Deshil eamus

Deshil Holles Eamus

In Brief

Joyce said that Oxen of the Sun would develop embryonically through a chronological succession of prose styles inspired by writers of English prose. Here at the beginning, he starts in the style of Latin hymns from the time before England was English. The three percussive paragraphs beginning with "Deshil Holles Eamus"—a phrase compounded from three languages meaning something like "Let us go rightward to Holles Street"—are chanted in a style suggestive of late Roman fertility rites. Throughout this chapter, whenever there seems to be a distinct change, notes beginning with the heading "New Style" will seek to characterize the sources, properties, and purposes of the governing style of the moment.

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According to Stuart Gilbert's James Joyce's Ulysses (1930), Joyce wrote the first three paragraphs "in the manner of the Fratres Arvales" (277). The Arval Brothers were a so-called college of twelve Roman priests who conducted ceremonies dedicated to the Lares, Dea Dia, Ceres, and other gods concerned with fertility and good harvests. Thornton and Gifford, citing evidence uncovered in Theodor Mommsen's History of Rome (1887), add that the ceremonies involved an incantatory hymn written in the early 200s AD, most of whose lines sounded three times (I.294). The hymn concluded with a Triumphe or "Hurrah," which Joyce imitates with "Hoopsa."

Joyce's representation of the evolution of English prose is interesting on many levels, not least in celebrating, and undermining, the language of the conqueror. The chapter starts with three sections (the triply triune chant, a paragraph about valuing fertility, and two more paragraphs about Irish medicine and hospitals) that read like very rough translations of Latin into English. The chant's opening word evokes the Celtic languages of early Britain and Ireland.

"Deshil" is an Anglicization of the Irish deasil (or deasal or deisiol), meaning "turning to the right" or "turning toward the sun." Joyce may have found it in P. W. Joyce's A Social History of Ancient Ireland (2 vols., London and Dublin, 1913, first published in shorter versions in 1903 and 1906). Gifford cites this work as authority for the word's use as "a ritual gesture to attract good fortune, and an act of consecration when repeated three times" (vol. 1, p. 301). Slote, who detects many other debts to Joyce's Social History in the opening paragraphs of Oxen, instead quotes here from the OED: "towards the the same direction as the hands of a clock, or the apparent course of the sun (a practice held auspicious by the Celts)." "Eamus" is Latin for "Let us go," so Deshil Eamus means something like "Let us turn ceremonially to the right"—or toward the sun, which, though gone from the sky at 10 PM, does figure prominently in the chapter's second paragraph as a god dedicated to fertility.

Where? to "Holles" Street, where Dublin's National Maternity Hospital is located. This place consecrated to facilitating childbirth will be the site where the mysteries of fertility are played out. Slote suggests that Deshil Holles may also echo Denzil Holles, the Earl of Clare, after whom the street was named. At the end of Oxen, the young men spill out of the hospital and walk past "Denzille lane" to Burke's pub on the corner of Holles Street and Denzille Street.

This and subsequent style notes are marked with blue hyperlinks at the beginning of new sections. My use of blue links rather than orange ones reflects my decision to focus somewhat more on the styles adopted in Joyce's prose than on particular literary works that he echoed. Weldon Thornton, whose book is titled Allusions in Ulysses (2nd ed., 1968), notes that "This episode poses unique problems for an allusion study, since its style echoes and recapitulates various English styles from Anglo-Saxon literature to modern slang and evangelical oratory, and since Joyce apparently used certain books on English style and literary history as sources for some of the material in the episode. Thus the line between an allusion to a specific work and a parody of a period style is difficult to trace, as is the difference between an allusion to a certain work and Joyce's use of a source that may have included that work" (323).

Given his choice of subject matter, and the fact that Robert Janusko was simultaneously working on the complicated process by which Joyce leafed through anthologies of English prose, recorded phrases from various authors on notesheets, and deployed his borrowings in stylistic pastiches that did not confine themselves to single authors, Thornton settled on a policy "to exclude a 'style' as an allusion, except when Joyce seems to have some specific work in mind. I have also chosen to avoid the study of Joyce's sources and keep the list for this chapter (as for others) focused on allusions present in the final text" (323).

My aim here is different. Although many of my notes will concentrate on individual authors and/or literary works (and thus could be marked by orange links), the central purpose of all these notes is to describe Joyce's composition of a sequence of distinctive styles, often echoing phrases from multiple authors and multiple periods of literary history in a way that makes hash of the idea of a single "allusion." The nearly three dozen such styles found in his finished text do evoke particular dead writers and particular published works, but more strikingly still they show James Joyce having a hell of a lot of fun with the possibilities of English prose.

JH 2021
Marble portrait ca. 160 AD of the emperor Lucius Verus, with crown added later depicting him as an Arval Brother, held in the Louvre Museum, Paris. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Title page of vol. 2 of the 1913 Dublin (2nd) edition of P. W. Joyce's A Social History of Ancient Ireland. Source:
Marble head of a flamen (a pagan priest), ca. 250-260 AD, held in the Louvre, Paris. Source: Wikimedia Commons.