J. F. Byrne, The Silent Years: An Autobiography with Memoirs of James Joyce and Our Ireland (NY: Farrar, Straus & Young 1953)

[Source: Contributed by Frank Callery via Facebook; 07.11.2014.]

“One day late in March 1902, Joyce said to me, “I have another poem for you.” “Good I said, “give it to me”. “I have it in the rough here, but I’ll write it out for you.” “You know I told you that I have an appointment at four o’clock in connection with the handball tournament, and it is nearly that now. Give me the rough and I’ll copy it myself in one-quarter the time is would take you to write it.” He did; and I did. And that copy of Joyce’s poem written by me with a pencil on two library slips so many years ago is still in my possession. On the second slip where the word ‘sorrow’ occurs in the poem, Joyce drew a mark over that word, and he wrote in the margin “Accent divided equally.”
 Here is a reproduction of the poem, verbatim et literatim, as I copied it from Joyce’s rough:

I.
Oh it is cold and still — alas!—
The soft white bosom of my love,
Wherein no mood of guile or fear,
But only gentleness did move.
She hears as standing on the shore,
A bell above the water’s toll,
She heard the call of, “come away”
Which is the calling of the soul.

II.
They covered her with linen white
And set white candles at her head
And loosened out her glorious hair
And laid her on a snow-white bed.
I saw her passing like a cloud,
Discreet and silent and apart.
O, little joy, and great sorrow
Is all the music of the heart.

III.
The fiddle has a mournful sound
That’s playing in the street be -
And who is there to say me no?
We lie upon the bed of love
And lie together in the ground:
To live, to love and to forget
Is all the wisdom lovers have.


Joyce was fond of music and at that time I was even fonder of it than he was. During the far-flung visits of the Rouseby, and Carl Rosa Opera Companies, we went to as many operas as we could afford. In our very youthful days we enjoyed such popular favorites as “Trovatore” “Maritana” “The Bohemian Girl” “Lily of Killarney,” and such like, but as we grow older, it was Wagner who attracted us - especially by such of his music dramas as “Tristan and Isolde,” and “Lohengrin.”
 In the dramatic field we looked forward to the occasional visits of, for instance, Osmond Tearle, whose repertory was chiefly, but not exclusively, Shakespearean. Tearle’s locale was always the Gaiety Theatre; and in that theatre, whether we were attending opera, play or pantomime, Joyce has the peculiar whim to sit at the extreme right of the top gallery (the gods). From this vantage point you looked down almost vertically on the players. I did not like the spot at all, but Joyce was so childishly eager to sit there that, of course, I agreed to sit with him.
 Once in a while during the period of which I have been writing, Joyce developed an urge to set something to music. Usually it was one of his own pieces of verse, but at one time in 1902 he labored lovingly over composing an accompaniment for James Clarence Mangin’s [sic]  beautiful poem “Dark Rosaleen”. Towards the south end of the Aula Maxima in University College, and on its west side, there was a door leading to a small room in which was a pianoforte. Joyce and I went there on many a night, so that I could hear him sing the aria he had in mind and then play them for him. And sometimes on these nights, in order not to attract attention, we stayed in that room in pitch darkness - singing almost sotto voce and I playing the piano pianissimo. Whether Joyce’s accompaniment to Mangin’s “Dark Rosaleen” has ever been published I do not know. But I do know that after all these years I remember perfectly the air for it which he sang to me, and which I played for him, in the dark. [..]

(q.pp.)