My bold Larry

My bold Larry

In Brief

Both Thornton and Gifford suspect an allusion to an Irish song in Bloom's "my bold Larry" in Calypso, though they offer different candidates. Thornton cites the ballad Bold Traynor O, which seems to be echoed in Sirens. Gifford remarks that "Larry is a faintly comic name to the Dublin ear" and cites an example in the ballad The Night Before Larry Was Stretched, which is performed in one of the fantastic parodies in Cyclops.

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Bold Traynor O seems to be performed seldom if at all today, and it may have been obscure in Joyce's day also, but Thornton cites an article by John Hand, "Street Songs and Ballads and Anonymous Verse" in Irish Literature: Irish Authors and Their Writings in Ten Volumes (1904), 3:3265-71, observing that it was one of several songs that "had an immense run in their day" (3270). (Volume III in Thornton's citation seems to be a mistake for VIII. And Hand does not specify what Traynor's "day" may have been.) I have not been able to locate any recordings or even lyrics for this ballad, but its tune is apparently used in a later song called The Flowers of Drogheda. Thornton's claim is strongly supported by the fact that when Boylan rounds the corner of O'Rourke's pub in Sirens Bloom's phrase is varied to sound more like the title of the song: "By Larry O'Rourke's, by Larry, bold Larry O', Boylan swayed and Boylan turned."

The Night Before Larry Was Stretched is much better known today. Various traditional Irish groups have performed and recorded this 18th century ballad, and Elvis Costello recorded it in 1996 on Common Ground: Voices of Irish Music. Although it is listed in Frank Harte's Songs of Dublin, the melody is English and the lyrics draw heavily on cant terms that were as endemic to London as to Dublin. This execution ballad is performed during the execution scene in Cyclops: "Considerable amusement was caused by the favourite Dublin streetsingers L-n-h-n and M-ll-g-n who sang The Night before Larry was stretched in their usual mirth-provoking fashion. Our two inimitable drolls did a roaring trade with their broadsheets among lovers of the comedy element and nobody who has a corner in his heart for real Irish fun without vulgarity will grudge them their hardearned pennies."

JH 2017