Before born

New Style. "Before born bliss babe had. Within womb won he worship...So stood they there both awhile in wanhope sorrowing one with other": these six paragraphs announce a clear departure from what has gone before. In his letter to Frank Budgen Joyce said that the initial Latinate prose of Oxen would be followed by "earliest English alliterative and monosyllabic Anglo-Saxon." The new section narrating Bloom's arrival at the Holles Street maternity hospital and his conversation at the door with nurse Callan—most of the section, anyway—is indeed marked by alliteration, old Germanic words, and far more straightforward syntax. But the neatness of this characterization is complicated by a brief intrusion of something like the earlier style, and also by the competing influences of two different literary inspirations from the 10th century, one of them written in verse rather than prose.

JH 2021


 Facsimile of the first page of The Wanderer from the codex of the Exeter Book, ca. 960-990 AD. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

 Stained glass window of Ælfric, location unknown. Source:

Title page of 1912 edition of Saintsbury's A History of English Prose Rhythm. Source: