George's Church

In Brief

St. George's is a Protestant church sited a little southeast of the Blooms' house at 7 Eccles Street, just across Dorset Street. When Bloom leaves his front door and crosses "to the bright side" of Eccles, he can see the sun "nearing the steeple of George's church." At the end of Calypso he hears the bells in the steeple winding up to sound the hour: "A creak and a dark whirr in the air high up. The bells of George's church. They tolled the hour: loud dark iron." Those bells keep ringing in Circe, Ithaca, and Penelope. Determining the time at the end of Calypso from the tolling of the bells is a small enigma, whose solution is 8:45.

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The episode records multiple peals that Bloom hears, nursery-rhyme fashion, as six soundings of "Heigho!" He infers, "Quarter to," or 8:45 AM if one believes what Joyce's schemata tell us about the hour of the episode. How do twelve sounds give him this information? Gifford notes that "The bells sound the time in the Westminster pattern: each phrase of four notes indicates a quarter hour, and at the end of the hour, after four phrases, a low bell tells the number of hours." Each linguistic "Heigho" is two bells, and each melodic line of four notes ("Heigho! Heigho!") signifies one quarter of an hour. Three such lines, then, mean 45 minutes past the hour. The bells marking the hour would only come after four lines, so what Bloom hears next is only an overtone: "There again: the overtone following through the air, third."

Circe echoes the language of Calypso as Dubliners prepare to execute Bloom: "The bells of George's church toll slowly, loud dark iron." As in the earlier episode, the bells say, "Heigho! Heigho!" Later in Circe, when Bloom is apotheosized as Lord Mayor, monarch, and Savior, "Joybells ring in Christ church, Saint Patrick's, George's and gay Malahide."

Ithaca marks the approach of Stephen and Bloom to Bloom's house by noting that "they crossed both the circus before George's church"—the semicircular plaza before the church's facade. As the two men bid each other adieu midway through the episode, the shaking of their hands is accompanied (in a nursery-rhyme rhythm reminiscient of "Heigho!") by "The sound of the peal of the hour of the night by the chime of the bells in the church of Saint George." This time, Bloom hears only two lines of "Heigho, heigho," suggesting that the time is 1:30 AM. Stephen, similarly, hears two lines of words from the Liliata rutilantium prayer, suggesting that when he heard the prayer in three lines at the end of Telemachus, he too was hearing bells signaling a time of 8:45.

In Penelope Molly uses the bells as her husband has in Calypso, to tell the time: "wait theres Georges church bells wait 3 quarters the hour l wait 2 oclock well thats a nice hour of the night for him to be coming home at." She hears three four-note sequences, then a fourth one signaling "the hour," then "1 wait 2" more low bells saying what hour it is, 2:00 AM.

JH 2014
St. George's in the 1950s, seen from the perspective of Bloom's front door, looking SE across Dorset Street. Source: William York Tyndall, The Joyce Country.
Detail of Bartholomew's Plan of Dublin, 1900. St. George's Church lies to the right of Dorset Street, Eccles Street to the left. Source: David Pierce, James Joyce's Ireland.