line sources, about T. S. Eliot’s various sources of mysticism.  Among the best of the lot –if you can find them – is: [Sister] Corona Sharp, “‘The Unheard Music’: T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets and John of the Cross”. University of Toronto Quarterly, 51 (Spring 1982.); G. Schmidt, “An Echo of Buddhism in T. S. Eliot’s ‘Little Gidding’”, in N&Q, (Sept., 1973.); Narsingh-Srivastava, “The Ideas of the Bhagavad-Gita in Four Quartets” in CL, (Spring, 1977.); C. T. Thomas, “An Analogy from Hindu Mythology in Eliot’s Burnt Norton, II 16-23” in Expl. (Spring, 1980.); Donald J. Childs, T. S. Eliot: Mystic, Son, and Lover. (Athlone Press, 2001.); and the “must read” fascinating and brilliantly detailed study of Eliot’s lifelong deep involvement in and commitment to Indian studies by Cleo McNelly Kearns, T. S. Eliot and Indic Traditions: A Study in Poetry and Belief. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987; Digitally Printed Version, 2008.

  79. 80.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton” V. 175.

  80. 81.  A spin on “Footfalls echo in the memory/Down the passage which we did not take . . .” from T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton” I. 11-12.

  81. 82.  Lama Anagarika Govinda, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism: According to the Esoteric Teachings of the Great Mantra Om Mani Padme Hum. (York Beach, ME: Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC, 1969), p. 22.

  82. 83.  Ibid., p. 46.

  83. 84.  The Gospel According to Saint John 1:1. King James Version.

  84. 85.  T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday, V.

  85. 86.  Tracy Boyd, “Wind Over Water: The Breath of Creation,” at <>.

  86. 87.  Joseph Campbell, Assisted by M. J. Abadie. The Mythic Image, op. cit., p. 356.

  87. 88.  Lama Anagarika Govinda, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism: According to the Esoteric Teachings of the Great Mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, op. cit., p. 47.

  88. 89.  Ibid., p. 27. For an exquisite explanation of the chakras, see: Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion. Diane K. Osbon, Editor. (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991), pp. 109-116.  For somewhat fuller discussions of the sacred implications of OM and other related matters, including the Tao, The Gospel of John, yoga, the caduceus, and a host of other things, see: Tracy Boyd, “Wind Over Water: The Breath of Creation”; and Tracy Boyd, “Teiresias, The Androgynous Seer: A Question of Balance,” under the heading: A Question of Creation and the Transcendence of Opposites at <> from which we have borrowed some of the material here on OM.

  89. 90.  T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday, I, and repeated in VI, to make sure we got it.

  90. 91.  The I Ching or Book of Changes. The Richard Wilhelm Translation rendered into English by Cary F. Baynes; Forward by C. G. Jung; Preface to the Third Edition by Hellmut Wilhelm. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series XIX, 1950-1969), Hexagram 52. Ken/Keeping Still, Mountain, p. 201, and passim pp. 200-204.

  91. 92.  Ibid., p. 201.

  92. 93.  Ibid.

  93. 94.  Ibid.

  94. 95.  Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1. King James Version. This verse and the very familiar verses (2-8) that follow, which were sung repeatedly at all the Peace concerts during the Vietnam War,  and thus made even more a part of us, are not reproduced here.  You probably know them by heart anyway. Ecclesiastes dates to about the 3rd century B.C.E.

  95. 96.  The I Ching or Book of Changes, op. cit., Hexagram 52. Ken/Keeping Still, Mountain, The Judgment, p. 201.

  96. 97.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “The Dry Salvages” II, 101.

  97. 98.  Ibid., II, 104.

  98. 99.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “The Dry Salvages” III, 129.

  99. 100.  T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday I and VI.

  100. 101. J. D. McClatchy, “T. S. Eliot” Commentary in The Voice of the Poet. (New York: Random House Audio, 2005), p. 4.

  101. 102. Carole Losee was telling us this in the Spring of 1963 when she was teaching a seminar in Eastern Religions at The Dalton School in New York and reading us LaoTze’s Tao Te Ching under the flowering cherry trees in Central Park.  Who else would have figured this out?  Siddhartha Gautama Buddha’s dates are thought to be c. 563-483 B.C.E; LaoTze was said to be a contemporary of Confucius, c. 551-479 B.C.E.; and Herakleitos lived c. 535-475 B.C.E. (She humorously opined that “It must have been something in the air.”

  102. 103. Epigram 1 of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets cited as: 1. p. 77. Fr. 2 Diels: Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (Herakleitos). Translated by Tristan:<> who accurately reproduces the Quartets on his beautiful website. It is a delight to read them there.

  103. 104. See: H. Diels, “Heraclitus”, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. James Hastings, Editor. Twelve Volumes + Index. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons), Vol. 6, p. 594.

  104. 105. Epigram 2 of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets cited as: 1. p. 89. Fr. 60. Fr. 2 Diels: Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (Herakleitos). Translated by Tristan:<>.

  105. 106. H. Diels, “Heraclitus”, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. James Hastings, Editor. Twelve Volumes + Index. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, ND), Vol. 6, p. 594, quoting and translating Heraclitus Fr. 103.

  106. 107. This is my translation from the Greek: ξυνὸν γὰρ ἀρχὴ καὶ πέρας ἐπὶ κύκλου περιφερείας.

Transliteration: xunòn gàr archè kaì péras epì kúklou periphereías.  The original Greek type and its transliteration, is courtesy of the hard, dedicated, and diligent work of Randy Hoyt, The Fragments of Heraclitus @<>.

108. Epigram 2 of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets cited as: 1. p. 89. Fr. 60. Diels: Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (Herakleitos), op. cit.

109. T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “The Dry Salvages” III, 129.

110.  Eliot was rumored to have been so enamored of Buddhism that he almost became a Buddhist, but it was his immersion in the philosophies rather than the religious practice that interested him. (See: Stephen Spender, T. S. Eliot (Modern Masters). Frank Kermode, Editor. (New York, The Viking Press, 1976), p. 20.

111. See: Cleo McNelly Kearns, T. S. Eliot and Indic Traditions: A Study in Poetry and Belief, op. cit., pp. 21-29 to start, then just keep going.

112. T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “The Dry Salvages” III, 124-26.

113. Cleo McNelly Kearns, T. S. Eliot and Indic Traditions: A Study in Poetry and Belief, op. cit., p. 49.

114. T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “The Dry Salvages” III, 167-68. It is on the field of battle that           

        Krishna preached the wisdom of the Bhagavad-Gita to this mindfully hesitant warrior, the

        greatest of all archers, to encourage him to send his arrows forward with all due speed. See:

       < >. Anyone

        familiar with astrology will find humor in the uncharacteristicly reluctant Sagittarian archer,

        who instead of shooting his arrows to ever-farther forward destinations, is looking backwards

        at those he loves. In this context, we must mention also, the Chinese characters Qi Fa

        (‘commence meditation’), whose forms are like those of a bow and arrow, and which are

        marked in gold on the robe of a statue of Kuan Yin, Bodhisattva of Compassion, in the author’s

        collection. For a thorough discussion of Eliot’s conflicts with war, like Arjuna’s, see: Cleo

        McNelly Kearns, T. S. Eliot and Indic Traditions: A Study in Poetry and Belief, op. cit., pp.

        239-43; and the section on “What Krishna meant,” pp. 247-254.

115. T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “The Dry Salvages” III, 170.

116. Ibid., III, 155.

  1. 117.Ibid., III, 153-54.

  2. 118.Ibid., III, 129.

  3. 119.Ibid., III, 131.

  4. 120.Ibid., III, 139.

  5. 121.T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Prufrock and Other Observations, 1917.

  6. 122.Ibid.

  7. 123.T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “East Coker” V, 209.

  8. 124.See, for example: Tristan, “Notes” to Four Quartets, June 2000 @ <>, or Stephen Spender, T. S. Eliot (Modern Masters), op. cit., p. 171, who gets it backwards!

  9. 125.T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “East Coker” V, 209.

  10. 126.Ibid., I, 1. At the end of Tracy Boyd, “The Tarot Fool’s Hand”, which itself is all about the commonality of beginning and end, I made mention in a footnote that “In My End Is My Beginning” is Thomas Merton’s title for Chuang Tzu’s “Heaven and Earth”, a literal translation of which is found in The Writings of Chuang Tzu, Book XII, Part II, Section VIII at <>. See: The Way of Chuang Tzu. “Free interpretative readings” by Thomas Merton. (Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1992), pp. 112-113. His title, of course, pays direct homage to Mr. Eliot.

  11. 127.See: <>.

  12. 128.See, for example: Umberto Eco, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, op. cit.

  13. 129.<>.

  14. 130.Rosemarie P. McGerr, Chaucer’s Open Books: Resistance to Closure in Medieval Discourse. (Gainsville: University Press of Florida, 1998), p. 28. Referring to Geoffrey of Vinsauf’s “early thirteenth-century Poetria nova.”

  15. 131.Rosemarie P. McGerr, Chaucer’s Open Books: Resistance to Closure in Medieval Discourse, op. cit., pp. 28-29, quoting and translating Guillaume de Machault, Poesies lyriques, 2:575.

  16. 132.T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “East Coker” I, 1.

  17. 133.Ibid., I, 13.

  18. 134.Rosemarie P. McGerr, Chaucer’s Open Books: Resistance to Closure in Medieval Discourse, op. cit., p. 29, translating Guillaume de Machault, Poesies lyriques, 2:575, then presenting her analysis of the musical score. The phrase “mise en abime” has a very interesting history in the     discussions of art history and literary theory. “The commonplace usage of this phrase is describing the visual experience of standing between two mirrors, seeing an infinite reproduction of one's image.” (<>) Because we will need to take a breath here and there, the paragraph breaks are our own doing.

  19. 135.< >.

  20. 136.Rosemarie P. McGerr, Chaucer’s Open Books: Resistance to Closure in Medieval Discourse, op. cit., p. 19.  For a complete understanding of the complexities of this matter, her entire Chapter 1, “Open and Closed Poetics in the Middle Ages”, pp. 14-43, is a “must-read.”

  21. 137.Correction: It is not the same. It is a continuation from where the last word left off, as we have shown above. However, Eco’s conclusion is not effected by his error.

  22. 138.Rosemarie P. McGerr, Chaucer’s Open Books: Resistance to Closure in Medieval Discourse, op. cit., p. 29, quoting Umberto Eco, Open Work. (Cambridge, MA: Hutchinson Radius, 1989), p. 24, and 74. The paragraph break is ours.

  23. 139.Rosemarie P. McGerr, Chaucer’s Open Books: Resistance to Closure in Medieval Discourse, op. cit., p. 29. Citing: Wolfgang Iser, The Implied Reader: Patterns of Communication in Prose Fiction from Bunyan to Beckett. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974. Once again, the paragraph break is ours.

  24. 140.See: Fragments: The Collected Wisdom of Heraclitus. Translated by Brooks Haxton.  Foreward by James Hillman. (New York: Viking Penguin/Penguin/Putnam, 2001), Note re Haxton’s Fragment number.41, pp. 95-96. We do not recommend this renumbered, inaccurately translated “free verse” pop-culture edition. Instead, we highly recommend the online site of Randy Hoyt at <>.

  25. 141.Translation of Fragment 49A by Hermann Diels, “Heraclitus”, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, op. cit., Vol. 6, p. 593. For more on Heraclitus, see: <> ; See also, <>. At some point in time future, an article on Artemis/Diana by Tracy Boyd will appear at <>.

  26. 142.At the time of this titling, when I was playing with the Irish sounds of Seamus (James) Joyce, I had not yet been introduced to “A Litter to Mr. James Joyce” allegedly from one Vladimir Dixon, believed to have been written, actually, by Mr. Joyce himself, in which he is addressed, among other things, as “Shame’s Voice”. See: “A Litter to Mr. James Joyce” in James Joyce/Finnegans Wake: A Symposium: OUR EXAGMINATION ROUND HIS FACTIFICATION FOR INCAMINATION OF WORK IN PROGRESS. (New York: New Directions Books, 1972), p. 193, and pp. 193-94. We are informed by Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare and Company in her Introduction of 1961, that it is Stuart Glibert who “strongly suspects” James Joyce to be the author of ‘A Litter’. (Ibid., p. vii.)

  27. 143.Joseph Campbell & Henry Morton Robinson, A Skeleton Key To Finnegans Wake, op. cit., Foreward, p. x.

  28. 144.Ibid., p. 3.

  29. 145.Ibid., p. 3.

  30. 146.See: Joseph Campbell & Henry Morton Robinson, A Skeleton Key To Finnegans Wake: Unlocking James Joyce’s Masterwork. Edmund L. Epstein, Editor/Forward. Collected Works of Joseph Campbell. Joseph Campbell Foundation. (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2005), p. 131.

  31. 147.James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, op. cit., p. 196.

  32. 148.T. S. Eliot, Introductory Note, Introducing James Joyce: A Selection of Joyce’s Prose by T. S. Eliot with an introductory note. (London, Faber and Faber Ltd., First published September Mcmxlii (1942), Sixth impression, pp. 6-7.

  33. 149.Ibid., p. 7.

  34. 150.James Joyce, Anna Livia Plurabelle. (London: The Faber Library, No. 25, 1997), inside front flap.

  35. 151.For the telling of the brief story and an in-depth discussion of Finn mac Cumhail, see: Tracy Boyd, “Titania, the Queen of Faerie, and the Druid Tom Thumbe” under the heading: “‘The Salmon of Knowledge’, the ‘Hazel of Wisdom’, and the ‘Thumb of Knowledge’” at <>.

  36. 152.Joseph Campbell & Henry Morton Robinson, A Skeleton Key To Finnegans Wake: Unlocking James Joyce’s Masterwork, op. cit., p. 346.

  37. 153.James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, op. cit. Cannot locate the page, but this was quoted in the midst of a lengthy and very illuminating discourse on the Wake by Terence McKenna at: <>. We note that Campbell and Robinson remark in a footnote that “The strong play on the salmon theme throughout Finnegans Wake corresponds to the importance of the salmon in Irish myth and folklore. It was from the taste of the flesh of the great, wise salmon that Finn MacCool, according to the ancient tale, acquired his ‘Tooth of Knowledge’.” (Joseph Campbell & Henry Morton Robinson, A Skeleton Key To Finnegans Wake: Unlocking James Joyce’s Masterwork, op. cit., p. 133, Note*.) As we have detailed in “Titania, the Queen of Faerie, and the Druid Tom Thumbe” cited above, this is really his ‘Thumb of Knowledge’ that he places against his tooth. For more on the notoriously famous association of the hazel with poets, magicians, and seekers of wisdom, see:“Tracy Boyd, “The Mythic Ground of the Longing for Wisdom and Love in William Butler Yeats’s The Song of Wandering Aengus” especially under the heading: “The Hazels of Poetic Wisdom and the Salmon of Knowledge” at <>.

  38. 154.James Joyce, Anna Livia Plurabelle, op. cit., inside front flap.

  39. 155.For the telling of the long story and an in-depth discussion of Boann, or Boand, see: “Tracy Boyd, “The Mythic Ground of the Longing for Wisdom and Love in William Butler Yeats’s The Song of Wandering Aengus” under the heading: “The Waters of the Left-Hand Path” at <>.

  40. 156.Edward Gwynn, Metrical Dindshenchas, “Boand I”, Vol. 3., 1925, unpaginated, at <>.

  41. 157.Alwyn Rees and Brinley Rees, Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales, op. cit., p. 30. For more on Brigid, see: Tracy Boyd “The Keepers of the Flame: Vesta and Her Brides” under the heading “Brigit’s Birth-Fires” at <>.

  42. 158.<> culled from The New York Times Obit of April 9, 2000.

  43. 159.Terence McKenna, Surfing on Finnegans Wake & Riding Range With Marshall McLuhan. (New York: Mystic Fire Audio, Audio Cassette ISBN: 1561769118, October 1995.) Transcript at <> Tape at <>.

  44. 160.James Joyce, Ulysses. (New York: Vintage Books/Random House, First paperback edition, 1961; with additional pagination from the 1934 edition), p. 783.  These words were written between 1914-1921.

  45. 161.James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake, op. cit., p. 628.

  46. 162.Michael Dames, Mythic Ireland. (London: Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1992), p. 128, who describes the geographic features of Dublin that inspired this scene.

  47. 163.Ibid., p. 126.

  48. 164.James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, op. cit., p. 619.

  49. 165.Ibid., pp. 627-28.

  50. 166.T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “The Dry Salvages” II, 79.

  51. 167.T. S. Eliot, Introducing James Joyce: A Selection of Joyce’s Prose by T. S. Eliot with an introductory note, op. cit., Introductory Note, p. 7.

  52. 168.Ibid.

  53. 169.James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, op. cit., “first” sentence, p. 3.

  54. 170.Samuel Beckett, “Dante...  Bruno.  Vico..  Joyce” in James Joyce/Finnegans Wake: A Symposium: OUR EXAGMINATION ROUND HIS FACTIFICATION FOR INCAMINATION OF WORK IN PROGRESS, op. cit., p. 14, and pp. 3-22.

  55. 171.Joseph Campbell, Mythic Worlds, Modern Words: On the Art of James Joyce. Edmund L, Epstein, Editor. Collected Works of Joseph Campbell. First Edition. (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991), p. 233, quoting James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, op. cit., p. 626.

  56. 172.Joseph Campbell, Mythic Worlds, Modern Words: On the Art of James Joyce, op. cit., p. 233.

  57. 173.James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, op. cit., p. 626.

  58. 174.Ibid., p. 627.

  59. 175.Ibid.

  60. 176.Ibid.

  61. 177.Michael Dames, Mythic Ireland, op. cit., p. 128.

  62. 178.Joseph Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson, A Skeleton Key To Finnegans Wake, op. cit., p. 10.

  63. 179.Ibid.

  64. 180.James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, op. cit., p. 195. This word actually refers to Anna Livia herself and is the last bit of a description of her that ends: “. . . as happy as the day is wet, babbling, bubbling, chattering to herself, deloothering the fields on their elbows leaning with the sloothering slide of her, giddy-gaddy, grannyma, gossipacerous Anna Livia.”

  65. 181.Ibid., p. 215.

  66. 182.Rabindranath Tagore, “Unending Love”, in Manasi (The Heart’s Desire: A Collection of Poems), 1890 <> on line at <>.


To inhabit the space ‘between the froth and the wave’ (3) in the realm of ‘neither here nor there’, (4) is to be in a world in which anything is possible. (5)  This place of sanctuary is an undefinable sacred space in which connections easily flow between this and that, an atmosphere that is conducive to allowing things to be seen in a new light and to be understood – finally – for the first time.  It is a place of revelation and wonder, of epiphany, if you will, in which life can take on a new meaning from the experience of even the most minute of all minutiae.  When you hold a magni-

fying glass over a frenzy of tiny insects running to and fro to get a closer look and the tiniest little aphid stretches up on its hind legs, places its little hands on the underside of the glass, looks you right in the eye and gives you a very thorough going over.  Pow!  You are there.

Although this place that one can dwell in is nowhere, in reality, its exact position can be delineated as the point at the absolute center of all possible opposites, that space that is no space in which “wisdom, poetry, and knowledge are revealed.” (6)  This nowhere place of everything and nothing exists at a point in time in which past, present, and future seamlessly merge.  Is this a dreamworld which exists only in the mind and body and soul?  Or is it the real world?  T. S. Eliot who, as early as 1914, “criticize[d] all theories of knowledge for their inability to ‘treat illusion as real’,” (7) has much to say about this in his Four Quartets, as does James Joyce in Finnegans Wake, and Umberto Eco in nearly everything he writes – a man of such amazing imagination that he muses upon such things as “the desperate loneliness of parallel lines that never meet.” (8) This kind of thinking suggests that perhaps this dreamworld has at least one foot in reality. 

But then again, maybe not.  What can we say about a writer who can envision a character saying about his ex, “I wish she were here, to hold my hand while I reconstruct the stages of my undoing.”? (9) Feelings of longing are intensely felt within the loosely defined boundaries of this world beyond world in which every-thing is possible.  In this amorphous place, the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore has dreamed into existence a temple to the highest expression of infinite longing and immeasurable love with his sensuous and sublime words.  He over-whelms us time and time again with lines like these:

        When she passed by me with quick steps,

        the end of her skirt touched me. (10)

These are the opening lines.  Tagore could have stopped there.  After all, we are already swooning.  But for him, this is just the beginning – the spark that touches off his state of euphoric reverie.  It is the reader who must catch one’s breath and recover one’s senses from the ecstasy of this most sensuous experience before going on.  Here is the passage in its entirety as it appeared in the 1913 edition of The Gardener:

        When she passed by me with quick steps,

            the end of her skirt touched me.

        From the unknown island of a heart

            came a sudden warm breath of spring.

        A flutter of a flitting touch brushed me

            and vanished in a moment, like a

            torn flower petal blown in the breeze.

        It fell upon my heart like a sigh of

            her body and whisper of her heart. (11)

It is no wonder that William Butler Yeats, to whom Tagore dedicated the book in which these lines appeared, fell in love with Tagore’s words.  The two men were of the self-same sensibility. (12)  In his Introduction to Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali (‘Song Offerings’), the Irish poet known for his own deeply moving words, remarked that Tagore’s prose translations into English “have stirred my blood as nothing has for years.” (13)  Yeats was so enthralled that he could not bear to put down the manuscript.  He confessed that for days, he carried it with him everywhere he went,

        “reading it in railway trains, or on the top of omnibuses and in restaurants,

        and I have often had to close it lest some stranger would see how much it   

        moved me. These lyric . . . display in their thought a world I have dreamed  

        of all my live long.” (14)

He goes on to say that

        “A whole people, a whole civilization, immeasurably strange to us, seems

        to have been taken up into this imagination; and yet we are not moved

        because of its strangeness, but because we have met our own image, as

        though we had walked in Rossetti's willow wood, or heard, perhaps for

        the first time in literature, our voice as in a dream.” (15)

In this dreamworld that Tagore has so perfectly captured – a universe that is somehow remarkably familiar to us –, all sentient beings dream.  Even flowers dream.  The Sun and Moon have feelings.  Raging storms are given voice in the most natural of ways.  All of this seems perfectly normal.  There is nothing strange about it at all.  It is quite real.  We find ourselves feeling the deepest joys and sadnesses for birds and flowers, stars and clouds who are but ourselves.  This is especially the case in the poet’s “philosophical epigrams,” Stray Birds, (16) where human feelings are indistinguishable and inseparable from those of the elements of the natural world and the forces of nature.  We are thus enfolded into a very comfortable universe where everything is everything else.  One has even to wonder whether we might have inhabited such a world in some blissful distant past.


The poet inquires of the Full Moon: “. . . From what unknown sky hast thou carried in thy silence the aching secret of love?” (17) The flower mourns: “‘I have lost my dewdrop’, cries the flower to the morning sky that has lost all its stars.” (18)  And: “The dust receives insult and in return offers her flowers.” (19)   The riverbank speaks its love: “‘I cannot keep your waves, says the bank to the river. ‘Let me keep your footprints in my heart’.” (20)  Who cannot feel the agony of the god in these lines?: “The storm is like the cry of some god in pain whose love the earth refuses.” (21)  The poet again speaks his own heart: “Silence will carry your voice like the nest that holds the sleeping birds.” (22)  And again: “My heart is homesick to-day for the one sweet hour across the sea of time.” (23)  And again: One sad voice has its nest among the ruins of the years. It sings to me in the night, –I loved you’." (24)   

How close in feeling to Tagore’s anthropomorphist thought in lines like these: “I am like the road in the night listening to the footfalls of its memories in silence,” (25) is a recent internet ad for Jeep Wrangler, which proudly proclaims, “going places roads only dream about.”? (26)  There is an overall sense of longing in this series of ads, and the loss that has engendered it.  These attachments to the past, most especially to its conquests, are expressed in skillful double-entendre phrases, as for example, “You’ll (always) get over it,” which is duplicitously paired with an image of a Jeep navigating a difficult pile of rocks. (27)  Brilliant!  But what would Rabindranath Tagore have to say about all of this?: “The echo mocks her origin to prove she is the original.” (28)    


Sometime in late 1969, or thereabouts, a cartoon appeared in The New Yorker magazine depicting two bearded gnome-like fellows deep in conversation, each sitting on his own hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria toadstool.  The one says to

the other: “ Real, you say!  Ah, but have you ever asked yourself what is real’?(29)

It was a most appropriate question for the time.  But, in truth, it is the penultimate question for all time. 

After all, we must pause to wonder why, in an ultra-sophisticated culture such as ours, an audience would be moved to tears over a question posed by a very brave but clearly frightened supercomputer who is about to face death.  That oft-quoted question, of course being, Will I dream?”  The soothing, matter-of-fact, “Of course you will. All intelligent beings dream. Nobody knows why.” (30) response, which is greeted with equally audible “aawhs” all around, should also be cause for wonder.  But somehow, inexplicably, it all seems perfectly reasonable.

We know from more down-to-earth civilizations that the world of dream is a world of super-reality which informs all waking actions.  But beyond that is the underlying question of whether the whole thing isn’t just a dream.  There is such a sense of unreality about life sometimes.

The old nursery rhyme, which some may remember was always sung in a very harmonious repetitive round, says exactly that:

         Row, row, row your boat,

        Gently down the stream.

        Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,

        Life is but a dream. (31)

Joseph Campbell in his masterpiece, The Mythic Image, presents a picture of Vishnu Dreaming the Universe, about which he says:

        The notion of this universe, its heavens, hells, and everything within it, as

        a great dream dreamed by a single being in which all the dream characters

        are dreaming too, has in India enchanted and shaped the entire civilization.


Talk of India brings to mind the dreamy quality of the ceaselessly flowing river in Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, in which everyone and everything in the world which has been, will be, and is, is reflected as an inseparable oneness all at the same moment in time.  At first, Siddhartha “saw that the water continually flowed and flowed and yet it was always there; it was always the same and yet every moment it was new.” (33)  In time, he learned from the river “that there is no such thing as time.” (34)  And as he listened to the voices of the river, and watched its ever-changing moods, he saw reflected in it, images of all those whom he had ever loved “flowing into each other.” (35)

        They all became part of the river. It was the goal of all of them,

        yearning, desiring, suffering; and the river’s voice was full of longing,

        full of smarting woe, full of insatiable desire. The river flowed on towards

        its goal. . . . All the waves and water hastened, suffering, towards goals,

        many goals, to the waterfall, to the sea, to the current, to the ocean and

        all goals were reached and each one was succeeded by another. The water

        changed to vapor and rose, became rain and came down again, became

        spring, brook and river, changed anew, flowed anew. But the yearning

        voice had altered. It still echoed sorrowfully, searchingly, but other voices

        accompanied it, voices of pleasure and sorrow, good and evil voices,

        laughing and lamenting voices, hundreds of voices, thousands of voices.

        Siddhartha listened. . . . He could no longer distinguish the different    

        voices––the merry voice from the weeping voice, the childish voice from

        the manly voice. They all belonged to each other: the lament of those

        who yearn, the laughter of the wise, the cry of indignation and the groan

        of the dying. They were all interwoven and interlocked, entwined in a

        thousand ways. And all the voices, all the goals, all the yearnings, all the

        sorrows, all the pleasures, all the good and evil, all of them together was

        the world. All of them together was the stream of events, the music of

        life. When Siddhartha listened attentively to this river, to this song of a

        thousand voices; when he did not listen to the sorrow or laughter, when

        he did not bind his soul to any one particular voice and absorb it in his

        Self, but heard them all, the whole, the unity; then the great song of a

        thousand voices consisted of one word: Om––perfection. (36)


We know this state of being also from the opening lines of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, which begins abruptly – as if awaking from a dream – at some seemingly unknowable point in mid-sentence with the uncapitalized word “riverrun” and wends, by a circuitous and watery route, touching upon everything past, present, and future on its way, to an ending approximating the place of beginning. (37)

There really is no end to it.  The beginning is but the continuation of the end; the last line – suspended in mid-thought, as if dropping off into sleep – :

        A way a lone a last a loved a long the (38)

being but the beginning of the first:

           riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of

        bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth    

        Castle and environs. (39)

And thus, does Finnegan begin . . . again.

It is the river itself who dreams in the Wake; a river which runs through the entirety – from end to beginning and back again.  Her name is Anne Livia Plurabelle.  She is in a sort of mesmerized dream state.  The whole work, and all that flows through it, is a dream of consciousness experience which flows endlessly back into itself, merging into an inseparable wholeness everything in the world which has ever existed, does exist, or will exist, “for ever and ever, world without end. Amen.(40)  The work itself is a river, a compendium of such vast knowledge that we can barely touch upon the meaning of a single aspect of it without bumping into everything else.  It is a journey that one never comes to the end of, a place somewhere in suspended time – and yet, now, here, and always – that we shall return to again and again. (41)   And just as T. S. Eliot prophesied,

        We shall not cease from exploration

        And the end of all our exploring

        Will be to arrive where we started

        And know the place for the first time. (42)



The meaning of the time, of pastpresentfuture, is the ultimate preoccupation of the poet-philosopher T. S. Eliot in his last great work(s).  The opening lines of the first of the Four Quartets announce that

        Time present and time past

        Are both perhaps present in time future,

        And time future contained in time past. (43)

Seconds later, Eliot tells us that there is no going back to sort it all out, that “what might have been is an abstraction.(44)  He had warned us in Ash Wednesday about this tendency we mortals have of looking back with wistful fondness on the past, deliriously indulging ourselves in a kind of homesickness that puts us in such a pleasant state that we experience culture shock when we snap out of our reverie to return to what is here now.  He awakens us to the reality that “you can’t go home again” for the simple reason that it is not there anymore.

            Because I know that time is always time

        And place is always and only place

        And what is actual is actual only for one time

        And only for one place . . . (45)

But immediately after he has warned us (again) about the perils of dreaming the past, he takes us back, stirring the memory with desire. (46)

        Footfalls echo in the memory

        Down the passage which we did not take

        Towards the door we never opened

        Into the rose-garden. My words echo

        Thus, in your mind. (47)

Although we must return again and again to hear – and for the first time – “the unheard music”, (48) it is not so that we can change the past – as we sometimes do in a dream when the ending is not quite to our liking.  We make this journey to sort out those myriad events of past for which “we had the experience but missed the meaning(49) so that we can truly know ourselves for the first time.

At times, though, it is the past itself, bidden or unbidden, which overtakes us.  Such was the case with a very wise, very old woman, a dear friend who was the anony-mous figurehead of a well-known movement of metaphysical thinkers.  She was somewhat puzzled by the fact that, lately, she was seeing faces, – not just in sleep, but in waking, – visions of many faces appearing and disappearing right before her eyes as though they were standing directly in front of her – faces of people that she had known, and who were long dead.  What did I think of all of this, and had I ever experienced such visions?    

As it happened, I knew exactly what she meant.  There is an unghostly, corporeal as well as spiritual awareness of those we love, who, whether past, present, or future, are always with us.  And it is hard sometimes, knowing whether they are living or dead, their presence is so unmistakably present in the here and now.  The poet Rainer Maria Rilke says of this phenomenon, that

        We of the here and now are not for a moment hedged in the time-world,

        nor confined within it; we are incessantly flowing over and over to those

        who preceded us, to our origins and to those who seemingly come after us.

        In that greatest “open” world all are, one cannot say “simultaneous”, for

        the very falling away of time determines that they all are. (50)

I recalled to my friend what I vaguely remembered of what this same poet had had to say about the fact that angels made no distinction between the living and the dead, and that he had thought it a worthy point of view whose example the living should follow.  She smiled with great delight and said, “Ah, yes! The Duino Elegies.” She closed her eyes for a brief moment, and then began to recite – in the original German, mind you – the following lines, which are given here in translation:

       . . . Yes, but all of the living

        make the mistake of drawing too sharp distinctions.

        Angels, (they say) are often unable to tell

        whether they move among living or dead.  The eternal

        torrent whirls all the ages through either realm

        for ever, and sounds above their voices in both. (51)

This “eternal torrent” that merges living and dead, and all times and all places so that they are forever present in both worlds, gives the impression of an omnipotent mass of whirling air, not unlike the breath upon the waters “In the beginning”. (52) But it is not air that “whirls all the ages through either realm/ for ever.”  It is water – a very powerful, very ‘strong and fast-moving stream of water’.  Is this not the very same image that we encounter in “The Dry Salvages” of Eliot’s Quartets, and what Siddhartha sees in the ceaselessly flowing river, and what Joyce celebrates in the river that runs through the Wake rushing in and out to blur – and thereby make superfluous – all lines of separation between pastpresentfuture?  And do we even have to ask, “if it lives only in memory, is it any less real?”

It seems that as one ages, there is a continuously flowing stream of images and thoughts which runs perpetually through the mind, taking one back to look – to reflect, if you will – upon a life filled with so many faces remembered and forgotten and remembered again.  At times it is as though your life flashes before your eyes in chronological sequence like a fast-running brook, and at others it runs in a deliberate slow-motion.  And sometimes it gets stuck at a certain point in time past – at an event of love or sorrow, or of both – that causes one to whisper aloud to one’s self, “That is not it at all,/That is not what I meant, at all.” (53)  Or it pauses to mourn or to rejoice in that moment past that changed everything for all time; or stops to gaze upon that face, hear that voice so missed; or to recall that “unattended moment” of “self-surrender,” that “moment in and out of time” when you experienced for the first time – and for all eternity –, “music heard so deeply/ That it is not heard at all, but you are the music/While the music lasts.” (54)  

I can remember it as though it was yesterday.


        Ridiculous the waste sad time

        Stretching before and after. (55)

This return to the magic of the idyllic garden, “past Eve and Adam’s,” as James Joyce would have it, (56) begins as a solitary dreamworld journey that can only be taken alone.  It is not one of those superficial, saccharine-filled trips down memory lane, and because it is not, and because “human kind/Cannot bear very much reality,(57) many will find themselves muttering, along with Umberto Eco’s character Casaubon, “I wish she were here, to hold my hand while I reconstruct the stages of my undoing.” (58) But this is a journey of self-awakening.  Or is it?

In a very insightful book about growing old, The Force of Character: And the Lasting Life, we are told by its author, the elder statesman of archetypal psychology, James Hillman, that the journeying of the mind back to one’s younger years is “a calling to return to that time when the heart opened so utterly.” (59) He says of this irresistible urge, this absolute compulsion, that it is often “a call so strong that in late life a failed date of half a century earlier becomes a sudden successful reunion, a marriage.” (60)  Whatever the end result, there is no question that such backwards glances will occur, even if one ends up taking great pleasure in memory only, of that one unforgettable split-second moment in time that took one’s breath away for ever more.

        When she passed by me with quick steps,

        the end of her skirt touched me. (61)

After all, this looking back is, as Eliot says of words,

         . . . the fight to recover what has been lost

        And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions

        That seem unpropitious. (62)

And so, in our wandering, in one way or another, we most certainly

         . . . will find out where she has gone,

        And kiss her lips and take her hands;

        And walk among long dappled grass, . . . (63)



   But first, we must tell our deepest selves to

             . . . be still, and wait without hope

            For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love

            For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith

            But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

            Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:

            So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. (64)

  The Poet tells us over and over and over again that this is a journey requiring still-ness of mind.  This is not a voyage “for those who walk among noise and deny the voice.” (65) This keeping still, this silence, which can be found “at the still point of the turning world,” (66) this quiet meditation on all that has gone before, is the Way to illumination of Self.  It is a place “where past and future are gathered”: “at the still point, there the dance is.(67) And

            . . . Except for the point, the still point,

        There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

        I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.

       And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time. (68)

Are you with me so far?  Good, but you’re fullashit, because when you’re in this thing, you have no idea where you are.  You are so completely disoriented thatwhere you are is where you are not.” (69)  Where you are is far beyond being “in the stillness/Between two waves of the sea.(70)  Where you really are is be-tween the froth and the wave – dancing in the bubbles and the foam. (71)  I suppose this is what Shakespeare meant when he said:

               . . . when you do dance, I wish you

        A wave o’ the sea, that you might ever do

        Nothing but that; move still, still so . . . . (72) 

So, let us be clear.  This keeping still – this dance – is not to be confused with stagnation, nor with the silence of finality.  It is nothing of the sort.  Rather, it has to do with suspension in time and space, with the infinite movement of sound, with the waywords move,” the way music moves,”: the way they moveonly in time,” (73) the way the vibrations resonate and linger in the air – still, yet moving.

               . . . Words, after speech, reach

        Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,

        Can words or music reach

        The stillness, as a Chinese jar still

        Moves perpetually in its stillness.

        Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,

        Not that only, but the co-existence,

        Or say that the end precedes the beginning,

        And the end and the beginning were always there

        Before the beginning and after the end.

        And all is always now. Words strain,

        Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,

        Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,

        Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,

        Will not stay still. . . . (74)

Our poet, worshipper of words, for whom only the right word, the perfect word, will do, is here speaking not only of the words wrought by poets, but of all words which necessarily shift under certain adverse circumstances – and not these only.  Though we hear the harmonies and the rhythms and the perfection of every word in every instance, of “every phrase/And sentence that is right,” (75) of each word that sings to us, we can never again hear them in the same way, for words “Will not stay still.”  And that is so because nothing stays the same.  “I shall say it again/Shall I say it again?”: (76)what is actual is actual only for one time/And only for one place

. . .” (77)

A dream-like “whisper of running streams,” (78) of which we are only subliminally conscious, if at all, but which, at times, has a vague familiarity, provides the running ground base for the melodic overtones of the Quartets.  The whole of the work is imbued with the most profound depth of erudition, with multitudinous literary and philosophical sources, and of so many things long ago forgotten, if ever known, by any but a few. (79)  But foreknowledge is not a requirement of our understanding.  The poet does the work for us by dredging memories of such things from the collective unconscious and inundating us with wave after wave of astounding wisdom and epiphanic self-revelation.  It as though we are remembering all that has gone “before and after.” (80)

In many ways Eliot’s intimate familiarity with the ancient texts of India – texts which are recited aloud and so therefore “heard – prepared him to hear all the echoes in the passageway that others could not even begin to imagine, let alone “see”. (81)  And so it is, that in his pensive imagining of the fate of words in the lines that we have just quoted, not only does he capture the quintessence of numerous issues of great consequence, but his words exactly describe the way in which OM, the most sacred of all Sanskrit pronouncements, is said to go out into the universe – out “into the silence” and beyond.  This poet for whom words are always sacred, here pays particular obeisance to “the one profound and all-embracing vibration,” (82) that primordial note of notes which is said to have existed before the beginning that has the power to transform merely through its utterance and by its hearing.  And he does so knowing that as the begetter of all sounds, all words, all forms, the incantation of “the sacred syllable OM opens every solemn utterance, every formula of worship, every meditation.” (83)

This is the absolute meaning of “In the beginning was the Word,” (84) which we have discussed at length elsewhere in connection with Eliot’s ear for the magisterial language of the King James Bible that is so much in evidence in Ash Wednesday. (85) There, he performs a breathtaking riff on “In the beginning” from the Johannine Gospel where, “in the circular whirlwind of magical Gnostic thinking, we find the creation of the cosmos by the Word.” (86)  This Word is elsewhere known as the “sound beyond silence,” which Joseph Campbell has expressed as

        the creative energy of the universe, the hum, so to speak, of the void, which    

        is antecedent to things, and of which things are precipitations.  This, they    

        say, is heard from within, within oneself and simultaneously within space. 

        It is the sound beyond silence, heard as OM . . . . (87)

There is an immeasurable fullness to the stillness that arises from the recitation of this mantra, an unequivocal and perfect stillness whose quietude encompasses all that there is of everything past present and future.  Imagine, if you will, (if you can,

if you dare), absolute zero beginning, when the first sounding in the silence gave birth to all that there is.  This is the silence of which Eliot speaks, the resonating stillness which, like the pattern of a Chinese jar, “Moves perpetually in its stillness”, the resounding silence into which “Words, after speech, reach.” 

The ancient yogis define this as “the eternal rhythm of all that moves . . . the pri-mordial sound of timeless reality, which vibrates within us from the beginningless past and which reverberates in us” always. (88)  This, they say, is OM, the mantra

that is intoned to activate the wisdom and compassion hidden in the heart, and which “cannot be heard by the ears but only by the heart . . . .” (89) 

Of course, all of this keeping still – still, yet moving, – is but a way of looking into the heart, of feeling those subtle but intensely present resonances and lingerings of pastpresentfuture that are preserved forever within that memory chamber; of quietly looking back on the tribulations of love – the kind of love that is not conditioned by the travesties of time – and on those things that we cannot comprehend because they are so incomprehensible that the heart cannot bear to hear them.  Eliot had cautioned us about the difficulty of keeping a still heart in his (not so thoroughly Christian as one would think) Ash Wednesday with the prayer:

        Teach us to care and not to care.

        Teach us to sit still. (90)

The ancient wisdom is everywhere the same.  And so it is that we find in the Chinese Book of Changes, the I Ching, that Kên, the hexagram of Keeping Still, “turns upon the problem of achieving a quiet heart.” (91)  The text of this doubled trigram is thought to “embody directions for the practice of yoga,” (92) which is the means by which one achieves the “very difficult [task of] bringing quiet to the heart.” (93)  The Judgment of this ancient hexagram, which informs us that Keeping Still “signifies the end and the beginning of all movement,” (94) is rendered in what might best be described as a mirror image of the Old Testament language of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8: “To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven . . . ,(95) for it speaks of “keeping still when the time has come to keep still, and going forward when the time has come to go forward.” (96)


There is perpetual movement in the Quartets, beginnings and endings of things in constant flux, moving and not moving in a timeless eternity, an eternity which is, by definition, ‘without beginning or end’.  These are the lessons of impermanence and change never easily digested, hard to look at with anything approaching a semblance of objectivity.  Perhaps we lacked the courage to take that long “backward look(97) at “the moments of agony,” (98) or if we did dissect every aspect of past, missed something along the way, and so failed to realize what it was, exactly, that trans-formed such a glorious time of blissful beginning to such a bitter ending. 

But we must always look back – again and again.  It is there that we will find our-selves meditating upon the errors of our ways with the devotion of Orpheus who gazes upon his belovèd Eurydice.  He cannot help himself.  He must.  And, as Eliot would have it, so must we.  We must do this in order to move forward – in order to become whole again – because “the way forward is the way back.(99)   But as the myth of Orpheus warns, the time must be right, or all is lost forever. “Teach us to sit still.(100)

The whole of this poem cycle, which is “suffused with the language of mystical paradox” (101) gleaned from many ancient sources, scrutinizes every aspect of the indecipherableness of the beginning and the end of pastpresentfuture.  In the frontispiece to “Burnt Norton”, Eliot presents us with two untranslated (thank you

so much!) fragmentary epigraphs of Herakleitos of Ephesus, popularly known as Heraclitus, the Greek spinner of endless circles and equivalences, master of con-tinuous beginnings and endings, who by a strange coincidence of history, was a contemporary of Buddha, LaoTze, and Confucius. (102) 

The first epigraph, “Although logos is common to all, most people live as if they had a wisdom of their own,” (103) is far more related in tone to the circularity of the Word of Ash Wednesday and its inspiration from the Gospel of John, over which Heraclitus was said to have had a profound influence. (104)  It bears little relevance to the circular threads of beginnings and endings that run throughout the QuartetsThe second epigraph, “The way upward and the way downward are the same,” (105) which by now, is almost part of the vernacular, is very much in keeping with that unbroken circle of thought.

In Heraclitus’s philosophy, “the end of the Cosmos, like the beginning, is linked

on to the primordial principle. ‘For in rotation the beginning and the end are com-mon’.” (106)  Perhaps the more precise meaning, which in the original Greek has to

do with the revolution of time as well as space – a subtlety of language about which Eliot had complete understanding – would be “For the circumference of a circle, the beginning and the end are shared in common.” (107)  But the poet, curiously, makes no acknowledgement of his indebtedness to Heraclitus with respect to any of his numer-ous epigraphic fragments that focus, quite specifically, on the concerns of the seam-less infinity of such beginnings and endings.  Instead, he focuses on the philosopher’s fondness for a different sameness of things in opposition.

With Eliot’s dexterous handling of all things of a philosophic nature, the second epigraph, The way upward and the way downward are the same,” (108) having to do with direction rather than the beginnings and endings of things, is expanded to encompass all directions, thus becoming: “And the way up is the way down, the way forward is the way back.” (109)  It would appear that the distinctly different ways of looking at the situation are the same anyway.  Aren’t they?  For if everything is the same as everything else, most particularly those things in direct opposition, then, in the end, everything is the same as everything else.  He outdoes Heraclitus in each and every instance in which he touches upon his thinking.

Very much in evidence, also, is the poet-philosopher’s extraordinary mastery of the philosophical tenets of the mystical religions of the East (110) whose wisdom he has skillfully woven throughout the mesmerizing meditations of the Quartets. (111)  Philosophic ruminations on ancient texts of every kind are spoken aloud as they run through the poet’s head.  Some are even discoursed in vaguely homiletic fashion: 

         I sometimes wonder if that is what Krishna meant––

        Among other things––or one way of putting the same thing:

        That the future is a faded song . . . (112)

With this distant question, we are interrupted from our morose thoughts, drawn instead, into the mythical dreamworld of the Bhagavad-Gita, the “Holy Song as Eliot called it . . .  embedded in the epic Mahabharata,” (113) forced to go back in memory or to our bookshelves to have another look at, or learn for the first time, what it was that Krishna said “when he admonished Arjuna/On the field of battle.” (114)  And this, while we are in the wrenching process of examining what it was that went wrong in our own lives. 

But this lesson in moving forward is not reserved for Arjuna.  It is for us, too, – especially for us.  And even as this meditative poet persuades us with every image that he conjures, to take those backward glances, the ultimate goal is to “fare forward, voyagers.” (115)  He asks that while we are moving forward in some place out of time, “At the moment which is not of action or inaction,” (116) that we “consider the future/And the past with an equal mind.” (117)  And he gives us very fair warning about the reality that we will find on “the way down” and “the way back,”: (118) That time is no healer: the patient is no longer here.”; (119) “You are not the same people(120) who you were in that long-ago past.

Returning to the subject of Eliot’s purposeful omission of his debt to Heraclitus’s circular thinking about beginnings and endings, we must conclude that although Eliot is fully cognizant of the Greek philosopher’s ideas in this regard, and certainly they are floating around in Eliot’s mind – and in these pages of poems –, he has not here taken Heraclitus as his original starting point.  But, like the “hands/That lift and drop a question on your plate,” (121) we have been called upon to revisit the frag-ments of an ancient wisdom long forgotten, as we were with that question about what Krishna meant.  And having taken the poet’s “overwhelming question[s]” (122) to heart, we have come to a deeper understanding of the music of the Quartets – and of our own song.

Having eliminated Heraclitus as the inspiration for the now-famous line: In my end is my beginning,(123) we can say – with an assured degree of certainty – that his source is not to be found in the place that Eliot scholars seem to have unanimously attributed it to, namely, to “the motto of Mary Queen of Scots (‘En ma fin est mon commencement).” (124)  There is no doubt that it is an exact translation of the Queen’s phrase, but it is neither the source for Eliot – regardless of the fact that a reference to its having been her motto was found scrawled on a scrap of paper somewhere among his notes – nor is it original to the Queen.  His source, as hers, is to be found elsewhere.  “In my end is my beginning,” (125) is the very last line of “East Coker”, the perfect circular ending to the first line of this Quartet’s In my beginning is my end.” (126)  The two are inextricably intertwined, inseparable mirror opposites, and they are from a single source whose origin predates Mary Queen of Scots by some two hundred years. 

The origin of these paired phrases is to be found in a composition of the French poet and composer Guillaume de Machaut (ca. 1300-1377), who was extremely well-known in his time as the author of a considerable number of masterworks of music and, additionally, of poems in their own right that were “greatly admired and imitated by other poets, including Geoffrey Chaucer.” (127)  Although his is not exactly a household name in our own time, except perhaps for Medievalists, any Queen whose mother (Mary of Guise) and grandmother (Antoinette de Bourbon) were French would have been intimately familiar with the poetry and music of Guillaume even centuries later.  As for T. S. Eliot, we shall shortly provide incontrovertible evidence that Guillaume de Machaut’s “Ma fin est mon commencement” is the only possible source for the opening and closing lines of “East Coker”. 

Now, if this discovery is not tantamount to the finding of the First Folio of Shakespeare’s works that Umberto Eco is always going on about, then I’m dreaming. (128)  Ma fin est mon commencement,” the fourteenth rondeau on the composer’s own list of his musical works, compiled for the purpose of showing the order in which he wished them always to be performed, (129) is an intricately enfolded musical joke which has as its basis, a very long-standing Medieval dispute concerning circularity in poetic structure.

        This famous work plays with the traditional closure of the rondeau in

        two ways.  First, the text of the lyric (in which the song speaks in its own

        voice) explicitly calls attention to the formal circularity of the rondeau,

        which implements Geoffrey of Vinsauf’s ideal of using the end of one’s

        text as the beginning. (130)

Here is the original lyric followed by a word for word translation, both courtesy of Rosemarie McGerr, a brilliant and dedicated scholar of the Middle Ages, a Chaucer specialist who, apparently, has no idea whatsoever, or doesn’t care, that Eliot has since made Guillaume’s words even more famous than he could have ever hoped they could become.  No one else has put this together either – not even the illustrious Medievalist Umberto Eco, the master of such connections!

        Ma fin est mon commencement

        Et mon commencement ma fin

        Et teneure vraiement.

        Ma fin est mon commencement.

        Mes tiers chans. iij. fois seulement

        Se retrograde et einsi fin.

        Ma fin est mon commencement

        Et mon commencement ma fin.

Which translates: “My end is my beginning, and my beginning truly my end and tenor. My end is my beginning. My third voice only reverses itself three times and then ends. My end is my beginning, and my beginning my end.” (131)

Perhaps as an allusion to his primary source, Eliot not only begins “East Coker” with “In my beginning is my end,” (132) thus reversing Guillaume’s opening line, and then ends with Guillaume’s opening line, In my end is my beginning,” but, just so we get the point, which we most certainly did not, he drops a hint in the last of these opening thirteen lines about someone else who memorialized the rondeau in a “tattered arras woven with a silent motto.” (133)  That, of course, would be Mary Queen of Scots.  He seems to be having a bit of fun at us.

The dizzying motion of the rondeau’s circular lyric is not the end of it.  It is just the beginning.  Let us not forget that in the original composition the words are linked to the convolutions of the musical score.  We are privileged to enjoy a very precise presentation and analysis of this music as it weaves in and out, backwards and forwards, upside down and right side up, by our very skilled Medievalist who, without knowing, has shed much light on the infinity of beginnings and endings in the Four Quartets.  She informs us that: 

        In addition to the text’s parody of conclusion through recapitulation, the

        lyric’s music contains its own tour de force on recapitulation. To begin

        with, the manuscript sources present only the first half of the tenor part

        of the music. For the second half, this musician must play the first half

        of the part backward, in effect reversing the tenor line and ending where

        it began.


        Next, the manuscripts present the text of the cantus or vocal part of the

        lyric upside down because the music for this part must be read backward.

        The same music read right side up gives the triplum or third musical part

        of the lyric. Not only is the triplum therefore the reverse of the cantus,

        but each half of these parts is the reverse of the other (so that the third

        voice “reverses itself three times and then ends”)

        All three musical parts thus involve mirror imaging and so play self-           

        consciously with the closure convention of recapitulation to the point of   

        creating a mise en abime [‘placement into infinity’]: both music and text    

        take the rondeau’s formal closure to such an extreme that the work as a    

        whole becomes nothing more than beginning and end; and if the end

        is also the beginning, then the lyric becomes either nothing more than

        “end” or a never-ending cycle of beginning and ending. (134)

This sounds like a script for one of Victor Borge’s brilliant comedy routines at the piano – William Tell Backwards comes to mind. (135)  But the literary argument with respect to closure, “the linkage between the beginning and ending of a text,” (136) is a very serious issue to which this rondeau responds, and it is one that is still very much under discussion more than eight hundred years later!

Although Mr. Eliot is not included in McGerr’s all-too-brief, but exceptionally illuminating conversations about “open and closed poetics” in the works of modern authors, James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, as seen through the eyes of Umberto Eco, is the subject of her very next paragraph.  

        It is just this paradox of closure and infinity that Eco finds in the “startling    

        process of ‘openness’” created by the formal circularity of Finnegans

        Wake: Joyce’s novel “is molded into a curve that bends back on itself, like

        the Einsteinian universe. The opening word of the first page is the same as

        the closing word of the last page of the novel. (137) Thus the work is finite

        in one sense, but in another sense it is unlimited.” (138) 


        The paradox of closure and openness can be viewed from a phenomeno-

        logical perspective: though appearing to create a “loop,” such formal

        circularity cannot lead to a return to the beginning of the text that is    

        identical with the beginning as first experienced. As Iser points out,

        when we read the end of the text, it changes our perspective on the

        earlier portions and encourages us to reinterpret their significance so

        that a return to the beginning of the text for a second reading cannot

        possibly repeat our first reading . . . (139)

This is exactly Eliot’s point in the Quartets: that “a return to the beginning . . . that is identical with the beginning as first experienced” is an impossibility.  A return to the past (the beginning) as one remembers how it was so very long ago can never be replicated in time present or time future.  Nearly twenty-five hundred years before Eliot took up the idea, Heraclitus had expressed the thought that because everything is in continual flux, “you cannot step in(to) the same river twice.” (140)  This absolute truth runs like the river itself through all of the Quartets.  And although this is the most common, perhaps all too facile – maybe even shallow – translation of this ancient wisdom, it allows us to quickly grasp the essential idea behind a far more sober thought.  What the widely quoted philosopher is said to have actually said, is found in another of his fragments, which are all that survive of the original book that Heraclitus dedicated to Artemis and left for safe-keeping at her monumental temple in Ephesus:

        Into the same river we descend, and we do not descend;

        we are, and we are not. (141)

Now, if that doesn’t sound like a line from T. S. Eliot, nothing does. 


The eternal round of all living things is a constant theme of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake and, as Joseph Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson have pointedly re-marked in their prodigious key to this compendium of all human knowledge, James Joyce “never tires of telling us, ‘The same returns’.” (143)  But the same is never the same.  Besides, everything is constantly changing and transmogrifying in the Wake and everything runs together because “every part is beginning, middle, and end” (144) in this “gigantic wheeling rebus . . . [in which] all time occurs simultaneously . . . [and] multiple meanings are present in every line. . . .” (145)

It could be said without a moment’s hesitation, and, in fact we have said it some many pages ago, under the heading “Dreaming the World”, that the whole of Finnegans Wake is but the discoursing of a dream, a stream of consciousness dream of a river, one Anna Livia Plurabelle by name, who takes many female forms, and whose waters flow endlessly through the whole work in one form or another from end to beginning and back again.  Although she is everywhere, there is one episode of Finnegans Wake specifically dedicated to her, the so-called “Washers at the Ford” section at the end of Book I (146) that begins:


tell me all about

Anna Livia! I want to hear all

        about Anna Livia. Well, you know Anna Livia? Yes, of course,

        we all know Anna Livia. Tell me all. Tell me now. You’ll die

        when you hear. . . . (147)

In his introductory remarks to his slender volume introducing the works of Joycean prose in 1942, T. S. Eliot tells us that a volume entitled Anna Livia Plurabelle had been “published separately, before the completion of the whole work,” (148)  which he goes on to say is a “fantasy of the course of the river Liffey . . . [which later became] the best-known part of Finnegans Wake.” (149)  At the time of Anna Livia’s publica-tion in 1930, Finnegans Wake was still very much a ‘work in progress’ and Joyce, being Joyce, its working title became, Work in Progress, by which it was known for years and years.  The first little edition of these works, this Anna Livia Plurabelle, which is still in print from the same publisher,

        was one of Joyce’s favourite passages, and one that he believed justified

        his prodigious experiment with night language and meaning. He described

        it to his great patron . . . as ‘a chattering dialogue across the river by two   

        washerwomen who as night falls become a tree and a stone. The river is  

        named Anna Liffey.’ And to another friend he wrote that ‘it is an attempt to

        subordinate words to the rhythm of water.’ Into this flowing poetic prose he

        wove hundreds of river names and associations. (150)

Among the thousands and thousands of sources which can be cited in Finnegans Wake, there is one that, for obvious reasons, stands out above all, and that is the ancient tale of Fionn, or Finn mac Cumhail (‘Fair Son of the Hazel’), the boy-hero of Irish myth whose name is echoed throughout the novel whose very title bears his name. (151)  It is told in the Irish saga of Fionn, that before the waters of the goddess Boann welled-up, flowing over to form the River Boyne, there was only a magic well, famed among Druids.  The sacred well was shaded by nine magic hazel trees whose crimson nuts dropped into the water and were eaten by the salmon who thus gained knowledge of all things, and when the salmon were themselves partaken, the wisdom of the world was thus obtained. 

And though I have not heard tell of it, this magical well must have been the very well from which James Joyce drew his poetic inspiration for a river whose waters flowed with the knowledge of all that there is to know, of everything that has ever existed in time pastpresentfuture.  We can see from his writing that Joyce was fond of “druidical brooding,” and “the logic of . . . druidic myth,” (152) but beyond this, as a poet, and as an Irish poet in particular, he could not have avoided this bubbling well and its overhanging hazel branches whose nuts contained the kernels of poetic inspiration and wisdom so longed for by the Druid poets before him.  Like himself, they sought to capture what Joyce would call all space-time in a knotshell. (153)

The Irish tend to name their rivers after goddesses.  Such was that of the Anna Liffey that flows through Dublin.  There is nothing unusual about that.  But there is only one river in all of Ireland with a history of other famously revered “river names and associations” (154) attached to it in the same manner as that which flows through James Joyce’s Wake of watery magic.  And that is the river of the goddess Boann, whose own saga, like Finn’s, begins at this magic well of inspiration. (155)  Boann’s dramatic tale, which is the story of the bursting forth of the well in response to her triple circumambulations trod in a left-hand widdershins path, is related in a number of texts which Joyce must surely have read – and loved. 

The most well-known of these, the Metrical Dindshenchas, is a collection of Druidical bardic verse recitations of the mythological histories of notable places in the Irish landscape.  The opening lines of her history trace the meandering geo-graphical paths of some of the most noble rivers of the world.  “Fifteen names . . . given to this stream we enumerate from Sid Nectain away till it reaches the paradise of Adam,” it reads. (156)  From their point of origin at the well, the majestic rivers flow effortlessly one to the other, until finally, they return from Paradise to their source, the font of wisdom which has, in the meantime, become the river named for Boann, the River Boyne.  To become that river, she has quite literally drowned in its waters, in all of the knowledge of the world.  In her own way, she, like Anna Livia Plurabelle, is, was, and will be forever changing.  How could a James Joyce resist a story like this?  Oh, did we mention that Boann is the mother of Brigid, the Irish “goddess whom poets worshipped”? (157)

Always looking at the world from the other side of things, the misguided genius, Terence McKenna, counterculture hero, ethnobotanist, and psilocybin mushroom promoter, who memorized passages from James Joyce in his youth before the days of his drug consciousness, and years later, named his son Finn, (158) shared some of his thoughts about Anna Livia Plurabelle at a conference at Big Sur’s Esalen Institute in 1995.  

        In some ways, more realized as a character, or more lovable [than HCE] if   

        that’s the word, is Anna Livia Plurabelle. I mean, Anna Livia Plurabelle is   

        Molly Bloom on acid, basically. Molly Bloom, we don’t lose her outlines,    

        we understand Molly. And because Molly doesn’t offer us that much of her

        own mind, she stands for the eternal feminine. But only in the final soliloquy

        of Ulysses, do we really contact her. Anna Livia, it’s her book, it may in fact

        be her dream, and the whole thing is permeated with her tensions and her  

        cares. . . . Anna Livia is always there, she’s always there.

        And in the Wake, you could almost say that Molly Bloom’s soliloquy has  

        been expanded to 300 or 400 pages. And the whole thing is a meditation on

        the river. The river is the feminine, and the first image and the last image of 

        the book is the river. The river dissolves everything and carries it out to

        sea. . . .

        And then it’s very optimistic, I mean, Molly Bloom’s speech is probably the

        single most optimistic outpouring in all of 20th century literature. Not that 

        there was much competition. The final affirmation. (159) 

That final “Yes” is the word that brings Joyce’s tale of Ulysses to an end in a soaring climax of orgasm:

        . . . and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he    

        asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put

        my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel

        my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes

        I said yes I will Yes. (160)

So soft this morning, ours. Yes.(161) is the quiet calm atmosphere that the river herself describes in her soliloquy that ends, or begins, Finnegans Wake “with Anna Livia slipping Finn, her lover, in again, as she enters the bay at Ringsend,” (162) moving, moving ever so slowly, as she wends her way out to sea.  We are so accus-tomed to the predilection for shapeshifting that is so naturally present throughout the Wake, and so fondly remembered from the myths and folklore of our childhoods and beyond, that we are hardly aware of the smooth subtle sea-change that Anna is in the process of undergoing.  It is the dawning of a new day as the river goddess “runs through Dublin into Dublin Bay to meet the sun-god hero Finn,” (163) drifting out to the salt-sea ocean on this “soft morning,(164) dreaming, and not dreaming.

It is she who speaks in mid-transformation:

        . . . I’m loothing them that’s here and all I lothe. Loonely in me

        loneness. For all their faults. I am passing out. O bitter ending! I’ll

        slip away before they’re up. They’ll never see. Nor know. Nor miss me.

        And it’s old and old its sad and old it’s sad and weary I go back to you,

        my cold father, my cold mad father, till the near sight of the mere size

        of him, the moyles and moyles of it, moananoaning, makes me seasilt 

        saltsick and I rush, my only, into your arms. . . . My leaves have drifted

        from me. All. But one clings still. I’ll bear it on me. To remind me of  

        Lff! So soft this morning, ours. Yes. Carry me along, taddy, like you

        done through the toy fair! If I seen him bearing down on me now under

        whitespread wings like he’d come from Arkangels, I sink I’d die down

        over his feet, humbly dumbly, only to washup. Yes, tid. There’s where. 

        First. We pass through grass behush the bush to. Whish! A gull. Gulls.

        Far calls. Coming, far! End here. Us then. Finn, again! Take.

        Bussoftlhee, mememormee! Till thousandsthee. Lps. The keys to. Given!

        A way a lone a last a loved a long the (165)

Thus does Anna Livia Plurabelle drop off in mid-stream, so to speak, only to begin again at the very same point at which her sentence has peacefully drifted away. “There is no end of it.” (166)  There is only the natural rhythm of the river’s flow that closes and opens all that we have experienced.  It is a rapturous moment of ending and not ending. 

Why then, of all the people in the world who would understand this as would no other, do we find that T. S. Eliot has interpreted “the final passage,” (167) as “a passage which becomes, deliberately, more lucid as the dreamer of the book ap-proaches waking consciousness . . .” (168) It is hard to imagine that he was speaking of the ending and not the beginning, because as the river describes herself floating out to sea, the day may be dawning, but she is drifting blissfully asleep – dreaming, one hopes.  By the time she “approaches waking consciousness,” still not quite fully awake, she has returned to the beginning, again, at which point she resumes her sentence exactly where she left off in drift but, now, with that sense of urgency that fast moving currents have: “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and environs.” (169)

We can be sure of her state because, as Samuel Beckett has stressed about the aliveness of James Joyce’s writing, “When the sense is sleep, the words go to sleep.   . . . When the sense is dancing, the words dance.” (170)  And so forth.  So, if we follow the sense, then, everything becomes clear.  At the end which is not end, the state of Anna Livia’s awakeness depends entirely upon how far back one goes in her solilo-quy.  Things are changing sentence by sentence.  And there are layers and layers of meaning in-between. 

And, whereas we have been discussing only the very last part of Anna Livia Plurabelle’s long, rambling, wonder-filled monologue, Joseph Campbell in Mythic Worlds, Modern Words: On the Art of James Joyce, begins his analysis at an earlier point in the middle of the night than we have, going back about a page to:    But you’re changing, acoolsha, you’re changing from me, I can feel. Or is it me is? I’m getting mixed,” (171) which he describes, in seeming agreement with Mr. Eliot, as “her meditation as she is waking.” (172)  She is, in fact, extraordinarily hyper-lucid at this point, just as the “baylight’s growing.” (173)  But as she reviews her all-too-human life of “a hundred cares, a tithe of troubles,” (174) at last perceiving realities earlier glossed over, she herself is transmogrifying – changing to her river personality – “loothing them that’s here and all I lothe,” (175) drifting off to the sea of the unconscious world of dream, “passing out.” (176)

In this flowing stream of dream-consciousness that was James Joyce’s final literary masterpiece, “everything comes together in the river.” (177)  And whatever else Anna Livia Plurabelle is, and she is all that you can think of, “by subtle transposition, Eve, Isis, Iseult, a passing cloud, a flowing stream. . . . the eternally fructive and love-bearing principle in the world . . . ,” (178)

        . . . above all, Anna is a river, always changing yet ever the same, the 

        Heraclitean flux which bears all life on its current. Principally, she is the    

        river Liffey, running through Dublin, but she is also all the rivers of the

        world . . . . She is the circular river of time, flowing past Eve and Adam in   

        the first sentence of the book, bearing in her flood the debris of dead civili-

        zations and the seeds of crops and cultures yet to come. (179) 

In the words of the “gossipaceous” (180) washerwomen who chatter back and forth from opposite sides of her river’s banks like the incessant babbling of a brook: “Anna was, Livia is, Plurabelle’s to be.” (181)

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times...

In life after life, in age after age, forever.

Rabindranath Tagore, Unending Love. (182)