Love's bitter mystery

After Mulligan tells Stephen to "Give up the moody brooding" about his mother's death, he quotes some apposite lines from a song in W. B. Yeats' play The Countess Kathleen: "And no more turn aside and brood / Upon love’s bitter mystery." The song’s soothing images of shore and sea underline the gesture that Mulligan has just made toward the surrounding water: “Look at the sea. What does it care about offences?" We learn within a few lines that Stephen too knows the song well, but for him it carries more troubling meanings in relation to his mother.

JH 2011

William Butler Yeats ca. 1906. Source:

1908 pencil drawing of Yeats by John Singer Sargent. Source: