Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Joyce Reading Finnegans Wake

The best introduction to Finnegans Wake is the recording that Joyce made of the final pages of the Anna Livia Plurabelle chapter (pages 213-6). Here's a beautiful film of it made by Electronical Monocle, who has animated the bust of Joyce in Stephen's Green, Dublin.

Joyce made the record for Charles Kay Ogden, at the Orthological Institute in London in August 1929. His eyesight was so bad that he had the text written out in half-inch letters. But the light was poor and he still needed to have whispered prompting.

This copy sold for $5,000 at Sotheby's in New York
Joyce told his patroness, Harriet Shaw Weaver, that the chapter was 'a chattering dialogue across the river by two washerwomen who, as night falls, become a tree and a stone.' He also described it to his friend Sarsfield Kerrigan as 'an attempt to subordinate words to the rhythm of water.'

Joyce gave a set of explanatory notes to Ogden, who published them anonymously in Psyche, April 1932, vol XII, no. 4, pp.86-95. 

Some of Joyce's explanations are quite extraordinary (e.g. 'The first man of Dublin was a he-goat'). 

Here they are - for the first time on the web! - with the text in bold:

Well you know or don't you kennet
Kennet= name of a river
Kennen= Have knowledge
As the story is chiefly about the River Liffey (on which Dublin is placed) the word-play makes use as far as possible of the names of rivers. The Liffey is looked on throughout as the mother, and Dublin as the father

every telling has its taling

My branches lofty are taking root
My branches high are taking root.    
The story is in the form of a discussion between two washing-women doing their washing by the side of the Liffey. At the end of the story, one woman is turned into a tree and the other into a stone. At this point, the woman who is to be turned into a tree sees herself pictured upside down in the water, in the form she will later take.
And my cold cher's gone ashley.
Suggestion in Cher of River Char, and of a chair (seat). This statement comes from the woman who is later to become a stone.

Fieluhr? Filou!
Viel Uhr? Filou! 
In France at the end of the war, a German on one side of a river between the lines put the question 'Wie Viel Uhr?' to a Frenchman and was given the answer 'Filou toi-meme!' The story comes to mind because the same question is put by one of the women. 

(‘wie viel Uhr?’ =’what’s the time?’ ‘Filou’=‘scoundrel’)  

It saon is late
Its getting late.
Saon= name of a river
Soon= In a short time

senne eye or erewone
Erewon= Name of a river
Erewhon (Nowhere)= Book by Samuel Butler. 

Waterhouse's clogh
Waterhouse's Clock.
This clock is to Dublin what Big Ben is to London. Waterhouse was a noted clock-maker, and his name has come to be used for any important person in the town. The first builder of a Dublin was a Viking, a Deucalion. Deucalion is Greek for water-house.  

I heard thum sigh
So they said.
Hurd= Name of a river.
Heard = was hearing.
Sigh = A little sad noise.  

O, my back, my back, my bach!
My back.
The form 'bach' gives the suggestion of an ache (pain) as she makes her back straight again.
Bach= German for 'small river' 

I'd want to go to Aches-les-Pains.
Aix-les-Bains is a place where persons who are ill go to take the baths.

Sound of the Angelus. 

the belle for Sexaloitez
Name of great Swiss Day. Play on Latin answer to Angelus. 

Concepta do Send-us-pray!
Concepta de Spiritu.
Part of Ave Maria.  

The Angelus bell again. Suggestion here of the pains of giving birth. 

Wring out the clothes! Wring in the dew!

Take the water out of your cloths.
Wring= Take the water out.
Ring= Sound(ing) of a bell.
Dew= The water drops on the grass in the early morning. 

It's churning chill.
It's turning cold.
Churning= A violent motion of the river, causing a white surface, as when butter is made.
The name of a river.
Suggestion of the cold river in addition to the cold air.    

Der went is rising
The wind gets high.
Derwent= Name of a river. 

And I'll tie my butcher's apron here. It's suety yet. The strollers will pass it by.
The road boys will all go past.
Strollers are men who go out with nothing better to do than to see what goods they may take. The meatman’s garment is put among the linen and is so badly washed that no one will take it.

Six shifts, ten kerchiefs, nine to hold to the fire and this for the code, the convent napkins, twelve, one baby's shawl.
This for the cold.
Code=secret system of writing. In the war, notes in secret writing were sent on face cloths

Good mother Jossiph knows, she said.
Jossiph= Joseph mixed with gossip.

Whose head? Mutter snores? 
Whose head? Other ways? 
As the story goes on the river gets wider and the two women become parted. Their words are no longer clear to one another.

Deo Gratias.
Said to a person who sneezes. The form Deataceas has in it the suggestion of a sneeze.
Taceas= Latin for 'be quiet'.

Wharnow are alle her childer.

Wharnow=Name of a river.
Childer is the early, simple form of children, still used in Ireland when all are of the same family. The mother is Anna LIvia, and the question is about those who have gone from Dublin to other places.

And all the Dunders de Dunnes in Markland's Vineland beyond Brendan's herring pool takes number nine in yangsee's hats.
dunce=foolish person. Name given to those of the Duns Scotus School of Thought.
Markland’s wineland is a Northman’s name for America, & Brendan’s Sea for the Atlantic.
This is to give the idea that the American Irishman has a very high opinion of himself (causing his head to get greater in size).
Yansee= Yangtse, name of a river.

But all that's left to the last of the Meaghers in the loup of the years prefixed and between is one kneebuckle and two hooks in the front.
All that is now for the last of the Meaghers.
To Wally Meagher, Anna Livia gave a ‘pair of Blarney braggs’ (a sort of trousers). When these come down to the last of the Meaghers there is nothing but the knee ornament and two hooks in the front.

the loup of the years
The round of the years.
Loup is from German laufen (=walk). Suggestion of the view that the events of history come round in a circle.

It's that irrawaddyng I've stoke in my aars.
It’s that soft material I’ve put in my ears.
Irrawaddy= name of a river.
Wadding= soft material, such as cotton wool.
Stoked= Put in violently, as coal is put into the fire of an engine.
By changing ‘ears’ to the wider sound ‘aase’ the idea is given of something full and stretched.

The great Finnleader himself
Great Finn the ruler.
Finn is the chief person in the Irish stories, the parallel of Arthur in the English stories.

in his joakimono
His coat of war.
Joachim was a Father of the religion of Christ. At the thought of the great chief, Finn, the name of Joachim comes to mind.
Kimono=Brightly coloured Japanese garment.

Father of Otters
Father of Waters.
This is the name given to the Mississippi.
Otter= a small water animal.

the ghostwhite horse of the Peppers
Deathwhite, the horse of the Peppers.
Suggestion of the shade of Mr Pepper and an old play named The White Horse of the Peppers.  

Ireland sober is Ireland stiff.
Ireland dry is Ireland stiff.
Taken from Father Matthew's cry for a dry Ireland - 'Ireland sober is Ireland free.'  

Lord help you, Maria, full of grease, the load is with me.
From a form of words used in the book of the Roman Catholic Church - Hail Mary full of Grace!
Grace=quality of being good,
Grease= a fat substance.
Load= weight (used here in place of Lord).   

I sonht zo!
It seemed so.
Isonzo (I thought so)= Name of a river. 

Madammangut! Were you lifting your elbow…
Madam Angot
There is a French opera that goes by the name of ‘La Fille de Madame Angot’, who is a washing-woman. ‘Madam Mangut’ gives the idea of a woman with a man’s throat, that is, able to drink like a man.

marthared mary allacook.
Martha Mary Alacoque.
A Very good Frenchwoman.
Martyred (Marthared) = having gone through much for one's religion. 

Conway's Carrigacurra canteen
Carrigacurra -Town on Liffey where Conway had a beer house.

Corrigan's pulse
Corrigan's trouble.
The disease 'Corrigan's Pulse' was the discovery of a great medical man in Dublin of that name.

varicoarse veins
My blood vessel's thick.
Varicise veins is a diseased condition of the blood-vessels which makes them become thick.
Very coarse=very thick.

Your rear gait’s creakorheuman…
Your tail walk’s Graeco-Roman.
Creak= Noise made by wood when weight is put on it.
Human= to do with man.
Rheumatic= Stiff in the bones. 

the laundryman with the lavandier flannels
‘The blue-grey trousers.
Lavender is used because lavender is the name of the sweet-smelling flower put into clean linen, and because it gives the suggestion of the French lavandiere (washing-woman)’

when Collars and Cuffs was heir to the town
The Duke of Clarence.
Commonly talked of as ‘Collars and Cuffs’ because his linen was so beautiful (older brother of George V)

Holy Scamander!
Am I seeing right?
This gives the same effect as a cry of surprise.
Scamander= name of a river.
Scamandering (a Dublin word) = moving slowly and quietly like a river.

I sar it again!
I saw it again.
Iser= Name of a river.

Icis on us!
My blood is ice.
The Isis= The Thames

See there.
Zezere= name of a river. Has the sound of a person overcome with fear, making an attempt to say ‘there’

the dwyergray ass
That grey long-ears.
Dwyergray was the owner of Freeman’s journal, and the Northcliffe of Dublin. He gave the town its water. The ass here is representative of the Apocrypha.

 them four old codgers
The old four.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In addition to this, they are the four school teachers from Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connaught, who are looking into the brain of  the sleeping Shaun.

Are you meanam...
Meanam= Name of a River.
Are you meaning=Have you in mind.

I meyne now
I am saying now.
Maine= Name of a river. 
that stray in the mist

That go-in-the-mist.
Another name for a 'long ears' or ass.

Is that the Poolbeg flasher beyant, pharphar.
Far far.
Pharos= Word used in verse for a lighthouse.

Die eve, little eve, die!
She's dead, little Eve, little Eve she's dead.
The boys and girls at play send one another back and forward ain the air a hundred times, and then let them come slowly to rest, saying these words with the name of the person in question.
We see that wonder in your eye.
The strange look in your eyes.
Strange things are seen in the eyes of persons on the point of death.

We'll meet again, we'll part once more.
A meeting again and then a parting.
That is to say, with every new day the washing women will have their meeting by the side of the Liffey, and at every nightfall they will go their separate ways.

The spot I'll seek if the hour you'll find.
I'll give the place; let the hour be yours.
The stone is a sign of space, and the tree, which has growth, of time. The same idea is at the back of what comes after.

My chart shines high where the blue milk's upset.
Where the blue milk's moving.
The 'Milky Way'. Stars in the sky give the idea of space. 
So save to jurna’s end!
To Journey’s end.
Jurna=name of river

I sow home slowly now by own way, moyvally way.
To Moyvally.
Place near Dublin.
My valley= My place between the mountains.

Towy I too, rathmine.
And so will I to Rathmines.
Towy=Name of a river.
Rathmines=Place near Dublin.
Rath= A little slope

Dear Dirty Dumpling, foostherfather of fingalls and dotthergills
Dear Dirty Dublin, etc.
Dublin here is pictured acting as a father to the sons and daughters of the great Northmen of the old stories.

Hadn’t he seven dams to wive him?
Hadn’t he his seven women of pleasure? etc.
Taken from the old verse, ‘As I was going to St Ives.’

And every dam had her seven crutches. And every crutch had its even hues.
And every woman her seven sticks.
Crotch= Join between the branches of a tree.
All this is to give the idea of the growth of Dublin, branching out into one street after another.

And each hue had a differing cry.
And every colour a different cry.
Hue and cry= Outcry.

Sudds for me and supper for you and the doctor’s bill for Joe John.
Every part of the town is representative of a different order of society and way of living. So, for example, ‘washing for me, a good meal for you, and the chemist’s account for Joe John.’
Sudds for me= soap and water.
Sudds=floating islands in the Nile.’
Supper (the night meal) has in it the suggestion of the ‘supping’ noise made by the water.

Befor! Bifur!
Before! Before!
‘Befor! Bifor!’ has a sound like that of the earlier ‘Viel Uhr? Filou’!
‘Bifur’ is a short form of bifurcation (=division), which again gives the idea of the branching of the streets.

He married his markets, cheap by foul…
His markets were married, the cheap with the bad.
The development of Dublin by stretching out to new markets. ‘Cheap by foul’ is a copy of ‘Cheek by jowl’, which is a way of saying ‘side by side.'

…like any Etrurian Catholic Heathen…
Etrurian Catholics of hated religion.
The first letters of Haveth Childers Everywhere turned the other way round.

…in their pinky limony creamy birnies and their turkiss indienne mauves
In their light reds, etc.
The colours of the colour-band seen by moonlight, so that all their dresses are in light shades.
Birnie= Ger. Birnen (the light green fruit).
Turkus = Turqouise (a light blue)
Indienne= Indigo (dark blue)

But at milkidmass who was the spouse?
But in the animal’s time where was the woman?
Pointing back to the earliest stages of society.

Tys Elvenland!
Tys, Elvenland = Names of rivers.
Elves=  Little persons with strange powers.
Elve = Norwegian for ‘small river’

Ordovico or viricordo.
Vico’s order but natural, free.
Vico’s view was that there were four stages in the development of every society, and that when these four stages have been covered, the circle of history was started again. Here the suggestion is put forward that Vico’s stages do not necessarily come round for ever in the same order.

Northmen’s thing made southfolk’s place
Our Norwegian Thing-seat was where Suffolk Street is.
The high place on which the Norwegian Thing had its meeting has now become Suffolk Place.

But howmulty plurators made eachone in person?
What number of places will make things into persons.
Play on the statement that a ‘substantive’ is the name of a person, a place, or a thing.

Hircus Civis Eblanensis!
The first man of Dublin was a he-goat.
Again the letters of Haveth Childers Everywhere.

What Tom Malone?
The distance between the two women is becoming greater, and the words are no longer clear, so that ‘gone, ho!’ has the sound of Tom Malone.



  1. very useful!
    we also need someone who knows how to clean up noisy old 78 recordings, and someone to make a video animation of the annotations

  2. Although the word clogh in "Waterhouse's clogh" refers to a clock, there is a further meaning in that clogh in Irish means "a stone". In Irish the word would rhyme with cluck with the gh a voiceless velar fricative.