Teaching aid for “Ulysses”: the schooner “Rosevean”

Walking along the beach at the end of the Proteus episode, Stephen sees “Moving through the air high spars of a threemaster, her sails brailed up on the crosstrees, homing, upstream, silently moving, a silent ship” (3.503-05). That night, in Eumaeus, Stephen and Bloom meet one of the threemaster’s sailors, unsilent able-bodied seaman D. B. Murphy, who tells them, “We come up this morning eleven o’clock. The threemaster Rosevean from Bridgwater with bricks” (16.450-51).

In “Ulysses” Annotated, 3.504-05, Don Gifford notes that the “Shipping News” from the Freeman’s Journal for June 16, 1904, identifies Rosevean as a schooner, adds some information about the port of Bridgwater and its brick industry, and glosses the religious sense of “crosstrees.” In Conversations with Joyce (1934), Frank Budgen elicits a more detailed gloss from Joyce himself:

I stopped at the door as I was about to leave.

“You know, Joyce,” I said, “when Stephen sees that three-masted schooner’s sails brailed up to her crosstrees.”

“Yes,” he said. “What about it?”

“Only this. I sailed on schooners of that sort once and the only word we ever used for the spars to which the sails are bent was ‘yards.’ ‘Crosstrees’ were the lighter spars fixed near the lower masthead. Their function was to give purchase to the topmost standing rigging.”

Joyce thought for a moment.

“Thank you for pointing it out,” he said. “There’s no sort of criticism I more value than that. But the word ‘crosstrees’ is essential. It comes in later on and I can’t change it. After all, a yard is also a crosstree for the onlooking landlubber.”

And crosstree does recur in the pattern in that episode where Stephen discusses Shakespeare with some Dublin scholars. “Who, put upon by his fiends, stripped and whipped, was nailed like bat to barndoor, starved on crosstree.”

(“James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’: A Casebook,” ed. Derek Attridge [Oxford University Press, 2004], p. 262)

I now add this anonymous painting of the actually two-masted Rosevean, cleaned in post-processing and with an inserted arrow pointing to the fore crosstrees. The original is in Bridgwater’s Blake Museum, https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/the-rosevean-of-bridgwater-39761.

Topical: the joyful mystery of life

Newspaper editorialists don’t write their own headlines. Still, the headline on Matthew Walther’s New York Times contribution to the United States’ current discussion of national abortion policy

is worth a look on its own merits — a look literally. Considered strictly as an arrangement of black characters on a white page, it seems to promise us no less than a definition by visual example of the verb live. Moreover, the body of the essay, the text that Mr. Walther did write, goes on to keep that promise.

An editorial note explains, “Matthew Walther is the editor of The Lamp, a Catholic literary journal,” and Mr. Walther holds his readers’ faces to the light when he asks them to acknowledge that, among other things, “in a post-Roe world many children who would not otherwise have been born will live lives of utter misery.” But he offers us a Catholic rubric for reading that sad text. It’s this: the word I’ve marked.

and later

In a devotional text, rubrics like the two I’ve marked in blood-red serve as instructions for attaining a state of mind. Walther’s adjectives “joyful” and “blithe” guide you to licit Catholic emotion. But Mr. Walther leaves undefined for the Times’s readers the term I’ve greened: “what is right.” He contextualizes it in a quotation from Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” — “the turbid ebb and flow of human misery” — but Arnold was a Protestant quoting a pagan, Sophocles. However, that is catholic in the small-c sense: ecumenical. It gives to the term “What is right” a universal value: something known and knowable in every context.

In that spirit, then, I make the further offering of this audio and this visual.


These, it appears, are also traits indicating the reality of value. They seem to offer us an ethics. They say: don’t listen to what the priest is actually saying or look at what he’s actually doing, kill the spirit of Charles Darwin in yourself with your own obsidian knife, get in the spirit of things, and live it up.