The Sonnets of Stephen Dedalus

Michael Peach


Sonnet 1

For sure a priest I’ll never now become:
I’m through with sado-masochistic faith;
A Church with clergymen puffed-up or glum;
A blood-stained Father, Son and Holy Wraith.
Instead I’ll grow into my pregnant name
And “cunning artificer”, poet, be;
Then my imagination can form and frame
The words that will this nation’s soul set free.
But what if I’m not father but the son –
An Icarus who’s doomed to soar and fall?
Fear not, dear Dad a Daedalus is none:
I’m free to fly and heed my muse’s call.
++I leave tomorrow Ireland for Paris fair;
++Alone I shall my country’s conscience bear.

Sonnet 2

What’s in a name? I’m forced myself to ask,
When friends say mine is antithetical.
Stephen means crown, which might confirm my task
As artist to lead and be heretical.
Too bad, I muse, Saint Stephen met his death
For being a Promethean, like me.
When stoned, he claimed that Jesus of Nazareth
Was Ascended King, whom he right then could see.
Icarus I’m not, but am I Lucifer?
“Non serviam!” was Satan’s proud avowal.
But he belongs to the Apocrypha –
To hell with Pope, Parnell and Baden-Powell.
++Rather than serve the gods which others make,
++I’ll martyr myself for art and beauty’s sake.

Sonnet 3

Though beauty is no more my main concern
(That year in Paris brought me down to earth),
I’m still committed through my art to learn
The truth regarding Ireland’s spirit’s dearth.
Convinced I am her actual vocation
Transcends the Church poor Mother begged me serve
By kneeling at her deathbed and the nation,
Whose promised independence we deserve.
Now I hear once again the cryptic final words
Mum whispered when her time had come to go:
“You’ll meet a kindly leopard, who feeds the birds,
And find at last the word that all men know”.
++Whatever she meant, I mean to stay the course
++Though wracked each day by merciless remorse.

Sonnet 4

Depending on my spleen and state of mind,
Martello Tower’s the Globe and I its host
Or Elsinore, in which I sadly find
I am both Hamlet and his father’s ghost.
I’m trying to probe Shakespeare’s private life:
Why did he flee his childhood’s rural heaven?,
Was he betrayed by a possibly shrewish wife?,
Hamnet, his only son, died when eleven.
Alas, it seems I too will soon be leaving –
Mulligan’s all but usurped this realm and throne.
Beneath the Moon, I feel, I shall be grieving;
Haunting the streets, quite homeless and alone.
++Yet no-one knows what seeds will sprout and bloom
++From Time’s invisible, ever-teeming womb.

28 August 2019

Leopold Bloom

Aired kindly Bloom his tragic-comic streak
As he wandered through the hostile, lively city,
While playing existential hide and seek
In a psychic stream of logic, mirth and pity.
And haunted was he by Rudy, his lost joy,
Whose sudden death had doomed the marital bliss;
He’d now be eleven, the cloud-capped fairy boy
They’d always mourn and never again kiss.
But Bloom didn’t know that by the end of night
He would adopt a soul in search of his own
Or that his earthy wife, her heart alight,
Would long for his return in bed alone.
++Thus he regained a spouse and found a son
++And deemed his odyssey love’s labour’s won.

23 January 2019

Stephen Dedalus

Post midnight from a brothel on Tyrone Lower,
To which flushed Lynch and he had drunk their way,
Like guardian angel or a modern Noah
Kind Bloom delivered him into the day.
It seems his mother’s ghost he’s exorcized:
For in the afternoon, while he conferred
On Shakespeare’s final plays, he realized
He’d solved at last the mystery of “the word”.
Now he can meet the woman of his life,
Whom he shall know when he sees her shining face;
To Europe then he’ll go with this loving wife
In order to forge the conscience of his race.
++For, if made manifest, that sweet word love
++Indeed aligns the below with the above.

21 January 2019


Sonnet 1

Two years have gone since last I saw your face
And three since your father sadly passed away;
The time has come to tell you your kindly grace,
Like his, has touched my soul until this day.
And now that you’re an adult, not a teen –
Though even then you seemed so worldly wise –
It’s surely right to lift the prudent screen:
This love for you I need no more disguise.
Indeed I have adopted the name Bloom,
To celebrate my resurrected life –
Which started when I grasped the heart’s a womb
And sympathy’s a sheath for wit’s sharp knife.
++So, generous Milly, if you feel the same,
++Please join me in Genève and feed the flame.

Sonnet 2

Six years ago, when Paris was the base –
Though only briefly, for my mother died –
I tried to hold a mirror to the race
Through showing Irish folk their artless side.
I meant by “artless” unaesthetic not pure;
For I was still a narcissist within
Who deemed it noble, bold, indeed mature
To cultivate from France my land and kin.
But then one day in Dublin the next year
I had an epiphany which changed my life.
Hence my mother’s words to me on love sincere
Incarnated – bringing me “father”, now a wife.
++And so, dear Milly, here’s the latest news:
++I’ll smear with shame all those who hate the Jews.

Sonnet 3

The two key years I spent with your kind Dad,
Before I went to sojourn in Trieste,
Provided memories both joyful and sad:
Of all the men I’ve known he was the best.
And how appropriate that he should die
Trying to save a drowning scruffy boy:
A pauper with whom he had no social tie –
The sort of kid who’d me those days annoy.
Although he wasn’t religious formally,
He often spoke of the immortal soul;
Needless to say, he’d then add jokingly
Something like “Oh! my shoe has sprung a hole”.
++In short, sweet Milly, your “Papli” was the one
++Who taught me how to temper graveness with fun.

Sonnet 4

In addition to being a humanist indeed,
Poldy was prophetic, in a Jewish way:
Universal justice and freedom were his creed.
You ask me, Milly, if I wish to return
To Ireland at last, now I’ve made a name.
Oh yes, kind dear, but daren’t – lest I unlearn
My hard-earned truths, threatened I fear by fame.
I met a man called Kafka the other night,
A lonely Jew from Prague, no older than me.
He was drinking at a bar in a blue light;
Told me his people soon would sacrificed be.
++With nationalism today the popular view,
++The worthy poet must be a wandering Jew.

Sonnet 5

The only thing that’s true, a friend once said,
In this fickle world impelled by pull and shove
Which honours prophets solely when they’re dead,
Is a natural mother’s unconditional love.
Whereas to me he was a substitute father
Who could at times be also elder brother,
To you, it seems, our Leopold was rather
Both conscientious Dad and spiritual mother.
When a prickly male called him a womanly man
After he’d advocated the female vote,
He claimed by picturing a womb one can
For one’s aggression create an antidote.
++If every man would heed his feminine side,
++The need for war would cease, he prophesied.

Sonnet 6

Your mother helped me find my earthy side,
While your father cured my primal fear of water;
And you should know, kind Milly, before he died
He said I’d learn a lot from his dear daughter.
Pals called me in Greek crowned bull and the ox-soul,
An exegesis of my curious name:
Which brings me back to Leo’s crucial role
As healer and how for him I was the same.
Telling it is that he a Taurus maintained
Deep water reflects the feminine side of life
And that through me, an Aquarius, he sustained
The masculine will to satisfy his wife.
++This aired, my love, I feel a strong desire
++To dive headlong and swim in your sea-fire.

Sonnet 7

When you revealed you’re often called a Yid,
Despite your efforts to disguise your race,
I thought of Poldy’s tales of how he hid
In dreams of Palestine and outer space.
He told me there are farms in Galilee
One’s free to sponsor for a modest sum:
Places to which a Jew could even flee,
If dates and oranges don’t vex his tum.
But here’s the rub, he also prophesied
Religion would pursue those pioneers:
Democracy by theocrats be defied
And hope displaced by hatred, wars and tears.
++Whatever woes in future we will face,
++For us our love shall always be the base.

Sonnet 8

It is a strange coincidence indeed
That, given yesterday’s sonnet, I’ve just met
Here in Zurich a Yank who promises he’ll lead
The world to light: his name is Cashel Bett.
And aptly called, for he claims to be the heir
Of evangelist J. Dowie, whose gross scam
The Church in Zion – more bank than house of prayer –
Declares it washes souls in blood of the Lamb.
Needless to say, I told him to get real:
Which prompted him to state he is Messiah
And like Carl Jung, whom he’d also failed to heal,
I’ll burn eternally in Hell’s great fire.
++As Jesus said, and so did your good Dad,
++Religion fed by blood or money’s bad.

4 July 2019

Sonnet 9

Not least because of Gandhi’s sound advice,
When I met him seven years ago by chance
In an East End London Gents, to be precise,
I’m now convinced we should indeed quit France.
In short, brave Milly, it seems the time has come
To cease at last our exile and sail home,
Before mad Hitler and his fascist scum
Conquer the continent like ancient Rome.
To live in Dublin, though, need never mean
We’ve bought the notion of the nation-state:
Throughout this odyssey we have sadly seen
How tribalism engenders greed and hate.
++But if all accepted their God-given Soul,
++Mankind could unite and Mother Earth be whole.

19 November 2019

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