Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Finnegans Wake, Part II, fourth division

No, I'm not really going all-Finnegans-Wake here.  It's just, after announcing in the last post that I would proceed division by division, I discovered that this next division was quite brief, and I read it rather quickly.  And I don't want the first impressions to fade too much.

It begins with a line introducing one of the Wake's most well-known post-publication borrowings:  "Three quarks for Muster Mark."  We know what a quark became, per Murray Gell-Mann.  But who is Mark?  At least two major Marks inhabit this part.  And "[s]ure he hasn't got much of a bark...Fowls, up!  Tristy's the spry young spark." 

Tristy?  He's introduced in this again-unlined quatrain:  "All the birds of the sea they trolled out rightbold when they smacked the big kuss of Trustan with Usolde."  So here we have, I think, a little terra firma:  King Mark is the wronged husband in the tale of Tristan and Isolde (Tristan not to be trusted, King Mark cuckcolded).  A little romance.

But then we have another Mark in a familiar foursome:  "They were the big four, the four maaster waves of Erin, all listening, four.  There was old Matt Gregory, then besides old Matt there was old Marcus Lyons, the four waves, and oftentimes they used to be saying grace together, right enough bausnabeatha, in Miracle Squeer; here now we are the four of us:  old Matt Gregory and old Marcus and old Luke Tarpey:  the four of us and, sure, thank God, there are no more of us:  and, sure now, you would go and forget and leave out the other fellow and old Johnny MacDougall:  the four of us and no more of us and so now pass the fish for Christ' sake, Amen."  Our four evangelists have returned.  Mark gets tied up with his symbol, the lion (who also, as king of beasts, ties him to King Mark) (he also gets thereby tied to Tristan--Sir Tristan de Lyonnes).
Can the other four be tied to their symbols?  Can't see it, except for "Johnny MacDougall"--and only to the extent that there is some small assonance between "-ougall" and "eagle."  

The division begins and ends with italicized verse.  The prose center is the usual riot of puns and nonsense, but it's pretty plain (it may be the only plain thing), in the course of events, that the lovers consummate their passion.  And the four evangelists?

One feature of the prose center is that four paragraphs in the course of the text begin with one of the four names, followed by a period.  Johnny.  Luke.  Mark.  Matt.  Is this somehow intended to suggest a structure like that of the gospels?  The same story told from four different perspectives?  Seems like a great theory, but I can't find in any of the four portions, divided this way, any sort of vindication for this idea.

Again, it's frustrating not to be able to state a real theme, to summarize, to find much more than a thread.  Tristan and Isolde and four evangelists, obvious as they are, are just a small part of the whole.  There's plenty that's funny and in questionable taste:  "all divorced and innasense interdict" jumped out at me.  There are, as always, long passages whose rhythm is intoxicating, but I can't describe them, and it's silly just to paste them here.  In fact, one of the oddities of reading analyses of Finnegans Wake is following some erudite explanation that's making connections, untangling references, clearing up ambiguities, trying to make a story out of this mishmash--but which then, to illustrate the triumph, quotes some passage from the Wake, and it's like cold sea water in the face:  That doesn't get it at all.  The gloss floats free of the glossed.

"Mattheehew, Markeehew, Lukeehew, Johnheehewheehew! Haw! And still a light moves long the river. And stiller the mermen ply their keg. Its pith is full. The way is free. Their lot is cast. So, to john for a john, johnajeams, led it be!"

Thus endeth Part II.

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