Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Seeing Riverrun again

I loved Olwen Fouéré' s Riverrun in Dublin last year, and went to see it again on Saturday, at the Shed on the South Bank, by the mighty River Thames, another great river setting.   

Father Thames on a lamp post in front of the theatre

Entering the South Bank, it was nice to see this blackboard, asking audience members to share the most meaningful word of the show.

In Dublin, Olwen had a deep wide stage, and performed to the audience face on. In the Shed, she has a smaller but higher space. The audience sits on either side and in front of her, and we got less of Stephen Dodd's lighting design.

When I saw the piece in Dublin, I thought it was a straight adaptation of the final chapter. In London, I realised she's included passages from other parts of the Wake. I recognised the last bit of the Shem the Penman chapter, pages 193-5 (which I had to read aloud in Sweny the Chemist's last year). At the end, Shaun 'points the deathbone and the quick are still' but Shem the artist 'lifts the lifewand and the dumb speak.
— Quoiquoiquoiquoiquoiquoiquoiq!'

It's echoed in the final chapter, on page 595: 'Death banes and the quick quoke. But life wends and the dombs spake.' 

In Riverrun, Olwen gave us a good 'Quoiquoiquoiquoiquoiquoiquoiq!'

Photo by Colm Hogan. Here she's whispering some of the text from St Patrick and the Druid, p611


I spotted another passage from page 26, in the book's opening chapter:

Your heart is in the system of the Shewolf and your crested head is in the tropic of Copricapron. Your feet are in the cloister of Virgo. Your olala is in the region of sahuls. And that’s ashore as you were born. Your shuck tick’s swell. And that there texas is tow linen. The loamsome roam to Laffayette is ended. Drop in your tracks, babe! Be not unrested ! The headboddylwatcher of the chempel of Isid, Totumcalmum, saith: I know thee, metherjar, I know thee, salvation boat.

This comes from the bit where the fallen hodcarrier Tim Finnegan, who is also the giant Finn MacCool, is trying to rise up out of his coffin at his wake, and the mourners are telling him to stay dead ('Now be aisy Mr Finnimore sir. And take your laysure like a god on pension and don't be walking abroad.' 24.16).  In the passage quoted above, they're using Ancient Egyptian spells for the same purpose.  

A hymn addressed to Ptah Tanen declares that his head is in the heavens while his feet are on the earth or in Duat, the underworld. "The wind", declared the priestly poet, "issues from thy nostrils and the waters from thy mouth. Upon thy back grows the grain. The sun and the moon are thine eyes. When thou dost sleep it is dark, and when thou dost open thine eyes it is bright again."

Donald Mackenzie, Egyptian Myth and Legend, 1907 

The last Wake sentence above is based on a hymn to Osiris in the Book of the Dead ('Osiris Ra, triumphant, saith...'). A 'headboddylwatcher' is a canopic jar and 'Totumcalmum' is Tutankhamen and totally calmed.
'Headboddylwatchers' - head bottle watchers, or canopic jars

There's a lot of Ancient Egyptian stuff in the final chapter.  At the beginning, we get this passage, which Olwen recited:

The eversower of the seeds of light to the cowld owld sowls that are in the domnatory of Defmut after the night of the carrying of the word of Nuahs and the night of making Mehs to cuddle up in a coddlepot, Pu Nuseht, lord of risings in the yonderworld of Ntamplin, tohp triumphant, speaketh. 593.20-4

The bringer of light to the souls in the dormitory of the deafmute, after the night of Shaun and Shem, the Sunrise, lord of risings in the underworld of Dublin, triumphant, speaks. 

In other words, the rising Sun triumphantly speaks to, and wakes, the sleepers of Finnegans Wake.

That's another parody of the Book of the Dead, which has 'The overseer of the house of the overseer of the seal, Nu, triumphant, saith.' Joyce has reversed words to make up Egyptian-sounding names - 'Nuahs' and 'Mehs' are Shaun and Shem. 'Pu Nuseht' is the Sun Up. 'Ntamplin' is a version of Dublin and 'tohp' is light (Greek 'photo').

The passage announces the big theme of the final chapter - waking up 'after the night' of the book. In Chapter One, Finnegan is told to stay asleep; in the final chapter, he's told to wake up ('Rise up, man of the hooths, you have slept so long!' 619.25).

The Ancient Egyptian name for the Book of the Dead was 'Chapters of Coming Forth by Day', which also describes the end of Finnegans Wake.

I loved the way that Olwen physically enacted the rising of the sun, raising it up like a balloon above her, and spinning round to see a shaft of light: 'Lok! A shaft of shivery in the act, anilancinant. Cold's sleuth!'

Joyce's 'salvation boat'? Ra represented by the scarab and the red disc, in the solar barque (boat)

Imagine that solar disk as a bar of Sunlight Soap. 


Finnegans Wake turns the reader, or theatregoer, into a creator of meaning. Joyce told Adolph Hofmeister that his book could 'satisfy more readers than any other book because it gives them the opportunity to use their own ideas in the reading'.

In a great article for Exeunt magazine Olwen describes some of the elements that she found in the text:

Finn MacCool and Foyn MacHooligan, cartoon-like heroes, music-hall gags, a giant body and its cosmic counterpart, the constellation of Orion, Ursa Major, the Egyptian book of the dead, various characters – celestial, human, animal, vegetal and mineral – hover. They emerge and morph on rhythms as subversive and agile as Charlie Chaplin.  In fact, I am sure he must be in there somewhere. As is, without a doubt, the voice of Lucia, Joyce’s incarcerated daughter, with her silenced rage, her dancer’s brilliance and the multilingual fire of her wit. I am sure I can hear her, waking our silence, making us laugh. 

Riverrun is a show to see again and again, because, as an audience member you pick up on different elements, and find fresh meanings.

It's also different for Olwen every night: 'The river leads the way, a sound-dance of revolutionary energy, and it is impossible to surf it like an expert....We author our own way down the river, along with our audience, on a different journey each and every night.'

Going out, I photographed Olwen's footprints in the salt crystals on the floor

and wrote 'leafy' on the blackboard


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Soap and Sunrise

I went to see Olwen Fouéré's magnificent Riverrun again yesterday at the Shed by the River Thames. The piece opens with the announcement of dawn and sunrise, and this is one of the first lines she speaks:

Guld modning, have yous viewsed Piers' aube? Thane yaars agon we have used yoors up since when we have fused now orther.

In 1939, Joyce's readers would have recognised this as a parody of famous soap advertising slogan. The story begins with the actress Lillie Langtree, who gave a testimonial to Pears' Soap in which she supposedly said, 'Since using Pears soap I have discarded all others.'

The ad was then parodied in this Punch cartoon of a tramp by Harry Furniss.

Rather than being offended, the Pears chairman, Thomas J.Barratt, bought the rights to use the cartoon, and turned it into a full colour advert.
In Joyce's version, the soap stands for the rising sun. 'Piers' aube' is Pears' soap plus Persse O'Reilly, another name for HCE, and 'aube', the French word for dawn.

Have yous viewsed Piers' aube

Have you used Pears' Soap?/ Have you all seen HCE's dawn/the sunrise? 

Joyce associates soap and sunrise in Ulysses, where there's a lovely vision of the lemon soap Bloom gets from Sweny the Chemist rising in the sky:

'BLOOM: I was just going back for that lotion, whitewax, orangeflower water. Shop closes early on Thursday. But first thing in the morning. (He pats divers pockets)....

(A cake of new clean lemon soap arises, diffusing light and perfume.)

We're a capital couple are Bloom and I;
He brightens the earth, I polish the sky.

(The freckled face of Sweny, the druggist, appears in the disc of the soapsun.)
SWENY: Three and a penny, please. 
BLOOM: Yes. For my wife, Mrs Marion. Special recipe.'

The association of soap with the sun may go back to Viscount Leverhulme's Sunlight Soap. Sunlight, originally produced in 1884, was 'the world's first packaged, branded laundry soap' (Wikipedia). 

Leverhulme and his soap get several mentions in Finnegans Wake ('if never he looked on Leaverholma's again and the bester huing that he might ever save sunlife?' 517.20; 'one bar of sunlight does them all' 544.35; 'Selling sunlit sopes to washtout winches' 578.23; with the so light's hope on his ruddycheeks' 493.08; 'make sunlike sylp om this warful dune's battam. Yet clarify begins at. Whither the spot for? Whence the hour by? See but! Lever hulme!' 593.11)

Sunlight Soap was so famous that it was mentioned in this Christmas carol parody, which I remember singing as a child in the 60s.

While Shepherds washed their socks by night
All seated round the tub
A bar of Sunlight soap came down
And they began to scrub.

There's also an obvious reason to make soap stand for dawn. One of the first things people do when they get up in the morning is to reach for a bar of soap.

You can now buy Sweny's famous sweet lemony soap online!


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Joyce begins writing Finnegans Wake

On this day in 1923, Joyce wrote a letter to his patroness, Harriet Shaw Weaver, announcing that he had started writing a new book.

Yesterday I wrote two pages – the first I have written since the final Yes of Ulysses. Having found a pen, with some difficulty I copied them out in a large handwriting on a double sheet of foolscap so that I could read them. Il lupo perde il pelo ma non il vizio, the Italians say. The wolf may lose his skin but not his vice or the leopard cannot change his spots.

Joyce to Harriet Shaw Weaver, 11 March 1923, Letters I p 202 

What Joyce wrote was a comic sketch about King Roderick O'Conor, the last High King of Ireland before the Norman invasion. The king, who has been holding a farewell feast, a last supper, is left alone after the guests have departed. He then goes around the table, drinking all the dregs left behind.

The piece Joyce wrote on 10 March is lost, but you can read the second draft of it here. He continued to expand it until, by July, it looked like this:

So anyhow after that to wind up that long to be chronicled get together day, the anniversary of his first holy communion, after that same barbecue beanfeast was all over poor old hospitable King Roderick O'Conor, the paramount chief polemarch and last preelectric king of all Ireland who was anything you say yourself between fiftyfour and fiftyfive years of age at the time after the socalled last supper he greatly gave in his umbrageous house of the hundred bottles or at least he wasn't actually the then last king of all Ireland for the time being for the jolly good reason that he was still such as he was the eminent king of all Ireland himself after the last preeminent king of all Ireland, the whilom joky old top that went before him King Art MacMurrough Kavanagh of the leather leggings, now of parts unknown, God guard his generous soul that put a poached fowl in the poor man's pot before he took to his pallyass with the weeping eczema for better and worse until he went and died nevertheless the year the sugar was scarce and himself down to three cows that was meat and drink and dogs and washing to him 'tis good cause we have to remember it anyhow wait till I tell you what did he do poor old Roderick O'Conor Rex the auspicious waterproof monarch of all Ireland when he found himself all alone by himself in his grand old historic pile after all of them had all gone off with themselves as best they could on footback in extended order a tree's length from the longest way out down the switchbackward road, the unimportant Parthalonians with the mouldy Firbolgs and the Tuatha de Danaan googs and all the rest of the notmuchers that he didn't care the royal spit out of his ostensible mouth about well what do you think he did, sir, but faix he just went heeltapping through the winespilth and weevily popcorks that were kneedeep round his own right royal round rollicking topers' table with his old Roderick Random pullon hat at a cant on him, the body, you'd pity him, the way the world is, poor he, the heart of Midleinster and the supereminent lord of them all, overwhelmed as he was with black ruin like a sponge out of water and singing all to himself through his old tears starkened by the most regal belches I've a terrible errible lot todo today todo toderribleday well what did he go and do at all His Most Exuberant Majesty King Roderick O'Conor but arrah bedamnbut he finalised by lowering his woolly throat with the wonderful midnight thirst was on him as keen as mustard and leave it if he didn't suck up sure enough like a Trojan in some particular cases with the assistance of his venerated tongue [one after the other in strict order of rotation] whatever surplus rotgut sorra much was left by the lazy lousers of maltknights and beerchurls in the different bottoms of the various different replenquished drinking utensils left there behind them on the premises, by the departed honourable homegoers and other slygrogging suburbanites such as it was no matter whether it was chateaubottled Guinness's or Phoenix brewery stout it was or John Jameson and Sons or Roob Coccola or for the matter of that O'Connell's famous old Dublin ale that he wanted like hell as a fallback of several different quantities and qualities amounting in all to I should say considerably more than the better part of a gill or noggin of imperial dry or liquid measure.
Joyce had already told Harriet Shaw Weaver that he was planning to write a 'history of the world.' As this sketch shows, it wouldn't be a history in any conventional sense. For one thing, it would look very Irish! 


In Finnegans Wake, all the events of history are happening simultaneously. Roderic is called a 'polemarch', which was the title of an Ancient Greek general, from 'polemos' (war) and 'archon' (ruler). The king's guests are the mythical first inhabitants of Ireland, Firbolgs, Tuatha de Danaan and Parthalonians, whose coming was recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters But Roderic's medieval hall has a curious resemblance to a Dublin pub, 'the house of the 100 bottles'. The drinks on offer include John Jameson Irish Whiskey, Guinness stout, and O'Connell Dublin ale, which was brewed at the Phoenix Brewery in James's Street. The king is a Dublin publican, who gets drunk on the dregs because he doesn't want to drink his own profits. This reminds me of Larry O'Rourke, the canny publican in Ulysses, 'rinsing empties and old man in the cellar' ('old man' - beer slops sold to unsuspecting customers).

The king is also a great man who has fallen from high position, like Daniel O'Connell, the Liberator, whose ale he serves.  In 1843, campaigning for repeal of the Union, O'Connell held his greatest mass meeting at Tara, the seat of the Irish High Kings. Soon after, he was arrested, tried for ‘conspiring to change the constitution by illegal methods’, and imprisoned. O'Connell died shortly after from 'softening of the brain'.

The fall of great men, from Humpty Dumpty to the giant Finn MacCool, is a major theme in Finnegans Wake

After finishing it, Joyce put the sketch aside until 1938, when he expanded it further and included it as the end of his pub chapter. In the final version, the publican king, who is now HCE ('hospitable corn and eggfactor') collapses unconscious on his throne, while his pub is transformed into a ship, the Nancy Hans. This provides the setting for the Mamalujo section which follows.

Here's the earliest surviving draft, covered in Joyce's revisions, from David Hayman's A First Draft Version of Finnegans Wake.
David Hayman has a wonderful description of the sketch on pages 295-6 of How Joyce Wrote Finnegans Wake:

'One wonders whether, when he drafted 'Roderick', Joyce had any inkling of the joys and torments that would fill the remainder of his creative life....Though at the time he could have only the vaguest sense how he would get there, it is possible that when he drafted this foundational skit Joyce really did know where he wanted his 'universal history' to go. From the start 'Roderick' was a tour de force, a breathless paragraph punctuated as a single sentence carrying the reader along by sheer verbal energy towards an inglorious anticlimax. Though we may think of him as the historic loser, Roderick was ready to become the Majesty of ALP's letter long before that missive was imagined. More surprisingly and long before the advent of HCE, he is a publican in his 'house of 100 bottles.'...As the host at a 'last supper', a lowly 'beanfeast' he is a Christ celebrating the anniversary of his 1st coming.' Already we have the carnival king as sacrificial victim and the pantomime event in the form of a truncated shaggy dog tale....Whether or not he had already imagined something like the situation of II.3, he had already written in 1923 the necessary conclusion to HCE's agony in the barroom. Or rather he had already set the bar for that chapter to leap.....'

Here's the final version published as pages 380-2 of Finnegans Wake:

So anyhow, melumps and mumpos of the hoose uncommons, after that to wind up that longtobechronickled gettogether thanksbetogiving day at Glenfinnisk-en-la-Valle, the anniversary of his finst homy commulion, after that same barbecue bean feast was all over poor old hospitable corn and eggfactor, King Roderick O’Conor, the paramount chief polemarch and last pre-electric king of Ireland, who was anything you say yourself between fiftyodd and fiftyeven years of age at the time after the socalled last supper he greatly gave in his umbrageous house of the hundred bottles with the radio beamer tower and its hangars, chimbneys and equilines or, at least, he was’nt actually the then last king of all Ireland for the time being for the jolly good reason that he was still such as he was the eminent king of all Ireland himself after the last preeminent king of all Ireland, the whilom joky old top that went before him in the Taharan dy-nasty, King Arth Mockmorrow Koughenough of the leathered leggions, now of parts unknown, (God guard his generous comicsongbook soul !) that put a poached fowl in the poor man’s pot before he took to his pallyass with the weeping eczema for better and worse until he went under the grass quilt on us, nevertheless, the year the sugar was scarce, and we to lather and shave and frizzle him, like a bald surging buoy and himself down to three cows that was meat and drink and dogs and washing to him, ’tis good cause we have to remember it, going through summersultryngs of snow and sleet witht the widow Nolan’s goats and the Brownes girls neats anyhow, wait till I tell you, what did he do, poor old Roderick O’Conor Rex, the auspicious waterproof monarch of all Ireland, when he found him- self all alone by himself in his grand old handwedown pile after all of them had all gone off with themselves to their castles of mud, as best they cud, on footback, owing to the leak of the McCarthy’s mare, in extended order, a tree’s length from the longest way out, down the switchbackward slidder of the land-sown route of Hauburnea’s liveliest vinnage on the brain, the unimportant Parthalonians with the mouldy Firbolgs and the Tuatha de Danaan googs and the ramblers from Clane and all the rest of the notmuchers that he did not care the royal spit out of his ostensible mouth about, well, what do you think he did, sir, but, faix, he just went heeltapping through the winespilth and weevily popcorks that were kneedeep round his own right royal round rollicking toper’s table, with his old Roderick Ran-dom pullon hat at a Lanty Leary cant on him and Mike Brady’s shirt and Greene’s linnet collarbow and his Ghenter’s gaunts and his Macclefield’s swash and his readymade Reillys and his pan-prestuberian poncho, the body you’d pity him, the way the world is, poor he, the heart of Midleinster and the supereminent lord of them all, overwhelmed as he was with black ruin like a sponge out of water, allocutioning in bellcantos to his own oliverian society MacGuiney’s Dreans of Ergen Adams and thruming through all to himself with diversed tonguesed through his old tears and his ould plaised drawl. starkened by the most regal of belches, like a blurney Cashelmagh crooner that lerking Clare air, the blackberd’s ballad I’ve a terrible errible lot todue todie todue tootorribleday, well, what did he go and do at all, His Most Exuberant Majesty King Roderick 0’Conor but, arrah bedamnbut, he finalised by lowering his woolly throat with the wonderful midnight thirst was on him, as keen as mustard, he could not tell what he did ale, that bothered he was from head to tail, and, wishawishawish, leave it, what the Irish, boys, can do, if he did’nt go, sliggymaglooral reemyround and suck up, sure enough, like a Trojan, in some particular cases with the assistance of his vene-rated tongue, whatever surplus rotgut, sorra much, was left by the lazy lousers of maltknights and beerchurls in the different bottoms of the various different replenquished drinking utensils left there behind them on the premisses by that whole hogsheaded firkin family, the departed honourable homegoers and other sly- grogging suburbanites, such as it was, fall and fall about, to the brindishing of his charmed life, as toastified by his cheeriubicundenances, no matter whether it was chateaubottled Guiness’s or Phoenix brewery stout it was or John Jameson and Sons or Roob Coccola or, for the matter of that, O’Connell’s famous old Dublin ale that he wanted like hell, more that halibut oil or jesuits tea, as a fall back, of several different quantities and quali-ties amounting in all to, I should say, considerably more than the better part of a gill or naggin of imperial dry and liquid measure till, welcome be from us here, till the rising of the morn, till that hen of Kaven’s shows her beaconegg, and Chapwellswendows stain our horyhistoricold and Father MacMichael stamps for aitch o’clerk mess and the Litvian Newestlatter is seen, sold and delivered and all’s set for restart after the silence, like his ancestors to this day after him (that the blazings of their ouldmouldy gods may attend to them we pray!), overopposides the cowery lad in the corner and forenenst the staregaze of the cathering candled, that adornment of his album and folkenfather of familyans, he came acrash a crupper sort of a sate on accomondation and the very boxst in all his composs, whereuponce, behome the fore for cove and trawlers, heave hone, leave lone, Larry’s on the focse and Faugh MacHugh O’Bawlar at the wheel, one to do and one to dare, par by par, a peerless pair, ever here and over there, with his fol the dee oll the doo on the flure of his feats and the feels of the fumes in the wakes of his ears our wineman from Barleyhome he just slumped to throne.
So sailed the stout ship Nansy Hans. From Liff away. For Nattenlaender. As who has come returns. Farvel, farerne! Good-bark, goodbye!
Now follow we out by Starloe! 

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

James Joyce, rugby fan

It's a little known fact that James Joyce was a rugby fan. 

On 14 April 1923, Joyce went to see Ireland play France in a Five Nations Championship game at the Colombes Stadium (below). He immediately learned the names of the whole Irish team, as well as the names of the clubs they played for.

I wonder how much of the game could Joyce see?
We know this thanks to a memoir by William G Fallon, who was at Belvedere school and University College with Joyce. Fallon had been a rugby back for the Bective Rangers, a leading Dublin club. The Bective Rangers are named in all three of Joyce's novels:  A Portrait ('It was the night of the match against the Bective Rangers'), Ulysses ('I'll tell my brother, the Bective rugger fullback on you, you heartless flirt') and Finnegans Wake ('the Bective's wouldn't hold me' 451.10 and, possibly, 'vective volleying' at 581.03).

In 1923, Fallon visited Paris, as an official for the Irish Rugby Football League, in order to see Ireland play France. He gave Joyce a call.

'He seemed delighted to hear from me. When I arrived at the flat I discovered to my astonishment that he had been to see the match. 'How did you come to see the game, Joyce?' I said. 'I had to go and see the boys in green jerseys' was his reply.

In 1931, I was again over in Paris, but this time as an Irish selector. Joyce must have guessed I was in town for the match because he phoned me to come around and see him. He had two tickets for the match and was going accompanied by an enthusiast.  I was unable to go with Joyce, but agreed to meet him later. When I got around to see him eventually that evening, having dodged the after-dinner match, he told me that his eyes had not been strong enough to identify 'our team'. He rolled off the names of the Irish players who had taken part in the game and their respective clubs. Then to my astonishment he talked of prominent players in the 1923 side and added that he had attended the alternate games played in the intervening seasons whenever he happened to be in Paris. A substantial part of our conversation was taken up talking about the match and the players.'

The Joyce We Knew, ed Ulick O'Connor

Sadly for Joyce and Fallon, in 1923, France beat Ireland 14-8. This picture, from the cover of Miroir des Sports, shows the 'two heroes of the match', the Irish fullback, William Ernest Crawford (left) and the French winger Adolphe Jauréguy. I found it on Frederic Humbert's excellent rugby pioneers blog,

A couple of months after seeing the Irish game, in 1923, Joyce wrote the Tristan and Isolde episode, in which Tristan appears as a 'handsome brineburnt sixfooter Gaelic, rugger and soccer champion', fondling Isolde's 'palpable rugby and association bulbs'.

I wonder if the 'enthusiast' Joyce attended the 1931 match with was Samuel Beckett. At Portora Royal School, Beckett played rugby as a halfback and was captain of the First XV. According to a contemporary, Douglas Graham, Beckett was 'blind without his spectacles, but bold as a lion in the scrum' (quoted by Russell Smith, Samuel Beckett in Context, p.15)

Joyce sent Fallon a copy of transition, containing the latest extract from Finnegans Wake. Fallon was baffled by the piece, not spotting that it had several references to rugby in it! This is another example of Joyce's delusion that the more stuff he packed into the Wake, the wider its appeal would be.

Ulick O'Connor tracked the rugby references down:

I found this sentence which now appears on page 457 of Finnegans Wake: 'By the horn of twenty of both of the two saint Collopys, blackmail him I will.'
  I remembered that there were two brothers, Bill and Dick Collopy, who had played for Ireland against France in the 1920s. I checked the records and found that they had both been playing the day that Joyce and Fallon had seen the match in Paris. Then on page 446 there was this reference which confirmed my view: 'in that united I.R.U. stade'. I.R.U. stood for Irish Rugby Union. Stade was the Stade Columbe where the match was played. Then on page 451 came a reference to Fallon's own rugby club, Bective Rangers: 'And I tell you the Bectives wouldn't hold me.'  In Joyce's day the Bective first fifteen contained several Old Belvederians and it turned out that Joyce used to go out to their grounds in Ballsbridge to watch the team play, which is presumably where he got the inspiration for his comparison on page 499 of the moon rolling through the clouds like a rugby ball in a scrum: 'I'd followed through my upfielded neviewscope the ruckaby moon cumuliously god-rolling himself westasleep amuckst the cloudscrums...'

Introduction to The Joyce We Knew, p.15


Another game Joyce is known to have seen was one between France and the New Zealand All Blacks, at Colombes Stadium in Paris in January 1925. The All Blacks were touring France, Britain, Ireland and Canada, and winning every game they played.  The team, whose star player was the Maori fullback, George Nepia, won the nickname, 'The Invincibles' - coincidentally also the name of the Irish nationalists who committed the Phoenix Park murders (a big event in the Wake).

The New Zealand scholar, Richard Corballis, has written an article about this match in James Joyce Quarterly 44.1 (2006)  

According to Corballis, Joyce was particularly taken by the 'haka' (Maori war chant), which the team, led by Nepia, performed before the game. This is how it went:

Kia whakangawari au i a hau! I au-e! Hei! (Get ready for the clash)
Ko Niu Tireni e haruru nei. Au! Au! Au-e ha! Hei! (New Zealand's storm is about to break)
Ko Niu Tireni e haruru nei. Au! Au! Au-e ha! Hei!
A ha-ha!
Ka tu te ihiihi (We shall stand fearless)
Ka tu te wanawana (We shall stand exalted in spirit)
Ki runga ki te rangi, (We shall climb to the heavens)
E tu iho nei, tu iho nei, hi! (We shall attain the utmost heights)
Au! Au! Au!

The All Black Haka in Paris, during the later 1926-7 tour
These pictures also come from Frederic Humbert's rugby pioneers blog
Another haka, for the Paris cameras in December 1926
I've found a couple of films of the haka on youtube, here and here.

Wanting to find out more about the haka, Joyce wrote to his favourite sister, Poppy (Margaret Alice), who had become a nun, Sister Mary Gertrude, and emigrated to New Zealand. Corballis cites a tribute to Sister Mary Gertrude which appeared in the Tablet a month after her death: 'When the All Blacks first visited Paris, James Joyce attended the games and later requested that Sister Mary Gertrude send him the Maori words with translation and music of the Haka.'

Joyce included the haka in Finnegans Wake, in his warfare section, where he introduces the story of how Buckley shot the Russian General:

Au! Au! Aue! Ha! Heish!
As stage to set by ritual rote for the grimm grimm tale of the four of hyacinths, the deafeeled carp and the bugler’s dozen of leagues-inamour or how Holispolis went to Parkland with mabby and sammy and sonny and sissy and mop’s varlet de shambles and all to find the right place for it by peep o’skirt or pipe a skirl when the hundt called a halt on the chivvychace of the ground sloper at that ligtning lovemaker’s thender apeal till, between wandering weather and stable wind, vastelend hosteil-end, neuziel and oltrigger some, Bullyclubber burgherly shut the rush in general.
Let us propel us for the frey of the fray! Us, us, beraddy!
Ko Niutirenis hauru leish! A lala! Ko Niutirenis haururu laleish! Ala lala! The Wullingthund sturm is breaking. The sound of maormaoring The Wellingthund sturm waxes fuercilier. The whackawhacks of the sturm. Katu te ihis ihis! Katu te wana wana! The strength of the rawshorn generand is known throughout the world. Let us say if we may what a weeny wukeleen can do.
Au! Au! Aue! Ha! Heish! A lala!   335.04 etc

Note the references to the 'maormaoring' of the haka, imagined as a storm breaking. 'Wellingthund' is both the Iron Duke at Waterloo and the capital of New Zealand. Corballis concludes:

The battle between Wellington and Napoleon, which permeates the Wake, may reflect, among other things, the 1925 match between New Zealand and the French. Moreover, since this particular All Black team has always been known as the "Invincibles," there may even be a rugby pun involved every time that word, in its various guises, appears in the text....It may not be too impudent to suggest that Colombes Stadium is as significant a site in the Wake as the Phoenix Park.

Richard Corballis, 'The Provenance of Joyce's Haka', James Joyce Quarterly 44.1 (2006) 

Fweet lists many more rugby references here.

And here's an entertaining article about Joyce and the Maori haka, by Dean Parker, from the New Zealand Herald.