Episode 4

A brief guide to “Calypso”

Prepared by Danis Rose

2021 edition Ulysses pages 61-78
2017 edition Ulysses pages 51-64
1922 edition Ulysses pages [53]-67

Thursday 16 June, 1904: 8.00 to 8.45 a.m., No. 7 Eccles Street and environs.


TITLE and SENSE: Calypso. The Departing Traveller.
SCENE: The House
HOUR: 8 a.m.
ORGAN: Kidney
ART: Economics
COLOUR: Orange
TECHNIC: Narrative (mature)

In Calypso, which has precisely the same time coordinates as Telemachus, we encounter the voyeuristic and disenchanted Leopold Paula Bloom for the first time. He is thirty-eight years of age, five foot nine-and-one-half inches in height and is of full build and olive-skinned. He is at home, up and about early, and, characteristically, preparing breakfast (a burnt offering) for himself and, separately, for his well-endowed wife Marion, aged thirty-three. She lazes abed upstairs reading the cards (red queens), having just finished the [untraced] book Ruby: the Pride of the Ring. He prepares breakfast for a third person also: his cat Pussens, a black queen. Pussens reappears (or disappears) in the Ithaca episode.

Leopold Bloom was born in 1866 (month uncertain) at 57 Clanbrasil Street in Dublin. The house that in that year stood at this address is no longer in existence. Leopold is, it appears, an only child. His father Rudolf Virag, a Jew, came to Dublin from the little-known Szombathély in Hungary. He subsequently, for ungiven reasons, changed his name by deed poll to Rudolph Bloom. Wandering (of course, what else) from city to city – Budapest, Vienna, Milan, Florence, London, and Dublin – he ultimately comes to halt in old age in the county of Clare where, on 27 June, 1886, at the Queen's Hotel in the village of Ennis he commits suicide by self-administration of an overdose of aconite.

Leopold's mother was Ellen Higgins, the second daughter of Julius Higgins (born Karoly) and his wife Fanny Higgins (born Fanny Hegarty). She has predeceased her husband.

Leopold Bloom is at best only loosely a Jew. He was born into a Protestant family, his father having abjured his Judaic faith in 1865 and converted. He (the son) was more formally converted to Catholicism for a second time in 1889 to facilitate his marriage on 8 October 1889 to Marion (Molly) Tweedy. Molly was born on 8 September 1870 and thus, on the day of the novel, is 33 years of age.

Two children were born to the couple: a daughter Millicent (Milly) on 15 June 1889 – and thus 15 years of age in 1904 – and a son Rudy (named after his grandfather) born on 29 December 1893 and dying a mere 11 days later on 9 January 1894.

Milly is on 16 June 1904 in the cattle-town of Mullingar (beef to the heel) in West Meath and is in the employ of Mr Coghlan, a professional photographer.d1 She is earning a respectable 12/6- a week. Leopold is currently gainfully employed in Dublin as a canvasser for advertisements and, being prudent by nature, is now comparatively well-to-do. His wife, when not in bed, is a part-time chanteuse or professional singer and is (or at least was) something of a “looker”.

Both of Molly's parents are defunct, as, as stated, are Bloom's.

Bloom is unhappy living in Eccles Street and throughout the day reminiscences fondly on old acquaintances and happier, more carefree days in earlier addresses.

In this episode of Ulysses, we find ourselves journeying in rocky Ithaca, or, as Joyce transposes it, the now-demolished No. 7, Eccles Street.d2

Calypso herself, eater of nectar and ambrosia, the softly-braided seductress par excellence, is present in the form of the ‘Bath of the Nymph’, a print on the wall above the Blooms' bed. Molly, in balance, relishes a more modern version of this fare: thinly-sliced bread and butter, and tea enriched with Irish Model Dairy viscous cream.

While Molly is enjoying her breakfast, Bloom strolls down to the local butcher (the fictitious “Dlugacz”) for a pork kidney for his own, crossing over to the bright, sun-lit side of Eccles Street, turning right at Larry O'Rourke's pub at the corner (Nos. 72 and 73 Dorset Street, upper) and ambling on down the north-west side of the street past Saint Joseph's National School.

Significantly (find the messenger Hermes), two letters and a postcard have come in the morning mail: a letter to him from his daughter Milly, a card from her to Molly, and a letter of assignation for Molly from Boylan.

The chapter ends with Bloom's intestinal congestion relieved by premeditative defecation in an outdoor jakes in his rear garden, relief arriving as he contemplates a tatty penny-weekly called Titbits. From outside his shady grotto, he hears the loud dark iron bells of the Protestant St George's Church in Hardwicke Place toll the quarter-hour. He is thus informed of the time.


Calypso = The Nymph, Dlugacz
The Recall: Zion = Ithaca
Bloom = Odysseus
Nymph = Calypso
Bedroom = Cave
Tray = Raft
Sunlight = Leucothea

We meet Bloom, marooned in north-side Eccles Street, busy preparing breakfast for his fat-buttocked wife lying abed, reading a smutty novel.

It is the morning of his great day, when he sets out, hat on head, to navigate the perilous labyrinths of Dublin and Dubliners. He will be gone for the livelong day and not return, with young Stephen in tow, till late at night.

First and foremost, he must prepare breakfast, and, while the coals are reddening, he slips outside to pick up something tasty: sliced pork kidney from Dlugacz's, a nearby butcher's shop. (Joyce identifies this shop with “recall.”) While there, he reads a page from a pile of cut sheets advertising waste sandy tracks to be purchased from the government of Turkey which, once purchased, will be planted with eucalyptus trees. This puts him in mind of fruits and of now long-lost pleasant married days gone by and of exotic lands, the ancient lands of his forefathers; but then he internally recoils, finding in his mind's eye only barrenness and desolation.d3

Returning home from the shop, he puts the kidney on a buttered pan and prepares a breakfast tray for Molly. He brings breakfast to her, answers some sleepy questions put to him, and retires to his own meal, reading a recently delivered letter to him (“Papli”) from his only daughter Milly (Millicent), off in Mulligan. Breakfast over, he feels ripe for defecation and pays a visit to an outhouse jakes in the rear garden of his house in Eccles Street. There he sits, enthroned, empties his bowels within the miasma of his own rising stench and reads an old number of the popular magazine Tit-Bits.

The most significant correspondence between Bloom and Odysseus, with respect to Calypso, is not here, but much later on, in Penelope, where we learn of his relationship with Mrs Breen, of whom Molly is at once jealous and contemptuous.d4 Here in Calypso the nymph is reduced to a cheap framed print, The Bath of the Nymph, hanging on the bedroom wall. Molly fronts for Penelope, but she can also be viewed as Calypso and the bedroom can be taken to be her cave. Bloom thinks that the nymph in the print is not unlike her, when she wears her hair down, but slimmer.d5

Bloom for his part is eager to be out and about on the streets and away from the bedroom with its stale smells of old incense, just as Odysseus pines to leave Calypso if he could somehow manage it.

Leucothea, who rises from the deep grey sea to comfort Odysseus, re-appears in Calypso as the sunlight that greets Bloom on his way home from the butcher's shop: a girl with golden hair on the wind running to meet him and banish his solemn musings on Zion.

Other correspondences are exiguous. The tray Bloom uses stands in for the complicated raft Odysseus assembles; and Calypso's ambrosia and red nectar is replaced by Molly's thinly sliced bread-and-butter and tea cooled with Irish Model Dairy viscous cream. In his notes for the episode, Joyce correlated the outside jakes (with the door in need of repair) with the Cave (or Grotto) of the Naiads found in Ithaca, at a point close to where Odysseus is left by the Phaeacians. There is an inside jakes, but Bloom chooses the cooler, outdoor seat, not being arsed to hoof it up the stairs. The exquisite herb-rich bower of Calypso's cave contrasts with the neglected condition of Bloom's garden, though he hopes at some future date to remedy its horticultural failings with some good compost.

Joyce includes in his list of Homeric persons relevant to the episode Callidike, who does not feature in the Odyssey, but rather in another after tale (the Theogony, a poem by Hesiod).d6

At the close, the sequence of the Homeric events, related in 24 books, is ignored by Joyce. He felt free to shuffle the adventures around; thus he has his Odysseus meet his Nausikaa only well on into the story, whereas Homer places it early.

THE ODYSSEY, 12 (Calypso)

Hermes (the winged messenger of the gods)
Calypso (a deathless nymph)
Leucothea (a sea-goddess)
Setting: Olympus, Ogygia (Calypso's fair and fruitful isle)

Dawn breaks and Zeus instructs Hermes, slayer of Argos and the giver and taker of sleep, to visit Kalypso and tell her of his resolve that she allow Odysseus to leave her island unharmed. He must be given tools with which to craft a close-knit raft and supplied with food and wine to sustain him. After nineteen days and much travail, the messenger adds, Odysseus will reach famed Scheria's rich soil in the land of the Phaeacians. He will be acclaimed there and borne thence on a swift ship to Ithaca. He will be given gold and bronze and clothes befitting a prince, more even than what he had plundered in Troy.

Hermes does as ordered and, in the form of a cormorant, he flies low and swiftly over the violet sea to Kalypso's cave where she sits spinning at her golden loom, singing, while down by the shore, as on all other days, melancholy Odysseus gazes forlornly out upon the gray, distancing sea.

Trees thick and shadowed grew round her cave,
Alder trees and black poplars
And the sharp-smelling cypress,
Where rested the long-wingèd birds, owl and hawk
And the yellow-beaked cormorants,
Birds that live above the violet waves.

And wound round the mouth of the cave twines a vine
Heavy with swollen grapes.
Four sister springs flowed beside,
Snow-cold, crystal-clear, side-by-side, flowing left and right.
Grassy meadows spread out before it
Thick with irises, and beds of wild celery.

Gaze, traveller, in wonder,
Heart-stopped at such beauty.

Kalypso has not anticipated Hermes' visit, but she recognizes the god and gives him ambrosia to drink and red nectar; and when he relays his news she shudders to think of the great god's jealous ways, jealous at her love-life with the mortal as he was with many other such couplings. But she is constrained to obey.

When Hermes leaves, Kalypso approaches Odysseus and tells him that he can return to Ithaca and the arms of the lesser woman, Penelope. He must make a raft to take him over the misty sea, and she will give him to drink a bag of wine and a bag of water, delicacies to eat, and garments to wear.

Odysseus is suspicious and expects the goddess will harm him if he tries to leave, but she swears an oath that it is not so. Happy the man, so; and, once fed, they couple passionately for one final time on the nymph's perfume-scented bed.

The next day, given by the nymph a bronze double-headed axe with an olive-wood handle and a polished adze and drills, Odysseus is led to the woods and shown which trees to hew, twenty in all, and this wood he shapes into a large raft with sides of woven willow, with rudder, mast and yardarm, and he raises above it a wide sail of cloth woven by Kalypso.

For four days he planes and joins the wood and, on the fifth, having been bathed by Kalypso, he sets sail from the sacred isle. Star-guided and untroubled, with favourable winds, he sails for seventeen days; but on the last day he is seen by Poseidon, returning from distant Ethiopia. The god, enraged, causes the four winds to blow at once in a perfect storm and darkness to descend. Alone on his raft, cringing, Odysseus pities himself in the engulfing sea. Indecisive, he is tossed about on the waves this way and that, and with a sudden jerk is tossed into the sea to cling desperately to the side of the raft.

Now Leucothea of the lovely ankles, born mortal but now a sea-nymph, pities the drowning man. As a tern rises, so she rises from the waves and settles on the raft and speaks. Odysseus must divest himself of all the fine clothes that hinder him, abandon the raft and swim naked for the Phaeacian coast: otherwise he cannot be saved.

To protect him, the nereid gives him a veil to tie about his waist, a veil he must return to the sea on reaching dry land. And as she came the sea- nymph leaves, narrow-winged, diving swiftly into the sea.

Irresolute, divested, feckless Odysseus still clings to the raft in spite of all, but soon the storm breaks it apart, and all the fearful sea-farer can clutch at is a single plank.

Having no alternative, he decides to swim. Athene orders the winds, save the North, to cease; and for two nights Odysseus struggles; on the third day, he sees the splintered shore of Phaeacia: reefs and crags impossible to cross. But again the goddess protects him: an undertow draws him into a river-mouth and onto dry land. Exhausted by his ordeal, brine-encrusted, he crawls naked into the reed-beds, wondering which is the lesser danger: the cold of the open shore or the wild beasts of the sheltering woods.d7

He chooses the shelter. In a natural bower formed by the all-but-impenetrable interlacing of a thorn tree and an olive tree, he gathers leaves and spreads these about the ground for a bed, and lies inside this tiny sanctuary, pulling over him a blanket of other leaves, and, at evening's end, Athene gently pours sleep into his eyes.

Odyssey 5

Odysseus takes his leave of Kalypso's island home, drifting by raft almost to Phaeacia; however, implacable Poseidon frustrates him and causes winds to capsize his craft. Odysseus clings to a plank and is carried naked to that land and is cast ashore, where he crawls under a bush and sleeps, utterly exhausted. While yet in the water he is aided by Ino, the White Goddess.