Thursday, July 31, 2014

Finnegans Wake, Part III, second division

This division is almost entirely paragraphed prose--no particular form I can make out.  Some of the paragraphs begin with the dash that signifies dialogue, though no speaker is named.

As the last division dealt largely with Shaun, this one begins with "Jaunty Jaun," who I imagine is still Shaun, but Shaun with a tip of the hat to don Juan.  In the shifting world of Finnegans Wake a single sound is hardly a change at all.  Jaun is out and about, making a "nightstride," and seems to come to a girls' school, where he, after a few "prelimbs, made out through his eroscope the apparition of his fond sister Izzy...."

Here things with Izzy start to get dicey.

Izzy is conventionally the last of the protagonist family members, the sister of Shem and Shaun.  In the playbill at the very beginning of Part II she was Izod.  She may also have morphed, along the way, into Isolde and Isobel. 

When I say things get dicey, I mean incestuous.  And there are always two concerns I have when trying to interpret the Wake.  I never know whether I am being too naïve, or too depraved.

If I had to guess, the girls' school at which Jaun arrives seems to quickly change into a brothel.  Maybe my thinking it was ever a girl's school was naïve.  Maybe my thinking it's a brothel is just my own depravity, looking for something prurient that isn't there.  When faced with ambiguity, it's impossible not to note that English has hundreds, maybe thousands of words and phrases which have a secondary, sexual connotation.  Most of these are slang, or local, and one of the problems with interpreting Joyce is that, even if he uses a word or phrase that to my ear is a plain double entendre, I can't be sure that that expression ever had that sense for a mid-20th century Irishman.

Be that as it may, Jaun starts in with a sermon of sorts, a discourse consisting mostly of maxims, such as "What bondman ever you bind on earth I’ll be bound ’twas combined in hemel. Keep airly hores and the worm is yores. Dress the pussy for her nighty and follow her piggy-tails up their way to Winkyland."  These seem to become increasingly...double.  There are also intimations that Jaun's attentions include his sister:  "Love through the usual channels, cisternbrothelly, when properly disinfected...does a felon good."  I will take refuge, here, necessarily, in the dream scenario, while recognizing, with Freud, that not everyone absolves us from responsibility for the ethical content of our dreams :  "Die einen versichern mit ebensolcher Entschiedenheit, daß der Traum von den sittlichen Anforderungen nichts weiß, wie die andern, daß die moralische Nature des Menschen auch fürs Traumleben erhalten bleibt."

Joyce then seems to move from the salacious to the blasphemous:  "I’m leaving my darling proxy behind for your consolering, lost Dave the Dancekerl, a squamous run-away and a dear old man pal of mine too. He will arrive incessantly in the fraction of a crust, who, could he quit doubling and stop tippling, he would be the unicorn of his kind."  This latter sentence suggests to me the eucharistic transformation (which figures so prominently in the first scene of Ulysses), and "Dave" may be a substitute for a descendant of David.

Be that as it may, the section proceeds, not in any linear fashion, of course, but with enough dancing around the theme to keep it in sight:

 "He’s the sneaking likeness of us, faith, me altar’s ego in miniature."

"Moseses and Noasies, how are you? He’d be as snug as Columbsisle Jonas wrocked in the belly of the whaves, as quotad before."

" And tid you meet with Peadhar the Grab at all? And did you call on Tower Geesyhus?"

As we approach the end of this division there is a sudden change of tone which I can only liken to the cry of the banshee:  "And, remember this, a chorines, there’s the witch on the heath, sistra! ‘Bansheeba peeling hourihaared while her Orcotron is hoaring ho. And whinn muinnuit flittsbit twinn her ttittshe cries tallmidy! Daughters of the heavens, be lucks in turnabouts to the wandering sons of red loam! The earth’s atrot! The sun’s a scream!"  The banshee (from the Irish language, "woman-fairy") lets loose her terrible cry on the night before a death in the noble family for whom she wails.

And it does indeed remain night, as Jaun continues his nightstride to the end of the night and the dawn of the next day:  " Eftsoon so too will our own sphoenix spark spirt his spyre and sunward stride the rampante flambe. Ay, already the sombrer opacities of the gloom are sphanished! Brave footsore Haun! Work your progress! Hold to! Now! Win out, ye divil ye! The silent cock shall crow at last. The west shall shake the east awake. Walk while ye have the night for morn, lightbreakfast-bringer, morroweth whereon every past shall full fost sleep. Amain."

And so ends this division, in another burst of Joycean eloquence.

On the simple "puzzle-solving" front, wholly apart from the doings of this chapter, I discovered, in playing with the letters HCE and ALP, that they re-combine to form the word "chapel."  After puzzling over this, and running some Google searches, I came across the curious fact that, in commentary after commentary, the tavern of our protagonists is said to lie in a section of Dublin called "Chapelizod," or Isolde's Chapel.  Izzy as Izod as Isolde.

Now curiously, I didn't remember coming across Chapelizod in the book, and, after not finding it in a few places I thought it might have been, I cheated and had recourse to a Finnegans Wake search engine I had run across on the web.  Now maybe I didn't work it right, but when I searched for "Chapelizod," the search engine turned up no matches in the text--it did, however, come up with a few close cousins of the term that the commentary insisted were references to Chapelizod.  Design discovered or coincidence imposed?  Who knows?

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