Thursday, April 02, 2015


Who Killed James Joyce?

Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967), "Who Killed James Joyce?", Collected Poems, ed. Antoinette Quinn (2004; rpt. London: Penguin Books, 2005), pp. 176-177:
Who killed James Joyce?
I, said the commentator,
I killed James Joyce
For my graduation.

What weapon was used
To slay mighty Ulysses?
The weapon that was used
Was a Harvard thesis.

How did you bury Joyce?
In a broadcast Symposium.
That's how we buried Joyce
To a tuneful encomium.

Who carried the coffin out?
Six Dublin codgers
Led into Langham Place
By W.R. Rodgers.

Who said the burial prayers? —
Please do not hurt me —
Joyce was no Protestant,
Surely not Bertie?

Who killed Finnegan?
I, said a Yale-man,
I was the man who made
The corpse for the wake man.

And did you get high marks,
The Ph.D.?
I got the B.Litt.
And my master's degree.

Did you get money
For your Joycean knowledge?
I got a scholarship
To Trinity College.

I made the pilgrimage
In the Bloomsday swelter
From the Martello Tower
To the cabby's shelter.
The editor's notes on pp. 278-279 don't state the obvious, probably because it's too obvious—the poem is a parody of the nursery rhyme "Who Killed Cock Robin?" Among famous critics, Guy Davenport (1927-2005) wrote a thesis on symbolism in Joyce's Ulysses (not "a Harvard thesis," but a 1950 Oxford one, earning him a B.Litt. degree), and Hugh Kenner (1923-2003) wrote his 1950 Yale Ph.D. dissertation on Joyce (cf. "I, said a Yale-man"). Kavanagh's poem was first published in 1951.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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