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Street SongsWriters and urban songs and cries, 1800-1925$
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Daniel Karlin

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198792352

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198792352.001.0001

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The one-legged sailor and other heroes

The one-legged sailor and other heroes

(p.82) 4 The one-legged sailor and other heroes
Street Songs

Daniel Karlin

Oxford University Press

On the streets of Dublin a drunken navvy bawls out fragments of an Irish revolutionary ballad, and a crippled sailor growls out fragments of an English ballad about a crippled sailor, ‘The Death of Nelson’. These popular songs function, in James Joyce’s Ulysses, as mocking reminders of British rule. Nelson, in particular, the ‘onehandled adulterer’, fits the novel’s plot of sexual conquest and betrayal. Yet the wandering sailor’s associations reach to the deepest sources of the book: to Ulysses, to Sinbad, to Homer. (He also has a surprising ‘real-life’ origin in a one-legged Irish sailor who caused a disturbance in the royal box at Ascot in 1832.) His figure, and the song he sings, correspond to other ‘types’ in the novel, intricately doubled and bonded. In the final section of the novel devoted to Bloom, and in Molly’s concluding monologue, these threads of association are woven together.

Keywords:   James Joyce, Ulysses, one-legged sailor, The Death of Nelson, The Boys of Wexford, Irish political song, Dennis Collins

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