On this day…17 October

On 17 October 1906 Joyce wrote to Elkin Mathews about Chamber Music.


Joyce wrote to Mathews on 17 October to say he was rearranging the poems in his collection Chamber Music and that he would send them on in a few days. The letter was in response to Mathews’ letter to Arthur Symons expressing an interest in Joyce’s poems for which Symons was trying to find a publisher.


As it happens, Joyce himself wasn’t rearranging the poems: it was his brother Stanislaus who was working on a new arrangement of the poems. Joyce had lost interest in these early works, many of which had already been published in periodicals, but he still felt that getting them published would be useful and might even bring in some money.


In the manuscript that Joyce circulated in 1905, thirty-four poems had been arranged with three poems as a kind of prelude and another three as an end-piece. The rest of the poems were divided into two sections, the first rising and the second falling, to reflect the movement of a love affair. At the centre of this arrangement was poem XIV. It was not until the manuscript was being sent to the Elkin Mathews that Joyce added two more poems: XXXV and XXXVI.


Stanislaus reordered the poems according to similarities of mood, but in a letter of 18 October 1906 Joyce claimed he didn’t understand some of Stanislaus’ arrangement, and asked him to make clear what he intended. Joyce also didn’t like the title any longer, thinking that it was too complacent. Nonetheless, the title stood and so did Stanislaus’ ordering of the poems, so the collection as we read it today represents Stanislaus’ arrangement rather than Joyce’s earlier arrangement.


The poems’ titles are listed below in the order of Joyce’s 1905 arrangement. The Roman numerals indicate the order of Stanislaus’ arrangement.


Preludes XXI ‘He who hath glory lost’
  I ‘Strings in the earth and air’
  III ‘At that hour when all things have repose’
Rising II ‘The twilight turns from amethyst’
  IV ‘When the shy star goes forth in heaven’
  V ‘Lean out of the window’
  VIII ‘Who goes amid the green wood?’
  VII ‘My love is in a light attire’
  IX ‘Winds of May, that dance on the sea’
  XVII ‘Because your voice was at my side’
  XVIII ‘O Sweetheart, hear you’
  VI ‘I would in that sweet bosom be’
  X ‘Bright cap and streamers’
  XX ‘In the dark pine-wood’
  XIII ‘Go seek her out all courteously’
  XI ‘Bid adieu to girlish days’
Centrepiece XIV ‘My dove, my beautiful one’
Falling XIX ‘Be not sad because all men’
  XV ‘From dewy dreams, my soul, arise’
  XXIII ‘This heart that flutters near my heart’
  XXIV ‘Silently she’s combing’
  XVI ‘O cool is the valley now’
  XXXI ‘O, it was out by Donnycarney’
  XXII ‘Of that so sweet imprisonment’
  XXVI ‘Thou leanest to the shell of night’
  XII ‘What counsel has the hooded moon’
  XXVII ‘Though I thy Mithridates were’
  XXVIII ‘Gentle lady, do not sing’
  XXV ‘Lightly come or lightly go’
  XXIX ‘Dear heart, why will you use me so?’
  XXXII ‘Rain has fallen all the day’
  XXX ‘Love came to us in time gone by’
  XXXIII ‘Now, O now, is this brown land’
Endpiece XXXIV ‘Sleep now, O sleep now’
Added later XXXV ‘All day I hear the noise of waters’
  XXXVI ‘I hear an army charging upon the land’




Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. I edited by Stuart Gilbert, vols II & III edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1957, 1966.

– -: Poems & Shorter Writings, edited by Richard Ellmann, A Walton Litz & John Whittier-Ferguson, London: Faber & Faber, 1991.

– -: Poems & Exiles, edited with an Introduction and Notes by JCC Mays, London: Penguin Books, 1992.

Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.