Airs romped around him, nipping and eager airs. They are coming, waves. The whitemaned seahorses, champing, brightwindbridled, the steeds of Mananaan.
- James Joyce, Ulysses
In his analysis of the works of James Joyce, Mythic Worlds, Modern Words,* Joseph Campbell wrote of this passage:
I am now living by the beach, and I frequently think of this image when I look out and see the waves rolling in, the foam flying like the manes of the four seahorses pulling the chariot of Mananaan MacLir, the Irish Lord of the sea. He is a hospitable host, with a great palace under the sea where he entertains the dead who drown in his waters.
Our Ulysses study group will be meeting soon for only the second time, but already the four of us are gaining confidence as we begin to work together through this difficult but magnificent book. Ineluctably, Joyce draws us into the visible, the audible, the personally interpreted and imagined Dublin of one June day in 1904. We may be confused at times about what is going on, but we are definitely there. My reading of this book in the past has only been reading, unguided, not study, and I've loved it but only skimmed the delightful surface, so this time through, paying attention to the symbolism and history, the experience is richer by far. What a gift to the world, this book! The Irish in me can't help feeling proud.
*Actually, Campbell did not sit down and write Mythic Worlds, Modern Words; it is a collection of his articles, lectures, and answers he gave in Q/A sessions on Joyce's work, gathered together and edited by Edmund L. Epstein. The thoughts and language are, however, recognizably Campbell's.