The stream of life
stream of life
As Bloom thinks of taking a bath at the end of Lotus
Eaters, he inexactly recalls two lines from Maritana,
a sentimental light opera from the mid-19th century. The aria
In Happy Moments Day by Day is about how precious
experiences succumb to the passage of time but are preserved
by the power of memory, "Which in the flight of years we
trace, / Is dearer than them all." Bloom's version is "Always
passing, the stream of life, which in the stream of life we
trace is dearer than them all." Although the operatic
melody seems to be playing in his head as he comes up with
these words, he adds a striking image very much his own.
The three-act Maritana was written by Irish composer
William Vincent Wallace and English librettist Edward Fitzball
(born Edward Ball). It premiered at the Theatre Royal in Drury
Lane, London, in November 1845 and was produced in Dublin in
1846. After runs in Philadelphia, New York, and Vienna, the
opera returned to Dublin in 1877 and to London in 1880 and
1902. Productions were still being mounted in London in the
1920s and 30s, and the Royal Dublin Society brought it to the
concert stage in 2006.
James Joyce was evidently fond of the work. The bass who
sings in "A Mother," Mr. Duggan, "had become a first-rate artiste.
He had appeared in grand opera. One night, when a operatic artiste
had fallen ill, he had undertaken the part of the king in the
opera of Maritana at the Queen's Theatre." In The
Dead, Mr. Browne waxes rhapsodic about "the old Italian
companies that used to come to Dublin—Tietjens, Ilma de
Murzka, Campanini, the great Trebelli, Giuglini, Ravelli,
Aramburo. Those were the days, he said, when there was
something like singing to be heard in Dublin. He told too of
how the top gallery of the
old Royal used to be packed night after night, of how
one night an Italian tenor had sung five encores to Let Me
Like a Soldier Fall, introducing a high C every time."
This is an aria in the second act of Maritana.
The aria that comes next is sung by the villain Don Jose:
In happy moments day by day,
The sands of life may pass,
In swift but tranquil tide away
From time’s unerring glass.
Yet hopes we used as bright to deem
Remembrance will recall,
Whose pure and whose unfading beam
Is dearer than them all.
Though anxious eyes upon us gaze,
And hearts with fondness beat,
Whose smile upon each feature plays
With truthfulness replete.
Some thoughts none other can replace
Remembrance will recall,
Which in the flight of years we trace
Is dearer then them all.
The song's images of transience—sands in a glass, tides,
flight—are transformed in Bloom's memory into a "stream."
This image evocatively anticipates the final paragraph of Lotus
Eaters, where Bloom will picture his penis as "a languid floating flower."
For some readers it may also recall Heraclitus' saying that
you cannot step into the same river twice: all things are
constantly in motion. Just as the lotus-penis promises
continuation in the midst of flux, the stream changes from
moment to moment but remains the same in memory.