PROFESSOR MACHUGH riding an elephant

A smile of light brightened his darkrimmed eyes, lengthened his long lips.

—The Greek! he said again. Kyrios! Shining word! The vowels the Semite and the Saxon know not. Kyrie! The radiance of the intellect. I ought to profess Greek, the language of the mind. Kyrie eleison! The closetmaker and the cloacamaker will never be lords of our spirit. We are liege subjects of the catholic chivalry of Europe that foundered at Trafalgar and of the empire of the spirit, not an imperium, that went under with the Athenian fleets at Aegospotami. Yes, yes. They went under. Pyrrhus, misled by an oracle, made a last attempt to retrieve the fortunes of Greece. Loyal to a lost cause.

He strode away from them towards the window.

—They went forth to battle, Mr O’Madden Burke said greyly, but they always fell.

—Boohoo! Lenehan wept with a little noise. Owing to a brick received in the latter half of the matinée. Poor, poor, poor Pyrrhus!

He whispered then near Stephen’s ear:


Pyrrhus was a Greek tribal leader and one of the greatest threats in the early days of Rome. In 280 BCE he arrived in Italy with an army of about 25000 to subdue the Romans. Although he won several battles, casualties in his own army were great, giving rise to the term “Pyrrhic victory”  (source). It’s easy to see why professor MacHugh is such a fan. Joyce’s opinion of the classic Irish intellectual being obsessed with the past, and aligning themselves with lost causes shows through again.