June 16,2003: Though I Thy Mithridates Were (James Joyce)

Dear readers,

Oh, did I type ’04 by mistake? Well, no matter. Bloom’s Day celebrates the
day depicted in James Joyce’s magnum opus, ULYSSES. There are parties the
world around. The book in questions features the peregrinations, both
mental and physical, of Leopold Bloom in the city of Dublin on June 16th,
1904 (the novel was published in 1922). So I imagine next year it will be
a pretty damn big party.

His fame as a novelist certainly overshadows his achievements as a poet,
but Joyce claimed that "The poet is the intense center of the life of his
age…He alone is capable of absorbing the life that surrounds him and of
flinging it abroad again amid planetary music." And there is an anthology
titled "Irish Poetry after Joyce," suggesting that his influence on verse
has also been strong. He published two books of poetry in his lifetime,
and this example is from the first, CHAMBER MUSIC. It comes with a trivia
question, for that Mithridates character has cropped up in earlier
Monday’s Verse poems–way earlier, when this list was about 10 names long.
Who is he, and what has he to do with the poem?

[Though I Thy Mithridates Were]

Though I thy Mithridates were,
Framed to defy the poison-dart,
Yet must thou fold me unaware
To know the rapture of thy heart,
And I but render and confess
The malice of thy tenderness.

For elegant and antique phrase,
Dearest, my lips wax all too wise;
Nor have I known a love whose praise
Our piping poets solemnize,
Neither a love where my not be
Ever so little falsity.

-1907

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