Portrait of An Artist, James Joyce – Astrology Musings

close up of hand holding pencil over white background

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James Joyce is the Irish colossus of English literature.

Novelist, short story writer, poet, teacher, critic, linguist, singer… he was a man of many parts.

Brought up in a traditionally Catholic household, he rejected much of what that tradition stood for, becoming a leading member of the writing Avant-Garde, yet he never left the old Catholic world completely.

Widely travelled

He spent most of later years abroad, travelling to Italy, France and finally dying Switzerland; he may have left his native Dublin but it continued to dominate his thoughts, strongly influence his writing.

According to the birth data, he had Capricorn rising, an indication of a hard working approach to life. His ruler, Saturn, is in Taurus in house 5 of creativity, which is ruled by and making a difficult square to Venus in Aquarius in house 2 of personal security. He clearly put a lot of effort in to his creative art but it was always, especially early on, a financial struggle.

The Aquarian paradox

James Joyce was a Sun Aquarian, natives who typically have a certain rebellious or unusual streak about them, though who also, paradoxically, often adhere to certain aspects of conservatism all their life.

This may be due to the attribution of the traditional ruling planet of Aquarius, Saturn, in his more positive aspect. Uranus too has become associated with the fixed air sign.

Joyce had Venus conjunct his Sun in house 2. Here is his attraction to the artistic process and beauty in an Aquarian forward thinking manner.

Neptune inspires

His Sun is also closely square Neptune in Taurus, along with Jupiter in house 5. Joyce had a very fine tenor voice, and Neptune’s strong link to the Sun from Taurus, a sign which rules the throat, may be indicative of this, plus his abilities at creative writing and poetry.

His Mercury just into Pisces in house 3 hints at a fine imagination, especially as the ruler of house 3, Jupiter, is in conjunction with Neptune and trine Uranus from house 9.

Here is the extraordinary writing potential, which is at once imaginative, inspirational but also off beat.

Works like ‘Portrait’, ‘Ulysses’ and ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ are testimony to this. Mercury is also the ruler of house 9 of the higher mind, where Uranus is found. He was something of a linguist too.

However, this Mercury is also trine Mars in Gemini. Here is the sharp intellect too, which gave him the ability to be a fine critic.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

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Poem ‘The Artist’

The Artist

Black paint on the front door
was peeling badly. Before knocking
I ran a crackling finger over it,
flakes falling into shade around my feet.
A small grey lady in garish pink
dressed for bed, squinted up at me,
something akin to Stravinsky
played in the darkness behind her.
“Take a pew!” – words betraying her age,
her station, a headmistress perhaps,
Arnold’s paintings in primaries all over low,
leaning walls in a room of gloom,
as if yellowed by years of smoke
and smelling of rose and age.
His preference for palette knife
and fingers were evident at once –
then a portrait, blue eyes staring at me,
almost violet, gorgeous like Liz Taylor
and hints of a grey uniform with pips.
Tea and scone arrived on Royal Albert
with shuffles of pink slipper.
“The portrait,” I pointed.
“Oh, that’s me, circa 1944,” she croaked,
standing bent. “But not his usual style.”
“No,” I had to agree, writing frantically,
excitement like sap
sent tingling up my spine.

So, let’s get this right:
She had trained in Ireland,
was deployed to France,
following allied troops into Germany
all the way to the end, in Berlin.
Hers an eccentric family of noble stock,
a quite irregular life lived on the edge.
Did I believe her? At first, yes.
At least until I closed the door
with that peeling paint.
Then I noticed the corner in the road,
breathed in the fresh air,
saw the rush of wind in poplars
and rooks cawing their honest presence.
The further I drove the less I believed.
Narrow roads led into town, a realisation
that still – the artist had eluded me

Poem and image © copyright df barker 2012