On 26th February we read from 533.16 (‘Castrucci Sinior’) to 533.29 (‘beloved curate-author’).
As usual we began by reading a short extract and going round the room offering our initial thoughts. These included: the prominence of Dublin lord mayors in the passage; a reference to Portrait’s Emma Clery in ‘clearly!’; the light/sound conflation in ‘clairaudience’; the appearance of the KKK; a group of ‘Michaels’ towards the end of the passage.
‘numborines, why drive fear?’
We went back to this line, previously considered in an earlier seminar, to try to get to the bottom of them – why do these references to German(y) suddenly appear? Contextually it might be worth noting Joyce’s relationship to the German language: he learned German so as to translate works by Hauptmann and was particular about the translation of the title of Dubliners.
‘our fourposter tunies chantreying’
One thing that makes this passage difficult, we agreed, is that there are several semantic groups running through it – birds, Ibsen, music, as just some – and it can be hard to isolate the dominant one. Here we discussed music: at first we thought four might refer to the four modes of Greek music (before realizing there are actually seven), as well as the four clefs and four singing pitches (soprano, alto, tenor, bass). There’s also ‘sycamode euphonium’, in which we identified ‘sync’ and ‘mode’, both musical terms, as well as the pun on euphonium as euphemism.
‘caged duckyheim on Goosna Greene’
We recalled we’d identified the Ibsen running through this sentence in the previous session – The Wild Duck, the idea of woman being kept in a caged house – which prepared us to discuss the significance of Goosna (cf ‘ducky’) Greene. We noted the saccharine tone of this extract and the allusion to John Howard Payne’s (‘hoardpayns’) song ‘Home Sweet Home’. One particular aspect of Gretna Green that seems significant here is that men could take younger girls there to be married, appropriate for HCE.
‘First Murkiss, or so they sankeyed’
Of course ‘first kiss’ is here, but we also spotted ‘marquis’, leading us to consider the Marquis de Sade, who was one of the few to keep his title following the storming of the Bastile. There is also a suggestion of tawdry ‘murki’ness here.
Sankey was one of the Lord Mayors of Dublin (for the full listing of these see Fweet) and sounds like ‘cinq’, completing the run of 1,2,3 and 4 that we’ve seen so far in these lines. ‘So they said’ and ‘so they sang’ would both work here, the latter especially given the musical tones.
‘gleeglom there’s gnome swepplaces like theresweep Nowhergs’
As we identified Stephen Dedalus in the passage we looked at in the February section, we wondered if there was a touch of ‘fee fi fo fum’ (‘Proteus’) in this line, as well as, perhaps, some Ibsenian gnomes/trolls, though we did acknowledge that this was a different kind of Ibsen to the kind featured in the previous sentence. Certainly Ibsen returns in the allusion to Norway in the final line, but this word also suggests ‘nowhere’.
‘my Kerk Findlaters’
Findlaters is of course a reference to the prominent Dublin family run grocery firm, who appear in Ulysses too, while both ‘Kerk’ and ‘Kirk’ are ‘churches’ in a variety of languages. We notes the density of Ks in this passage, with ‘Katakasm’ standing for the two opposites, ‘catechism’ and ‘cataclysm’. While details like this are easy(ish) to spot, we noted that the syntax of this month’s passage is really hard to discern – we don’t seem to have a subject until ‘I’. The family Findlater was Protestant in persuasion as was the famous church in New York of the name ‘The Little Church Around the Corner’, an Episcopal church.
We meet again in April, reading from line 533.29 (‘Let Michael relay’).