Sunday, January 07, 2007

The well-placed "Alas"

The other day over at Clusterflock, I posted a comment to this post in which I used "Alas" as a sort of period and which the post's originator complimented me on.

Well, thank you. Anyway, that got me to thinking about skillful uses of "Alas" in literature, uses that seem to sum up enormous expanses of time and pain in those two little syllables. The only one I could come up with is below, but I think it would be hard to top in any event.

It's this brief exchange between Mr. Deasy and Stephen Dedalus in chapter 2 ("Nestor") of Ulysses. It might help to know that Mr. Deasy is Stephen's employer at the school he's been teaching at, and is proud of his Englishness:

-- I have rebel blood in me too, Mr Deasy said. On the spindle side. But I am descended from sir John Blackwood who voted for the union. We are all Irish, all kings' sons.

-- Alas, Stephen said.
Devastating, no?--especially in the context of the novel's time: after the fall of Parnell and before the Easter Rebellion.

But surely there are other good examples out there of well-placed "Alas"es. If you know of any, I hope you'll share them in comments.

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4 comments:

Andrew said...

Your welcome.

I was all geared up to give you Polonius great 'Alas, I am slain' but it seems I have been misquoting it for years. Instead it is 'O, I am slain.'

A lesson learned, at least.

Hyygeia said...

Alas, I have tried three times to post my literary alas reference, but each time get an error message from my browser. Will try this test message one last time.

John B. said...

Hyygeia,
Welcome, first of all.
The third time appears to have been the charm.

Hyygeia said...

"Alas, I am dying beyond my means." .... Oscar Wilde as he sipped champagne on his death bed.

Oscar Wilde and Steven Dedalus: Had they met via some literary portal, yet to be invented, which would allow one to travel through literature the way an infinite improbability drive enables one to travel through time, would have made great friends, no? Where to travel in the literary universe? Alas, contemplating the possibilities could fill volumes, but I've no time for even virtual travel these days. With a nod to Joyce, though, I'd have to name my I'd name my epic travel log "Hyygeia." I do OK with, to put it euphemistically, non-traditional grammar and punctuation.

--- Hyygeia (still trying to crack the code to how to post with my user name).