The finale of James Joyce’s Ulysses is a lengthy stretch of uninterrupted, unpunctuated prose in which Joyce attempts to capture on paper the capricious thoughts of Molly Bloom in bed at two o’clock in the morning. Her husband Leopold Bloom has come home very late, and after a brief interrogation by Molly, he falls into a sound sleep. She, however, lies awake, and her thoughts run rampant.
The primary subject of her ruminations is her troubled marriage and her consequent adulterous liason with Hugh “Blazes” Boylan that afternoon. It has been more than ten years since her husband has given her the affection she needs, and she feels that it is his fault if she is an adulteress. But even though Boylan did give her “what she badly wanted,” by the end of the book it becomes apparent that she will not likely continue the affair. Bolyan is crude and arrogant and businesslike, while Bloom is (or was) sensitive and caring.
From the fifty-odd pages of Molly’s reverie, I have selected a tiny portion that focuses on Molly’s shift away from Boylan toward Bloom. The last pages of the book are an ecstatic recollection of the day he proposed to her sixteen years earlier. She remembers why she liked Bloom in the first place, and why she will ultimately return to him. Even with all his faults and shortcomings, Bloom is still the man she knows and loves best.
I wrote Penelope in 1993-94, and expanded it to the present length in late 1995. Originally written for voice and guitar, I felt that it needed a more substantial accompaniment and made this piano arrangement in the fall of 1999. It is written for and happily dedicated to Martha McCarroll, whose kind words and encouragement inspired me to start composing again in the fall of 1993.
Lise Uhl, soprano; Gail Wade, piano