Heaventree

Ithaca asks, "What spectacle confronted them when they, first the host, then the guest, emerged silently, doubly dark, from obscurity by a passage from the rere of the house into the penumbra of the garden?" The question is answered in the most rapturously lyrical sentence in all of Ulysses: "The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit." But this poetic exclamation is followed by five Q&A sections of scientific analysis crammed with astronomy, geology, biology, physics, mathematics, and logic, leading to another question: "His (Bloom's) logical conclusion, having weighed the matter and allowing for possible error?" Answer: "That it was not a heaventree." The dialogue between poetry and science reflects Joyce's engagement with another writer who folded scientific thinking into his art. Bloom and Stephen's vision of the stars reenacts one that Virgil and Dante enjoy at the end of the Inferno, when they emerge from Hell into the night air. For Dante the stars are a broad highway to God. For Joyce they are not.

John Hunt 2022

Gustave Doré's illustration of Inferno 2.1, "Now was the day departing."
Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Doré's illustration of Inferno 34.139, "We came forth to see again the stars." Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Richard Hamilton's 1998 digital print The Heaventree of Stars.
Source: Hamilton, Imaging James Joyce's Ulysses.

David Griessel's Spirit Tree, posted to Facebook on 21 June 2021.
Source: www.facebook.com.
"The world tree Yggdrasil (an ash) and some of its inhabitants," an etching by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine printed in Asgard and the Gods (London, 1886).
Source: Wikimedia Commons.