|Joyce's sketch of Leopold Bloom, wth the line from Homer, |
"Tell me, Muse, of that manyminded man, who wandered far and wide."
This year is the 100th anniversary of the publication of James Joyce's epic modern novel Ulysses, which was published in Paris by Sylvia Beach on February 2, 1922—Joyce's 40th birthday.
José Francisco Batiste Moreno in his astonishing paper Leopold Bloom's Tea-Pot presents evidence for Bloom, and Joyce, being influenced by hashish. In 1902, Joyce hung out with hashish-taking authors William Butler Yeats and Arthur Symons in Paris, "a city once again overcome by the deliquescence of hemp; especially the colorful artistic life of Montmartre, that around the turn of the century was experiencing a new cycle of a true psychotropic revolution based on the green hempen pill."In 1902, Joyce went to Paris with an introduction from hashish-taking author William Butler Yeats, some say to follow in the footsteps of Verlaine and Baudelaire (who also took hashish). Joyce reportedly spent time with Yeat’s party buddy Arthur Symons in "a city once again overcome by the deliquescence of hemp; especially the colorful artistic life of Montmartre, that around the turn of the century was experiencing a new cycle of a true psychotropic revolution based on the green hempen pill." The “Circe” chapter of Ulysses is said to "rework the visionary literature of Gérard de Nerval and Rimbaud," two more French hashish-takers. In Homer, the goddess/enchantress Circe turns men into pigs with a drug. Of nepenthe, the drug used in Homer by Helen to make soldiers banish the grief of battle, Joyce seems to have borrowed from Shelly's interpretation of it as a love potion.
|"Lotus Eaters" by Edward Marle (1970)|
In Homer, the Lotus Eaters live on an island where their consumption of lotus plants puts them in a perpetual state of bliss, losing all sense of urgency. In the opening paragraph of the chapter "Lotus-Eaters," in Joyce's novel, Bloom "walked soberly" past a boy smoking "a chewed fabgutt," "lolled" by the nicotine. The chapter continues:
In Westland row he halted before the window of the Belfast and Oriental Tea Company and read the legends of lead-papered packets: choice blend, finest quality, family tea. Rather warm. Tea. Must get some from Tom Kernan. Couldn’t ask him at a funeral, though....The far east. Lovely spot it must be: the garden of the world, big lazy leaves to float about on, cactuses, flowery meads, snaky lianas they call them. Wonder is it like that. Those Cinghalese lobbing around in the sun, in dolce far niente. Not doing a hand’s turn all day. Sleep six months out of twelve. Too hot to quarrel. Influence of the climate. Lethargy. Flowers of idleness.
Sure sounds like the musings of a stoner to me. One wonders: why would Bloom need to buy tea from a friend, instead of a shop, and why couldn't he ask him for it at a funeral? Is black tea really a "flower of idleness?" The next think he does is go to the post office and, using the name Henry Flower, asks if there are any letters for him.
"It doesn’t take much to accept this veiled reference to marijuana in Ulysses," Moreno writes. "The author himself shelters it in his notebook Scribbledehobble, where «Lotus Eaters» equals “Bhang.” (Source: Th. E. Connolly, Scribbledehobble: The Ur-Workbook for “Finnegans Wake," quoted in Moreno.)