In the bar of the Ormond Hotel the two “sirens,” Miss Mina Kennedy and Miss Lydia Douce, barmaids, ply their trade on the afternoon crowd. Simon Dedalus, Lenehan, Ben Dollard, George Lidwell, Brian Kernan, and Father Cowley all enter at intervals. Lenehan is there to meet Blazes Boylan (who will as a result be late for his appointment with Molly). Bloom meets Richie Goulding and they enter to have a meal together. Simon and Ben take turns singing at the newly-tuned piano as Father Cowley plays sentimental Irish tunes. Bloom decides to write back to Martha on the stationery he bought en route to the hotel, diverting Richie’s attention by claiming to be answering an ad. Boylan enters, has a drink with Lenehan, and then leaves with him. Bloom leaves soon after, while the singing continues. He stops outside and farts loudly as a tramcar passes, reading the while Robert Emmet’s last words from a portrait in an antique shop window.
Stylistically, “Sirens” abruptly pulls the rug out from under our feet as it takes the aspiration of literature to the condition of music to a further extreme than had yet been done. The chapter begins with a symphonic overture that introduces many of the leitmotifs and phrases that will be developed further in the remainder. The rest of the chapter employs techniques of musical composition, and relies heavily upon onomatopoeia for its aural effects.
Read “Sirens” now.