On Friday 25th November we read just ten lines of the Wake, 535.09 (‘Pferdinand Allibuster’) to 535.19 (‘Noksagt!’).
‘hrossbucked on his pricelist charger, Pferdinand Allibuster’
This name suggests the archduke as well as the alabaster of statues, perhaps of ‘bust’s too. The horsey motif is pretty strong: hross is old German for horse, Pferd is modern German, a pricelist is the list in a bookies which tells you your potential winnings. The horse is bucked up in a statuesque position.
‘(yeddonot need light oar till Noreway for you fanned one o’er every doorway)’
Given the brackets, it was not a huge surprise to discover that this line is a late addition. It’s a line from the song The Midnight Son, sung, of all people, by Vesta Tilley. You can hear it here. The ‘one’ that you can find is a white horse, often seen in the fanlights above doorways: this could suggest orange sympathies in the text (we recalled the white horse in ‘The Dead’). Examples of these can be seen here on the NLI website. We also wondered if ‘Noreway’ might allude to one of Odysseus’ journeys; it might also be a nod to the River Nore, in Ireland and also, of course, to Nora. Yeddo is an ancient name for Tokyo, and Joyce made a note of this in Notebook 6B.29.
At first read this seems to suggest something scatological, but ‘album’, in the sense of a collection of signatures, is also evident. This second interpretation supports the sense of a visiting dignitary being offered the keys to the city (cf earlier in this passage; cf ‘Circe’). ‘Promises’, which also seems to contain ‘premises’, seems to suggest HCE’s intention to use this anecdote as some kind of evidence in his trial.
‘handshakey, congrandyoulikethems, ecclesency’
With the political turmoil of 2016 very much in our minds, we made several reference to Trump, and occasionally Farage, throughout the seminar. Here, ‘handshakey’ suggests that chummy, blackslapping nature of their relationship. ‘Con’ may further flame this idea. ‘ecclesency’ of course alludes to one of the most famous residential streets in fiction and might also have something of ‘ecclesiastical’ about it.
Notably, the new paragraph does not begin with a dash. Does this mean the speaker is the same one as before? We agreed that the speech continues, but the change in tone between the two paragraphs is peculiarly abrupt. We observed that HCE, like Trump, (and vice-versa), is extremely childish and prone to tantrums, a character trait very much in evidence during this strange transition.
‘Whosaw the jackery dares at handgripper thisa breast?’
We spent a long time on this line. Whosaw is perhaps ‘whoso’; a jackery is a jackdaw, but also suggests Jack the Ripper, a supposition sustained by the mention of the breast at the end. ‘Gripper’ recalls the Swedish verb for ‘to attack’. We could nothing distinctive about ‘thisa breast’, except for, perhaps, an Italian touch on the first word.
‘Dose makkers ginger’
HCE’s feeling of betrayal comes through in this line which, we decided after some delineation, suggests ‘those friends over there’ (who have let me down…). There may be a Danish phrase under here too. A persecution complex runs throughout this part of the speech, evidenced also by the ‘Adversarian!’ of the next line.
‘Some one was with us all fours’
The phrase ‘being on all fours’ comes up a few times in Ulysses; Joyce’s line also recalls the Dutch construction, ‘we are with us four’. The presence of Dutch, Germanic, and Nordic etymologies really struck us in this paragraph as a whole.
‘The spiking Duyvil’
Spiking alludes to the Devil’s fork and also to his speaking, here with an apparent Cockney twang. Spuyten Duyvil is also an area of the Bronx, mentioned in Washington Irving’s history of New York. Irving also mentions Lands End, perhaps alluded to in the next sentence, as much as ‘Londsend’ suggests London to Duyvil’s Dublin.
‘Wulv! See you scargore on that skeepsbrow’
It took us a while but we eventually saw the wolf/sheep’s clothing link here, again suggesting a sense of betrayal, the ‘scargore’ being a cut on the sheep’s brow. ‘skeepsbrow’ also sounds like the name of the shipping dock in Stockholm, expanding the Scandi presence in these lines.
‘Man sicker as I ere bluffet konservative’
The second half of this line would seem to be a cod-translation of Ibsen, alluding to the accusation made of Ibsen towards the end of his life, that he was becoming more conservative. He responded by writing a poem in which he said he would ‘torpedo the ark’, as evidence of his radicalism. Joyce alluded to this a few pages earlier at FW 530.34-4. Recalling this charge also led us to think about the letter H G Wells wrote to Joyce (Ellmann, pp.607-9) in which he suggested that, to him, Joyce’s work was a ‘dead end’ and that Joyce’s literary experiment doesn’t ‘get anywhere’.
‘Such ratshause bugsmess so I cannot barely conceive of’
We noted the quasi-Eumaeun style here: ‘cannot barely’ suggests that, in fact, HCE very much can conceive of (what we read to be) corruption (‘rathaus’ as a town hall, ‘bugsmess’ as business).
‘Lowest basemeant in hystery!’
This, we agreed at the end, was our favourite line in the seminar. Basemeant suggests the idea of history as a building, something that gets progressively uglier as we move further down into its lower levels, where the ‘real’ meaning is stored. Hystery also suggests the hysteria as well as history; here we flirted with Freuds Sigmund and Anna, but decided to remain with our first interpretation.
We have two Norwegian touches here: the neat Ibsen/obscene puns, as well as the allusion to Nansen, the explorer. For more on Joyce’s interest in Nanse, see Alison Lacivita’s new book, The Ecology of Finnegans Wake, pp.145-55.
We ended, appropriately enough, on ‘Noksagt’ (‘Enough said!’) noting that, nonetheless, HCE carries on talking. We’ll do the same on Friday 16th December, starting again at 535.19 (‘Per Peeler and Pawr!’).