Ecce Puer by James Joyce

I love James JoyceDubliners is probably the first collection of short stories I ever read in its entirety – perhaps the only one in fact. My dad passed on his battered copy of the book when I was maybe 12 or 13. From that first reading I studied Joyce’s Dubliners almost every year until I graduated in 2010.

When I die, Dublin will be written in my heart.”

James Joyce

You might imagine that is enough to put anyone off Joyce for life, and I’ll admit there was a period after an intense third year module at the University of Liverpool which almost managed to do it. But not quite.

I’m not sure if I’d ever pick up Ulysses again, at least not with the intention of reading for pleasure. I doubt whether I shall ever manage to get through Finnegan’s Wake. But I know that I will return to Dubliners again. It is one of those wonderful books that, no matter how many times you read it, you can still climb back beneath the covers and simply enjoy the craft and charm of the stories, or should the mood take you, delve deeper into the hidden undercurrents to discover more. A little like the city itself.

My family left Dublin when I was seven, moving north to my mother’s home county of Tyrone but my heartstrings never left Dublin. Even now in my adopted city of Liverpool, I often pine for Dublin.

And at times like that it is a comfort to have a bit of Joyce on a nearby bookcase.

Ecce Puer

Of the dark past
A child is born.
With joy and grief
My heart is torn.

Calm in his cradle
The living lies.
May love and mercy
Unclose his eyes!

Young life is breathed
On the glass;
The world that was not
Comes to pass.

A child is sleeping:
An old man gone.
O, father forsaken,
Forgive your son!

James Joyce

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