Stephen imagines the milkwoman as being a humble avatar, "the lowly form of an immortal." He has just thought of her as a "poor old woman," invoking the Shan Van Vocht of Irish mythology, and his fantasy of her as "A wandering crone" seems to keep us in this symbolic orbit. But his thought that she is "maybe a messenger" propels us into the sphere of Homeric divinity, likening the old woman to Athena, who twice appears to Telemachus in the form of an old man to tell him what to do.

JH 2011

Frontispiece and title page of The Adventures of Telemachus, the Son of Ulysses, by the Archbishop of Cambray (1715). Source: