Joyce was visiting Ireland when a second publisher reneged on their agreement to bring out Dubliners. The printer pulped the book, anticipating charges of libel and obscenity. Joyce responded with this satiric poem, which he later self-published as a broadside. The narrator, a printer-publisher, traces his shifting reactions to Joyce’s short stories: from initial neutrality to recoil upon seeing the work typeset, followed by patriotic self-righteousness and fear for his soul if he were to print actual placenames in Dublin. The narrator decides to burn the edition and, as a penance, to have his buttocks anointed with Dubliners’ ashes.
After the book’s destruction, a distraught Joyce had visited his father, whose advice was to “buck up, take back the [manuscript] and find another publisher.” Joyce left Ireland that night and never saw his father or homeland again.