a girl stood before him

A girl stood before him in midstream: alone and still, gazing out to sea. She seemed like one whom magic had changed in the likeness of a strange and beautiful seabird.

Yesterday’s Beatrice image, brought to mind many others. This one is from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (near the end of chapter IV).

Just after deciding not to become a priest, Stephen Dedalus has a (secular) vision of Mary, incarnate as this young girl by the sea. He sees all the beauty of his homeland in her and begins his quest for exile as a poet of Ireland. His vision is epiphanic and humanizing, although it draws him away from his Catholic faith. I quote only a brief opening line because so much of the passage requires the broader context of the story and surrounding imagery.

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