Monday, 21 July 2014

Four Irish Accents

Many different voices speak out of the pages of Finnegans Wake, and characters can have more than one voice. The 1923 Mamalujo episode, Joyce's treatment of old age, is mostly written in a rambling, senile voice, the collective voice of the four old men.  But the chapter ends with a set of verses in which each old man speaks in turn, and each in a different Irish accent!

It's easy to miss the accents, especially if, like me, you're not Irish. Joyce listed the accents in the schema, or plan, he gave Harriet Shaw Weaver when he sent her the chapter. This is like the plans for Ulysses that he gave Stuart Gilbert and Carlo Linati

Here's the plan, as printed in Selected Letters p297.  Joyce wrote, 'I have been a long time in the company of these old gentleman-historians and am rather tired of them. On the other side I am scribbling a kind of plan of the verses which follow the prose immediately.'

This is the only schema Joyce ever produced for Finnegans Wake. It shows that, at this early stage, he was still thinking in terms of correspondences (He could also have written a schema for the 1923 St Kevin piece, which has correspondences with the ecclesiastical hierarchy, orders of angels, liturgical colours, canonical hours, gifts of the Holy Spirit, and sacraments).

As if these correspondences didn't give the verses enough formal constraints, Joyce also introduced a pattern of barely perceptible internal rhymes, which he indicated, for the first three verses, on his manuscript. I wonder why he wanted to indicate these rhymes, since the verses were already written. Maybe it was to show Harriet Shaw Weaver how hard he was working!


In the chapter, the old men have been watching the lovemaking of Tristan and Iseult, which climaxes in a big kiss, described as a football goal. They respond with a song - the verses at the end of the chapter.

There's an earlier version of the Mamalujo episode which the National Library of Ireland bought in 2006, and which Jorn Barger has posted online. This version explicitly links their song to the big kiss:

'But when those jossers aforesaid, the Four Waves of Erin, heard the detonation of the osculation (cataclysmic cataglottism) which with ostentation (osculum cum basio? necuom suavioque) Tristan to Isolde gave, then lifted they up round Ireland’s shores the wail of old men’s planxty.

Highchanted the elderly Waves of Erin, in four-part Palestrian melody, four for all, all one in glee of grief of loneliness of age but with a bardic licence, there being about of birds and stars and noise quite a sufficient [number]{quantity}

This was their wavechant:'

A 'planxty' is an Irish harp melody. The song that follows in this early version is Joyce's own 1914 poem, 'Tutto e Sciolto' ' - which here becomes a wailed nostalgic lament for their own lost loves. It's named after Bellini's aria 'All is Lost', from The Sleepwalker (La Sonnambula), which also haunts Bloom in Ulysses. Joyce's poem ends:

A why
wilt thou remember these.
A why,
Poor heart, repine,
If the dear love she yielded with a sigh
Was never thine!

This fits in with the operatic setting of Tristan. But when Joyce rewrote 'Mamalujo', he came up with a very different kind of song for the four old men. It's one in which, instead of lamenting over lost love, each of the four fantasises about Iseult. Each verse shows a different male attitude to the female: Matt claims ownership of Iseult; Marcus places her on a romantic pedestal; Luke offers her domestic companionship and practical help; and Johnny boasts that she's one of his sexual conquests.


In the published version, the old men's song is preceded by this introduction, in which the four are brought on as musical instruments in a fife and drum band:

Hear, O hear, Iseult la belle! Tristan, sad hero, hear! The Lambeg drum, the Lombog reed, the Lumbag fiferer, the Limibag brazenaze.

Tristan is the sad hero, from 'triste', sad. In Bédier's version of the legend, Tristan is born after his father, King Melodias, is stolen away by enchantment. Melodias's wife, dying of grief, says to the baby, 'And as by sadness you came into the world, your name shall be called Tristan; that is the child of sadness.'

'Hear, O hear...sad hero, hear!' echoes one of the four sighs of the old men 'Ah dearo dear!' (319.20). This is also echoed at 117.02: 'Here, Ohere, insult the fair! Traiter, bad hearer, brave!'

'The Lambeg drum'
The 'Lambeg drum' is Matt Gregory, Joyce's Ulsterman.
This is a huge drum, played in Orange Parades in Ulster, named after Lambeg, south of Belfast. Along with bagpipes, it's the loudest acoustic instrument in the world.It suits the hectoring tone of Matt's verse.

I found this photo of Sam Magowan playing one on the Hillsborough District Loyal Online Lodge website. Have a listen to the massed sound of them on youtube. It sounds like a battle!

'The Lombog reed'
Marcus Lyons, the Corkman, is represented by a 'Lombog reed'. Lombog is Irish for 'bare' and 'soft', and Marcus speaks with the 'plovery soft accents' (114.23) of Cork. There's also a Lombard's Castle in County Cork. A reed fits the soft up-and-down Cork accent.

'The Lumbag fiferer'
Luke Tarpey, the Dubliner, is a 'Lumbag fiferer', combining the old men's lumbago ('their lumbag walk' 390.16) with Lambay Island, County Dublin ('Lumbage Island' 410.13).

'The Limibig brazenaze'
Johnny MacDougall, from Connacht, is a 'Limibig brazenaze'. 'Limibig' may suggest the Irish name for Limerick, 'Luimneach'. I imagine 'brazenaze' is some sort of trumpet (brass noise?). Brasenose College, Oxford, makes four appearances in the Wake, listed in fweet. But it fits the brazen boasting of Johnny's verse.

Let's go through the song verse by verse...


Here's the first verse, in which Matt, the Ulsterman, boasts of the wealth of his province (derived from its big shipbuilding industry). He promises this wealth will 'prank' or decorate Iseult. Boasting and bribery is followed by threats of violence to any rival:

Anno Domini nostri sancti Jesu Christi
Nine hundred and ninetynine million pound sterling in the blueblack
bowels of the bank of Ulster.
Braw bawbees and good gold pounds, galore, my girleen, a Sunday'll prank thee finely.
And no damn loutll come courting thee or by the mother of the Holy Ghost there'll be murder!

This is the most easily recognized accent, which Joyce renders with hard consonants and a hectoring tone. I recommend reading this aloud while impersonating the Reverend Ian Paisley in 'No Surrender' mode. You can see him in full steam here and here on youtube

The internal rhymes in this verse, indicated by Joyce, are Anno Domini/ And no damn; nostri/Ghost; ninety-nine/ finely; sancti/prank thee; and Ulster/murder. 'Sterling' and 'mother', later additions, rhyme with 'girleen' and 'murder''.

'Anno Domini nostri sancti Jesu Christi': in the year of our blessed lord, Jesus Christ.  You expect a date to follow, but instead, Matt gives us a massive sum of money.  Perhaps beginning in this way is a nod to the Annals of the Four Masters. When this was first published, in the transatlantic review, this line was separated from the rest of the poem and set in italics. 

' Nine hundred and ninetynine million pound sterling in the blueblack
bowels of the bank of Ulster' I imagined it was 'sterling' because Ulster, still part of the United Kingdom, kept the British currency. But the Irish Free State was still using sterling in 1923,  when this was written - adopting the new Saorstát pound in 1928. 'blue-black' is the liturgical colour of the verse. 'Ulster' is the province in the schema.

'Braw bawbees' - This phrase shows the Scots influence on Ulster: 'braw' is Scots dialect for 'fine' or 'excellent'. A 'bawbee' was a Scottish halfpenny, issued from 1658 until the reign of William of Orange. Here's a bawbee issued by Mary Queen of Scots.

But the term continued to be used for a halfpenny through the 19th century.

'good gold pounds galore' - 'Gold' is the ore in Joyce's schema.  'Galore' is Irish, from 'go leor' - plenty

Gold also appears on the other occasion when Matt talks with an Ulster accent, on page 140. Again he's addressing Issy here:

And when ye’ll hear the gould hommers of my heart, my floxy loss, bingbanging again the ribs of yer resistance and the tenderbolts of my rivets working to your destraction ye’ll be sheverin wi’ all yer dinful sobs when we’ll go riding acope-acurly, you with yer orange garland and me with my conny cordial, down the greaseways of rollicking into the waters of wetted life.  140.15-21

Belfast's Harland and Wolff shipyard, with the Titanic in the background
This is a sexual proposal full of shipbuilding imagery, with hammers banging ribs, bolts and rivets, and the launching of a ship down a greased slipway.  There are also references to Ulster’s Orange Order (‘yer orange garland’) and linen industry (‘floxy loss’-flaxy lass). McHugh says 'cope-curly' is Ulster dialect for 'head-over-heels'.

'a Sunday'll prank thee finely' - Matt promises to prank (adorn) Iseult with his province's wealth for Sunday - when people put on their best clothes for Church. 'Palm Sunday' is the 'day' in Joyce's schema. It's  'prank thee' because the verse's pronoun is 'thou'.

'by the mother of the Holy Ghost' - Joyce originally wrote just 'by the Holy Ghost'. He added 'mother' to get another internal rhyme. It also adds an element of religious confusion - the Holy Ghost has no mother, 'proceeding' from the Father and Son in the Catholic Church.   Edmund Lloyd Epstein's reading is 'The aggressive Orange ignorance of Catholicism hated by the North comes out in Matt's theologically grotesque reference to the mother of the Holy Ghost.' A Guide through Finnegans Wake, p162

John Stanislaus Joyce of Cork
In the next verse we switch from the hard consonants of Ulster to the sing-song rhythm of Marcus Lyons' soft Cork-Kerry accent. Here's an article about the accent by Ben Trawick-Smith, with examples you can listen to. This is an accent that Joyce knew intimately, for it was his father's. P.J.Murphy, of Sweny's in Dublin, told me that Joyce is putting on a Cork accent in his recording of Anna Livia Plurabelle.

Joyce was proud of his father, and kept a picture of Cork (in a Cork frame) wherever he lived in Paris. In A Portrait, Stephen Dedalus visits Cork with his father, who tells his cronies 'that he was an old Corkonian, that he had been trying for thirty years to get rid of his Cork accent up in Dublin and that Peter Pickackafax beside him (i.e. Stephen) was his eldest son but that he was only a Dublin jackeen.'

Cork is famous for the Blarney Stone, which gives eloquence to those who kiss it. On page 140, Marcus Lyons talks about his Cork eloquence, and the 'soapstone of silvery speech':

And sure where can you have such good old chimes anywhere, and leave you, as on the Mash and how'tis I would be engaging you with my plovery soft accents and descanting upover the scene beunder me of your loose vines in their hairafall with them two loving loofs braceleting the slims of your ankles and your mouth's flower rose and sinking ofter the soapstone of silvry speech. 140.21-27

'Silver' is also Marcus's 'ore' in the Mamalujo poem, which has the same sibilants.  

This is the most musical and romantic of the verses, and it places Iseult on a pedestal.

O, come all ye sweet nymphs of Dingle beach to cheer Brinabride
         queen from Sybil surfriding
In her curragh of shells of daughter of pearl and her silverymonnblue
         mantle round her.
Crown of the waters, brine on her brow, she'll dance them a jig and
         jilt them fairly.
Yerra, why would she bide with Sig Sloomysides or the grogram grey
         barnacle gander?  

Botticelli's Birth of Venus

In contrast to Matt's hectoring and bullying voice, Marcus respectfully distances himself from Iseult with the third person ('she' in Joyce's schema). He calls on the nymphs of Dingle, in Cork, to cheer her arrival, like Aphrodite, from the sea. 

'Oh come all ye sweet nymphs of Dingle beach to cheer Brinabride 
         queen from Sybil surfriding.'

'Brinabride' - bride of the sea, briny bride. Bride, or Brighid, was a Gaelic goddess, transformed by the Church into Saint Brigid. The address of the old men's college is  '1132 Brian or Bride Street' 388.27. See also 'The brine's my bride to be' 489.19; 'the bryde of the Bryne' 595.05; and  'I am sold! Brinabride!...Brinabride!' 500.21Maud Gonne referred to later in the verses ('she was always mad gone on me'), was married to Sean MacBride. 

She's arriving from Sybil Head, which is also in Dingle, Cork.  P.W.Joyce's The Origin and History of Irish Names of Places (1910) explains why Joyce chose this place:

Iseult is also called Isabel, or Iseult la Belle, and so she's coming from her own name-place

Later in the book we hear the voice of Marcus on a telephone line, calling from Sybil:

'Clear the line, priority call! Sybil! Better that or this? Sybil Head this end!' 501.13

'Sybil' also suggests the sibilance of the verse. She's riding on the surf, like Aphrodite born from the sea foam at Cyprus. Aphrodite means 'foam arisen'.

Aphrodite (Venus) in her shell, from the House of Venus, Pompeii

'In her curragh of shells of daughter of pearl and her silverymonnblue
          mantle round her'.

She'll come in a curragh (left), a traditional Irish skin or canvas boat, but one made, like Aphrodite's, of 'shells of daughter of pearl'.  Earlier in the chapter, we learned that the four old men 'were always counting...the lovely mother of periwinkle buttons.' 393.18. and 'counting motherpeributts (up one up four)' 396.33. 

Unlike Matt's Iseult, decked with 'good gold pounds' , Marcus's Iseult willl have a 'silverymonnblue mantle' and 'brine on her brow'.

'silverymonnblue' picks up on the song, 'By the Light of the Silvery Moon', which Joyce quoted in the Tristan sketch:

'the plain fact of the matter being that being a natural born lover of nature in all her moods and senses, by the light of the moon, of the silvery moon she longed to spoon before her honeyoldmoon'

In the book, this became 'whilst the stars shine bright, by she light of he moon, we longed to be spoon, before her honeyoldloom.' 385.28

In Joyce's schema, 'silver' is the ore of the verse, and 'moonblue' the litugrical colour. A blue mantle suggests the Virgin Mary...

 ...and the traditional blue cloak worn by the colleens of Kerry.

 'Crown of the waters, brine on her brow, she'll dance them a jig and
         jilt them fairly.'

She'll lead her suitors a dance, before fairly jilting them. 

The sea-brine on Iseult's brow is like a crown. 'Crown of the waters' reminds me of epithets, like 'Star of the Sea', given to the Virgin Mary.

In the internal rhyme scheme, 'brine' goes with 'Brinabride' and 'surfriding'. Joyce also linked 'crown' and 'curragh', 'Dingle' and 'jig' and 'mantle' and 'dance'.

Could the 'crown' be linked to the regality of the lion, the evangelical symbol of this verse? Is King Brian Boru here too, in 'brine on her brow'?

Yerra, why would she bide with Sig Sloomysides or the grogram grey
         barnacle gander? 

She's so beautiful that no man is worthy of her. Well why would she stay with gloomy Sir Tristan ('Sig Sloomysides') or old King Mark ('the grogram grey barnacle gander')?

'Yerra' from the Irish 'a Dhia ara': 'O God well' is also said by the Corkman, Johnny Cashman, in A Portrait ('Yerra, sure I wouldn't put any ideas into his head') . So Joyce must have seen it as Cork dialect. Marcus also says 'Yerra' at 477.05.

'Sig Sloomysides' - Joyce originally wrote 'Sir Sloomysides''. The 'g' crept in by mistake when the piece was published in 1924 in the transatlantic review. He let it stand when he prepared the chapter for Finnegans Wake in 1938.

Robert Adams Day, 'Who is Sig Sloomysides?' A Wake Newslitter XVI,6 p.89, tells us that 'sloomy' is a real English word:

‘Sloomysides’ suggests a conflation of ‘Old Sobersides’ and ‘Gloomy Gus,’ but ‘sloomy’ is a perfectly good (though rare) English word, used in poems by John Clare and Auden; it means ‘dull, spiritless,’ and comes from the Old English sluma, ‘sluggish’ (see OED, both unabridged and Shorter).'

So it means 'Sir Gloomy', following on from Tristan as the 'sad hero' above. 

the grogram grey barnacle gander? 

This is King Mark, elsewhere described as 'the tiresome old hairyg orangogran beaver' (396.16), an 'old buzzard' 385.06 and 'old rooster' 383.09  Is Joyce thinking of himself as Nora Barnacle's gander?

'From the French grosgrain, grogram is a coarse fabric of silk, mohair, and wool.' Robert Adams Day. 

McHugh also gives the irish gruagan gre - grey-hairdye hue.  At 609.10, we get the 'Grogram Greys'.


Joyce now moves on the the accents of his native Dublin, switching to a much more conversational tone. The manner is down-to-earth and homely, as Luke Tarpey addresses Matt's 'girleen' and Marcus' 'queen' as 'Lizzy my love.' Hence the pronoun, 'you' in Joyce's schema.

You won’t need be lonesome, Lizzy my love, when your beau gets his
             glut of cold meat and hot soldiering 
Nor wake in winter, window machree, but snore sung in my old
             Balbriggan surtout. 
Wisha, won’t you agree now to take me from the middle, say, of
             next week on, for the balance of my days, for nothing (what?)
             as your own nursetender? 
A power of highsteppers died game right enough—but who, acushla,
               ‘ll beg coppers for you?

I recommend reading this one aloud in the voice of a famous Dubliner, such as Brendan Behan or Damien Dempsey.
Brendan Behan

Joyce gives us long sentences, whose rhythm is broken ('the middle, say', 'nothing (what)') resembling natural speech.  Luke offers himself to Iseult as a comforter, when her lover is away getting himself killed in the wars. He contrasts his own practical offer of help ('balbriggan surtout' 'nursetender') with people like Tristan, whose idealised views may lead them to die for love and honour, but who are never around  when needed. He offers to nurse Iseult and care for her in old age.

The Luke section on page 140 offers a similar image of domestic contentment:

'Isha, why wouldn’t we be happy, avourneen, on. the mills’ money he’ll soon be leaving you as soon as I’ve my own owned brooklined Georgian mansion’s lawn to recruit upon by Doctor Cheek’s special orders and my copper’s panful of soybeans and Irish in my east hand and a James’s Gate in my west, after all the errears and erroriboose of combarative embottled history, and your goodself churning over the newleaved butter (more power to you), the choicest and the cheapest from Atlanta to Oconee, while I’ll be drowsing in the gaarden.'

You won’t need be lonesome, Lizzy my love, when your beau gets his
             glut of cold meat and hot soldiering 

Joyce originally wrote 'gets the worst of red steel', which is why the colour in Joyce's schema is 'red' and the ore is 'steel'. He later decided to make 'copper' the ore ('beg coppers for you'). The internal rhyms here are 'cold' 'beau', 'soldiering', 'won't' and 'lonesome'

Nor wake in winter, window machree

The 'n' in 'window' is a mistake, made by Joyce's typist in 1938. Joyce wrote 'widow Machree'.  But it does create another internal rhyme with 'winter'. 'Machree' is from the Irish 'mo chroí' meaning 'of my heart'. So thanks to the typist's mistake, Luke is calling Iseult 'window of my heart'.

Here's the famous Irish sentimental song 'Mother Machree' sung by Michael Dwyer.

Sure, I love the dear silver
     That shines in your hair,
     And the brow that's all furrowed,
     And wrinkled with care.
     I kiss the dear fingers,
     So toil-worn for me,
     Oh, God bless you and keep you,
     Mother Machree.
There's also another song, 'Widow Machree':
Then take my advice, darling widow machree,
Och hone! widow machree.
And with my advice, faith I wish you’d take me,
Och hone! widow machree.
You’d have me to desire
Then to stir up the fire;
And sure Hope is no liar
In whispering to me
That the ghosts would depart,
When you’d me near my heart,
Och hone! widow machree.
'but snore sung in my old Balbriggan surtout.'
Joyce originally wrote 'snore snug', but changed it to 'sung' in his third fair copy of October 1923.

Balbriggan is a seaport and manufacturing town in County Dublin, famous for knit fabrics. 
Balbriggan is 'a knitted cotton fabric, used for stockings and underwear'.

' his bullbraggin soxangloves' 22.35 'in his bare balbriggans' 530.11

Wisha, won’t you agree now to take me from the middle, say, of
             next week on, for the balance of my days, for nothing (what?)
             as your own nursetender?

'Wisha' is  Luke word - on page 140 he begins with 'Isha'. It's from mhuise, muise, originally a euphemism for A Mhuire!  ('O Mary!') in calling upon the Virgin Mary.

'the middle...of next week'. The day in Joyce's schema is "Spy Wednesday' (Christ's betrayal by Judas)

A 'nurse-tender' is a sick nurse. 

A power of highsteppers died game right enough—but who, acushla,
               ‘ll beg coppers for you?
A large number of fashionably dressed (highsteppers) admirers may have died bravely, but who will beg coppers for you?  'Acushla' is an endearment, meaning 'my pulse'. 'Copper' is the ore of the verse (though not in Joyce's schema).


Johnny MacDougall's verse is in the accent of Galway-Mayo in the western province of Connacht. This was the accent of Joyce's wife, Nora Barnacle. This is the hardest one for a non-Irish reader to detect. Think of the quaint Irish in the plays of J.M.Synge.

'I tossed that one long before anyone. 
It was of a wet good Friday too she was ironing and, as I’m given
        now to understand, she was always mad gone on me. 
Grand goosegreasing we had entirely with an allnight eiderdown bed        
        picnic to follow. 
By the cross of Cong, says she, rising up Saturday in the twilight
        from under me, Mick, Nick the Maggot or whatever your name
        is, you’re the mose likable lad that’s come my ways yet from the
        barony of Bohermore.'

Johnny has yet another view of Iseult, whom he sees as a sexual conquest - hence the pronoun 'I' in Joyce's schema. Johnny tells us that he was the first to have her, that she was mad about him, and even made him an 'all night picnic', praising his performance the following day. He reminds me of Corley in 'Two Gallants' and of Blazes Boylan, who shares an 'eiderdown picnic' with Molly Bloom. The difference is that Johnny's sexual conquest is all fantasy.

There's a close parallel between this verse and other parts of the Wake. Here's a familiar boasting voice in the trial scene on page 95:

I sniffed that lad long before anyone. It was when I was in my farfather out at the west and she and myself, the redheaded girl, firstnighting down Sycomore Lane. Fine feelplay we had of it mid the kissabetts frisking in the kool kurkle dusk of the lushiness. My perfume of the pampas, says she (meaning me) putting out her netherlights, and I’d sooner one precious sip at your pure mountain dew than enrich my acquaintance with that big brewer’s belch.  

There's similar boasting in Johnny's speech on page 140, which is full of fishing references: 

I hooked my thoroughgoing trotty the first down Spanish Place, Mayo I make, Tuam I take, Sligo’s sleek but Galway’s grace. Holy eel and Sainted Salmon, chucking chub and ducking dace, Rodiron’s not your aequal! says she, leppin half the lane. 140.36

On the subject of fishing, I recommend Robert Boyle's article, in which he argues that 'the Wake must be considered as belonging in great part, albeit a bizarre part, to angling literature'.

And here's Johnny again, talking about the West of Ireland:

'I know that place better than anyone. Sure, I used to be always overthere on the fourth day at my grandmother's place, Tear-nan-Ogre, my little grey home in the west, in or about Mayo' 478.36 

The irony is that Johnny is actually scared of women:

'Poor Johnny of the clan of the Dougals, the poor Scuitsman, (Hohannes!) nothing if not amorous, dinna forget, so frightened (Zweep! Zweep!) on account of her full bottom...' 391.05 

'I tossed that one long before anyone.'

'tossed' - had sex with. 'that one' shows Johnny's impersonal and callous view of women.

'It was of a wet good Friday'

Good Friday is the 'day' in Joyce's schema.

'she was ironing'

Iron is the 'ore' in Joyce's schema.

'she was always mad gone on me.'

Maud Gonne MacBride perhaps?  Her daughter, also proposed to by Yeats, was called Iseult.

see also 'There was that one that was always mad gone on him.' 526.26

'Grand goosegreasing we had entirely'

Another sexual metaphor from birds, as in the Three Quarks poem on p.383

'by the cross of Cong.'

This is a bronze processional cross, made by the King of Connacht in 1123 to enshrine a fragment of the True Cross - another reference to Good Friday. You can see it in the National Museum, Dublin.

Roderick O'Conor, king of Connacht and the last high king, died at Cong Abbey in 1198. Johnny is called 'cong' at 325.32: 'bless madhugh, mardyk, luusk and cong!'

'Mick, Nick the maggot'.

This relates to 'The Mime of Mick Nick and the Maggies' 219.19. Johnny claims that she doesn't know if he's an angel, St Michael,  or Old Nick, the serpent. Joyce originally wrote 'Mick whatever your name is.'
'the barony of Bohermore'

'Bohermore is a road outside Galway once used by lovers, including James Joyce's future wife, Nora, and her boyfriend, Willie Mulvey.'

John Garvin, James Joyce's Disunited Kingdom, p.207 

It comes from the Irish 'bothar mor' - great road. 'the Moherboher to the Washte' (west) 373.05

Finally, here you can listen to Jim Norton reading the passage on page 140, in which he brilliantly uses the four different accents. It's a shame that he doesn't use the accents when he reads the poem on page 398-9.