Goodbye, Sweetheart, Goodbye

In Brief

In Sirens, strains of a 19th century popular song called "Goodbye, Sweetheart, Goodbye" float out of the Ormond bar. Although fragments of the song lyrics appear in the text, they are supplied from someone's memory (the narrator's?), because the song is paradoxically "voiceless": "A voiceless song sang from within." It quickly becomes clear that someone is playing the song on the bar's piano, and after the last strains are heard it appears that that person is Simon Dedalus. At the end of the novel Molly thinks of how well he used to sing "Goodbye, Sweetheart, Goodbye."

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John Liptrot Hatton composed the song in the early 1860s, with words written by Jane Williams. Seven phrases are reproduced in the text of Sirens: "The bright stars fade . . . the morn is breaking . . . The dewdrops pearl . . .  And I from thee . . . to Flora's lips did hie . . . I could not leave thee . . . Sweetheart, goodbye!" These appear at intervals realistically corresponding to the time it takes Simon to play the music on the piano, though one of them is inexactly remembered:
The bright stars fade, the morn is breaking,
The dew-drops pearl each bud and leaf,
And I from thee my leave am taking,
With bliss too brief, with bliss, with bliss too brief.
How sinks my heart with fond alarms,
The tear is hiding in mine eye,
For time doth thrust me from thine arms.
Goodbye, sweetheart, goodbye!
For time doth thrust me from thine arms.
Goodbye, sweetheart, goodbye!
The sun is up, the lark is soaring,
Loud swells the song of Chanticleer,
The leveret bounds o'er earth's soft flow'ring,
Yet I am here, yet I, yet I am here.
For since night's gems from heaven do fade,
And morn to floral lips doth hie,
I could not leave thee though I said
Goodbye, sweetheart, goodbye!
I could not leave thee though I said
Goodbye, sweetheart, goodbye!

After the words of the first line are heard, the text describes the medium of the performance, a piano accompaniment calling for a singer: "A duodene of birdnotes chirruped bright treble answer under sensitive hands. Brightly the keys, all twinkling, linked, all harpsichording, called to a voice to sing the strain of dewy morn, of youth, of love's leavetaking, life's, love's morn." No singer answers the call, apparently, but after the final words, Simon Dedalus walks through the bar and is invited to sing: "Sighing, Mr Dedalus came through the saloon, a finger soothing an eyelid. / — Hoho, we will, Ben Dollard yodled jollily. Come on, Simon. Give us a ditty. We heard the piano." Simon resists the invitation—"I was only vamping, man"—but he is soon persuaded to sing another song, "M'appari." In Penelope Molly recalls how naturally he used to sing the titular lines of "Goodbye, Sweetheart, Goodbye," as opposed to the ludicrous artificiality of Bartell Darcy: "goodbye sweetheart sweetheart he always sang it not like Bartell Darcy sweet tart goodbye."

Zack Bowen observes that the opening strains of the song are heard as Blazes Boylan approaches the Ormond, and that he leaves at the song's conclusion:
— ... Sweetheart, goodbye!
— I'm off, said Boylan with impatience. 

Despite whatever the song may mean to Bloom, then (he is present in the dining room for part of it), it is associated much more strongly with his antagonist, and the association is ironic: a Casanova saying his goodbyes in order to hurry off to an adulterous conquest is serenaded by a tender song about a lover having to part from his sweetheart.

JH 2020
Sheet music for Goodbye, Sweetheart, Goodbye published in Richmond, Virginia in 1863 by George Dunn & Co., held in the Duke University Libraries Digital Collections. Source:
The first page of the sheet music.
The second page of the sheet music.