In Brief

As Bloom leads the way out of his dark house with a candlestick and Stephen follows behind carrying his hat on the tip of his ashplant, the two men seem to be ritually enacting the ancient Hebrews' "exodus" from Egypt, complete with mock "ceremony." The references in this brief passage––not only to the biblical Exodus and Psalms, but also to Jewish Passover services and Christian church rites––collectively imply a filial relationship beween the two men. The impression is strengthened by several echoes of Dante's Purgatorio through which Joyce appears to be suggesting that his protagonists are similar to Virgil and Dante.

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Two questions and answers introduce densely layered allusions: 
     In what order of precedence, with what attendant ceremony was the exodus from the house of bondage to the wilderness of inhabitation effected?

Lighted Candle in Stick borne by
Diaconal Hat on Ashplant borne by

     With what intonation secreto of what commemorative psalm?
      The 113th, modus peregrinus: In exitu Israël de Egypto: domus Jacob de populo barbaro.
At the Seder meal of Passover, when Jews celebrate their liberation from Egyptian captivity, the head of each household, assisted by his grown sons, intones sentences from the Haggadah telling the Exodus story of the night when an angel of God killed the firstborn sons of Egypt, convincing the pharaoh to let his Hebrew slaves depart into the wilderness of the Sinai peninsula. In Aeolus Bloom slightly misremembers the language he learned from his father: "All that long business about that brought us out of the land of Egypt and into the house of bondage." Ithaca corrects the preposition ("the exodus from the house of bondage to the wilderness of inhabitation"), and now Bloom plays the patriarch, taking the "order of precedence" while Stephen follows behind him. Are they actually conducting a mock ceremony? The "intonation" of a sacred text suggests that in fact they are.

The biblical verse chanted, "In exitu Israël de Egypto: domus Jacob de populo barbaro" is rendered in the King James Bible as "When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language" (Psalms 114:1). This verse is indeed featured in the Hebrew Haggadah, but Ithaca quotes it in the Latin of the Vulgate Bible, where the psalm is numbered 113. "The 113th" psalm makes up part of the Vespers service, a set of evening prayers usually performed around sunset. Here it is not only chanted in Latin but introduced by two Latin terms, suggesting that Stephen rather than Bloom is doing the intoning. Gifford notes that "secreto" (secret, separated, set apart) is a direction in the Layman's Missal that is a possible source for Stephen's Liliata rutilantium prayer, indicating that a priest speaks the words "in a low voice."

Joyce criticism has never satisfactorily explained the second term, "modus peregrinus." Gifford offers the gloss "mode of going abroad," while Slote says "foreign manner." Both translations of peregrinus are possible: in ancient Rome the word denoted a subject of the empire who was not a Roman citizen (a foreigner), and by medieval times it had come to mean something more like "traveler" (one going abroad). Gifford's reading in particular seems well suited to the fact that Stephen and Bloom, like the ancient Hebrews, are exiting the house and venturing into the "wilderness." But "mode" and "manner" are not among the primary meanings of modus, and neither translation suggests why the narrative should offer this phrase in Latin.

The religious context of Stephen's chant does. Gregorian chant is performed in various "modes" (scales of note intervals) that originated in antiquity. There are eight standard modes (Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, etc.), but Psalm 113 has traditionally been sung in an alternate mode called tonus peregrinus or "wandering tone," so called because its "tenor" or "reciting tone," the note on which most of a psalm verse is sung, varies from the first half of the verse to the second––it wanders. In Catholic church music the peregrinus mode is associated with Psalm 113 more than any other biblical text. (Whether this pairing came about because the text itself is about wandering, or by coincidence, I cannot say.) Perhaps Joyce misremembered the phrase "wandering note" as "wandering mode" (it does name a mode, after all), or perhaps by substituting modus for tonus he intended to evoke a second meaning, "mode of going abroad."

It appears, then, that as Bloom leads the way to the back door of his house he is also leading Stephen in a fanciful religious rite, having somehow proposed that they conduct a Passover exodus from Egypt, while Stephen plays along by chanting some language appropriate to this theme from the Latin rituals of his church. Like the Seder's patriarchal setting of a father leading his sons, Catholic rites involve a fatherly "celebrant" (priest) and his son-like assistants (deacons and altar boys). Stephen's "Diaconal" hat indicates that he is playing a deacon to Bloom's celebrant, servant to his server, son to his father––an accustomed role for him. His choice of a Latin psalm text to complement a Jewish service continues the sharing of ethnic, religious, and linguistic lore that the two men engaged in earlier in Ithaca. Indeed, in that section of the chapter Bloom chanted the first two lines of a Hebrew anthem: "Kolod balejwaw pnimah / Nefesch, jehudi, homijah." Now Stephen returns the favor.

§ Readers who want to limit their diet of overdetermined signification to what Joyce's words minimally require may wish to stop here, but there is probably more to unpack from this passage. Three of its details––the candle, the psalm, and the word peregrinus––will resonate for those who know Dante's Purgatorio. The last of these is responsible for the phrase often used to refer to the central character of the Divine Comedy, "Dante the pilgrim," but Dante makes clear in an earlier work that peregrino does not primarily mean pilgrim. Section 40 of the Vita Nuova observes that it can refer to people making devotional pilgrimages to Compostela (they are peregrini, while people traveling to Jerusalem are palmieri and those going to Rome are romei), but this is a special case. The general sense is simply "traveler": "chiunque è fuori de la sua patria," someone far away from home. There are seven uses of the word in the Divine Comedy, only one of which refers to travelers on a religious mission. Five uses come in the Purgatorio, the poem about people halfway between earth and heaven (dead souls) and halfway between hell and heaven (Dante). All of them (2.63, 8.4, 9.16, 13.96, 23.16) evoke the condition of leaving home, being on the road, venturesome, nostalgic, lost, free.

The usage relevant to Ithaca comes in canto 2, when a boat arrives at the base of the mountain carrying recently deceased people who are singing Stephen's psalm: "In exitu Isräel de Aegypto" (46). It is clear why Dante has them chant these words. In the letter to Cangrande della Scala in which he explains to his patron his purposes in writing the Comedy, he takes the opening words of Psalm 113 as a text for illustrating the allegorical method of the entire poem: the verse refers literally to the Hebrews' exodus from Egypt but allegorically to the human soul's delivery from sin. The souls in the boat are leaving their earthly lives to enter a new realm, and they are "strangers to the place, gazing about / as though encountering new things" (2.53-54). Not knowing how to go up the mountain they ask Dante and Virgil for directions, but Virgil replies, "'Perhaps you think / we are familiar with this place, / but we are strangers (peregrin) like yourselves. / We came but now, a little while before you, / by another road so rough and harsh / that now the climb to us will seem a pastime'" (61-66). The canto, then, links the figure of the peregrinus to the 113th Psalm, just as Joyce does in Ithaca.

Virgil's words about traveling a "rough and harsh" road refer to the trip that he and Dante took through Hell, at the end of which they emerged to behold the stars––an event that Joyce will echo several sentences later in Ithaca. Between the end of Inferno and the second canto of Purgatorio, there is another image relevant to Joyce's exodus scene. At the base of the mountain, its guardian Cato challenges Dante and Virgil: "What souls are you to have fled the eternal prison... Who was your guide or who your lantern / to lead you forth from that deep night / which steeps the vale of hell in darkness?" (1.40, 43-45). In Dante's cosmos people do not ascend to God by their own power and understanding; everyone requires an intermediary guide.

Dante's lantern in the poem is Virgil, and he is not alone in this respect. In Purgatorio 22 he asks the ancient poet Statius how he found the true faith when his works gave no evidence of it: "what sun, what candles dispelled your darkness so that afterwards / you hoisted sail, following the fisherman?" (61-63). Statius replies that it was the writings of Virgil: "You were as one who goes by night, carrying / the light behind him––it is no help to him, but instructs all those who follow" (67-69). These lines adapt St. Augustine's description of the Jews as a people who "carried in your hands the lamp of the law in order to show the way to others while you remained in the darkness." Now it is a pagan Roman poet who reveals the light of revelation to others while not benefiting himself.
Amid all the other Dantean echoes in this part of Ithaca, it is hard not to hear an allusion to Virgil lighting the way for others in Joyce's picture of a Jew leading Stephen out of his house with a "Lighted Candle." As an uneducated salesman Bloom may seem an unlikely guide for Stephen, but that is true of Virgil as well: as a poet of pre-Christian antiquity he is an unlikely choice to show Dante the path to salvation. Both the Inferno and the Purgatorio play repeatedly on the pathos of his illuminating the way for others while himself being condemned to Hell for not knowing God. As Stephen follows his host to the back door of the Eccles Street house, the allusion suggests that this Catholic apostate has things to learn from a Jewish nonbeliever. Both Dubliners are Dante-like exiles, lonely peregrini who have wandered far from the values of their native communities. They hail from different pasts, and the parting in Bloom's garden suggests that they are bound for different futures as well, but their performance of a mock ritual––one that celebrates exile––proclaims a meeting of kindred spirits like that of the two poets Dante and Virgil.

These Dantean echoes surely represent the author's own construction of the scene, layered on top of his characters' fanciful enactment of a Passover ceremony. It is Joyce, not Bloom or Stephen, who imagines the one as an important paternal inspiration for the other and who suggests simultaneously that they may never become friends or familial relations. This discernment of difference in the show of symbolic unity is also implicit in the detail "house of bondage." For Bloom, the phrase reflects a miserable private preoccupation. Given the meek subservience he displays toward Molly, and her adultery on June 16, his mistake in Aeolus may have been a Freudian slip suggesting that he sees his house as a locus of entrapment. For Stephen, who has been offered a place to sleep and chooses instead to wander off into the night, the phrase may suggest entrapment of a different kind. He has, after all, recited for Bloom the story of the boy who went into a Jew's house to retrieve a ball and had his head cut off with a penknife by the Jew's daughter. Despite all they have shared in Ithaca the two men are running along separate tracks.

JH 2022
The Hebrews moving into the Sinai wilderness, by an unknown artist.
Source: www.myjewishlearning.com
Jewish father reading the Haggadah, fulfilling the commandment to tell the story of the first Passover to his son. Source: free.messianicbible.com.
The Torah opened to the story of the Passover night, in Exodus 12.
Source: free.messianicbible.com.
The traditional German Magnificat, also sung in Vespers, set to a German variant of the tonus peregrinus. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Dante and His Poem, 1465 oil on canvas painting by Domenico di Michelino held in the Duomo, Florence. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Gustave Doré's 1880 illustration of the boat of souls at the base of Purgatory. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The Light of the World, ca. 1851-56 oil on canvas painting by William Holman Hunt held in the Manchester Art Gallery. Source: Wikimedia Commons.