James Joyce Best Poems 📚

Before delving into full-time writing, James Joyce was a skilled poet who used the power of language to inspire readers.

James Joyce

Irish Novelist

James Joyce was one of the most important and creative authors of the 20th century. He wrote the novels ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ (1916), ‘Ulysses’ (1922), and ‘Finnegans Wake’ (1939). in addition to the short story collection ‘Dubliners’ (1914). His poetry works ‘Chamber Music’ (1907) and ‘Pomes Penyeach’ (1927), are among them.

Chamber Music by James Joyce


Strings in the earth and air

Make music sweet;

Strings by the river where

The willows meet.

There’s music along the river

For Love wanders there,

Pale flowers on his mantle,

Dark leaves on his hair.

All softly playing,

With head to the music bent,

And fingers straying

Early Joycean poetry has a dreamlike quality with a youthful, innocent love that is fun and hopeful. The simplicity and freshness of the verses show a completely different side of Joyce, one that lacks the richness and intertextuality of his previous works. The nostalgic fantasy of childhood, innocence, purity, enchanting nature and fairy-tale love stories is embodied in poetry.


Lean out of the window,


I hear you singing

A merry air.

My book was closed,

I read no more,

Watching the fire dance

On the floor.

I have left my book,

I have left my room,

For I heard you singing

Through the gloom.

Singing and singing

A merry air,

Lean out of the window,


In constructing a world too clean for shame to exist and a musical cosmos full of vivid, utterly beguiling depictions of nature, Joyce appears to be on a journey to reclaim innocence.


Who goes amid the green wood

With springtide all adorning her?

Who goes amid the merry green wood

To make it merrier?

Who passes in the sunlight

By ways that know the light footfall?

Who passes in the sweet sunlight

With mien so virginal?

The ways of all the woodland

Gleam with a soft and golden fire — –

For whom does all the sunny woodland

Carry so brave attire?

O, it is for my true love

The woods their rich apparel wear — –

O, it is for my own true love,

That is so young and fair.

It’s interesting to note that Joyce allegedly had his first sexual, but not romantic encounters at a young age. ‘Chamber Music’ thus symbolizes the yearning for the innocence of the idealized first love. As a young man with a horrible reputation who was often rejected, he was doomed to seeking for genuine love in the arms of women who also had a bad reputation. The poetry of dreamers, outcasts, and loners who dreamed about one day being deserving of true love is found in chamber music. Joyce’s inner world, which is filled with love longings, and thoughts, is beautifully captured in Poetry of ‘Chamber Music’. Beautiful and young.

Even though they lack musical notation, the poems that make up this early collection by Joyce are technically “songs” that have been recorded and performed over the years by a variety of musicians and artists rather than mere “musical references.”

The musicality of Joyce’s verse was recognized early on, and the Irish composer Geoffrey Molyneux Palmer (1882–1957) was the first to recognize their suitability for musical interpretation. With Joyce’s encouragement, he started putting the songs of his composition into music in 1907. (he set 32 of the 36 poems). Many other contemporary composers have adopted this style in the years that have passed since the book’s publication. One of the most notable of these is Ross Lee Finney, who in 1951–1952 put the complete collection of poems to music.

In the book ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’s’ final chapter Stephen performs “a dainty song of the Elizabethans” and “the happy air” from “Greensleeves” for E.C. to win her over. Joyce’s preference for Elizabethan language is evident in Poem XI of ‘Chamber Music’, especially in the employment of the “thees” and “thous” of the King James Bible tradition. The only poem that is typically believed to have been set to music by Joyce himself is this one.

Pomes Penyeach by James Joyce

This tiny book of 13 poems, which was published in 1927, shows more intensity, directness, and economy of language than Joyce’s early verse collection ‘Chamber Music.’ Both their visuals and feelings are simultaneously more impressionistic and concrete.

Like ‘Chamber Music,’ the poems have a musical rhyme and rhythm to them, nicely representing Joyce’s earlier days as a singer. Despite its painfully brief length, this collection, unlike ‘Chamber Music,’ concentrates on a wide range of moods and styles. There are sentiments of love, sarcasm, terror, tragedy, and lighter remarks that almost border on humor. This collection serves as a lovely reminder of Joyce’s talent as a poet in addition to a novelist. It can be simple at times, or breathtakingly experimental at others.

By the time ‘Pomes Penyeach’ was published, Joyce was well-known, and his social circle in Paris had grown to include artists of all stripes, including (unsurprisingly) many who worked in the music industry. In contrast to the previous collection, not much about these poems is overtly “musical.”

Herbert Hughes and Arthur Bliss, two of his friends, recruited 11 other songwriters to produce a collection of 13 songs, with each one writing an original setting for one of the poems. A limited edition of 500 copies of the Joyce Book, as it was known, was released in 1933 as a tribute to the writer.


What is a notable snippet of a James Joyce poem?

This quote was gotten from James Joyce’s famous poem, ‘A Flower Given To My Daughter’ and it reads:
“Frail the white rose and frail are
Her hands that gave
Whose soul is sere and paler
Than time’s wan wave.
Rosefrail and fair — yet frailest
A wonder wild
In gentle eyes thou veilest,
My blueveined child.”

What notable poet took notice of James Joyce’s poems?

‘Chamber Music’, a collection of 36 love poems, was Joyce’s debut book. Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot took notice of his poetry, and it was included in Pound’s significant ‘Imagist Anthology’ of 1914. “The brilliance and distinction of the poems in the first half… is owing in part to their author’s strict musical training,” Pound said of ‘Chamber Music’. The language is Elizabethan, with meters occasionally evoking Herrick.

Was James Joyce a lyric poet?

Yes. Joyce, a well-known lyric poet, based some of his poems on songs. Geoffrey Moyneux Palmer, Ross Lee Finney, Samuel Barber, Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd, and the band Sonic Youth, among others, have adapted his writings to music.

Charles Asoluka
About Charles Asoluka
Charles is an experienced content creator, writer, and literary critic. He has written professionally for multiple reputable media organizations. He loves reading Western classics and reviewing them.
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