On contexts and youth

I very quickly settled on Dana: An Irish Magazine of Independent Thought as my magazine of choice, primarily because I have a particular fondness for the Irish historical and literary tradition, and because it was very stripped down to literary material and the advertisement of additional literary material. The work I picked was in the fourth volume, a poem by James Joyce that was simply titled "Song" (124). This is a pretty little piece I have seen before in various settings, but which has never stood out in particular. It is a very nice poem, but taking the context into consideration made it something more than that.

"Song" is located on an even-numbered page, which in the usual pagination puts it on the left side, directly across from "Literary Notices," by F. M. Atkinson, and directly following William Buckley's "King Diarmuid." In fact, the poem appears on the same page where "King Diarmuid" ends, effectively attaching it to the story like a footnote or a related quote. "King Diarmuid" is the story of a king and hero who meets his doom at the hands of a woman; however, at the last, she takes pity on him and allows him at least to die rather than persist miserably. With this prelude, then "Song" takes on a decidedly less innocent, lighthearted air. Rather than the pleasant praise of a young lover for his lady, it is lonelier, spoken from afar, spoken as a loss and not as a gain.

The "Literary Notices" following the poem seem a little less related and impactful; however, there was one fragment of this section which resonated for me. The first item of notice is a Mr. Swinburne's collected works, the first volume of which has just been released. Swinburne's youth is considered with great delight, and it brings to mind Joyce's own youth at the time of this publication. Atkinson romanticizes the idea of "what I have written I have written," suggesting that a young man's work is no less valid because he was young, that it provides insight into his growth as a writer. The commentary reminded me, as a reader, that even the great James Joyce was at this time a young writer, still getting started. In some ways, it halts my incessant need to read into his poem and urges me to consider its charm, its love for antiquity and its traditions of courtly love (antiquity is another idea discussed with respect to the young Swinburne) which, in many upper-level classes, might otherwise be somewhat brushed over.