As it was

In Brief

The Gloria Patri, sung as a doxology in Catholic churches, reads, "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen." As Stephen settles into Mr. Deasy's office, he recalls the day he first sat there and weaves the words of the doxology through his thoughts: "As it was in the beginning, is now. On the sideboard the tray of Stuart coins, base treasure of a bog: and ever shall be. And snug in their spooncase of purple plush, faded, the twelve apostles having preached to all the gentiles: world without end."

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To Stephen, they are not words of comfort. Slightly later in this part of Nestor, with the same Trinitarian rhythm drumming in his head, he thinks, "The same room and hour, the same wisdom: and I the same. Three times now. Three nooses round me here. Well? I can break them in this instant if I will." Rather than celebrating payday, he broods morosely on being entrapped in the same bleak reality as before. Nestor began with Blakean thoughts of smashing the order of time and space, and shattering the political order. This titanic ambition acquires more grimly personal expression as Stephen sits in his employer's office thinking of his paycheck as a noose around his neck.

In Proteus, he quotes the Gloria Patri as coda to a more whimsical, lighthearted effort to transcend material reality. Having closed his eyes in the hope of rending the sensory veil and walking into eternity, he acknowledges the unsurprising result: "See now. There all the time without you: and ever shall be, world without end."

JH 2012