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“Once upon a time and a very good time it was …”

“Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo. . . . His father told him that story: his father looked at him through a glass: he had a hairy face. He was a baby tuckoo. The moocow came down the road where Betty Byrne lived: she sold lemon platt.

“O, the wild rose blossoms On the little green place.

“He sang that song. That was his song.

“O, the green wothe botheth.

“When you wet the bed first it is warm then it gets cold. His mother put on the oil-sheet. That had the queer smell.”

— opening lines of “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” by James Joyce

For an excellent explanation of Joyce’s deliberate use of childlike language, see the Sparknotes page here:


I can still remember Longwood High School’s Mr. Anderson, the greatest English teacher ever to enter a classroom, reading this aloud for us.