On page 185 of Finnegans Wake, Shem the Penman, deprived of writing materials by the censors, makes 'synthetic ink and sensitive paper for his own end out of his wit's waste' (185.06). The prudish narrator, Shaun the Post, finds his brother’s ink-making methods (above) so disgusting that he switches to Latin to explain them:
I've found six published translations of this and used Google translate to get a seventh. Gavan Kennedy of the Finnegan Wakes film project has also asked ChatGBT, the artificial intelligence chatbot, to have a go. So we now have eight translations, posted below. In the English parentheses above, Shaun also mistranslates some of the phrases - although the text is supplied by Shaun, it reflects Shem's aesthetic point of view, which Shaun doesn't appreciate or understand.
Comparing all these, you can make up your own version. This is mine:
First, the artist, the high first prose sower, without any shame or permission, drew near to the life-giving and all-powerful earth, then pulling up his raincope, he unfastened his underpants, his buttocks naked as they were born, and crying and moaning, evacuated into his hand (highly prosy, crap in his hand, sorry!). Relieved of the black animal, he sounded a trumpet and put his own dung, which he called his dejections, into an urn once used as an honoured mark of sadness. Then, invoking the twin brothers Medard and Godard, he pissed cheerfully and mellifluously into it, while singing with a great voice the psalm which begins, 'My tongue is the pen of a scribe writing swiftly' (did a piss, says he was dejected, asks to be exonerated). Finally, from that foul dung mixed with the pleasantness of the divine Orion, which he baked and then exposed to the cold, he made for himself an indelible ink (faked O’Ryan’s, the indelible ink).
Joyce's original text is just one long sentence, but most of the translators break it up for clarity.
In the notes to his translation, Robert Boyle has shown that several images above are derived from 'Gas from a Burner'. In this 1912 satirical poem, Joyce mocks John Falconer, the Dublin printer who burned all but one of the 1,000 copies of the first printing of Dubliners. It's because of Falconer, called ‘Father Flammeus (flaming) Falconer’, that Shem has no writing materials.
Like Shem, the printer groans and sobs, sings a psalm, bares his buttocks, and puts something (the ashes) into an urn (with one handle - suggesting a chamber pot).
'I'll burn that book, so help me devil.
I'll sing a psalm as I watch it burn
And the ashes I'll keep in a one-handled urn.
I'll penance do with farts and groans
Kneeling upon my marrowbones.
This very next lent I will unbare
My penitent buttocks to the air
And sobbing beside my printing press
My awful sin I will confess.
My Irish foreman from Bannockburn
Shall dip his right hand in the urn
And sign crisscross with reverent thumb
Memento homo upon my bum'
Unlike the destructive printer, Shem’s act is a creative one. Joyce saw his role as an artist as someone who transmutes matter. From his Catholic background, he took the priest at Mass as his model. In A Portrait, Stephen Dedalus describes himself as 'a priest of the eternal imagination transmuting the daily bread of experience into the radiant body of everliving life.
In the Wake, Joyce uses the alchemist (above) as well as the priest as the transmuter. Shem is described as 'the first till last alshemist' at 185.36. At 184.18, he's cooking eggs with an 'athanor', an alchemist's furnace. The description of mixing dung and urine in an urn, and baking and cooling it, is alchemical. Alchemists believed that the basic ingredient for creating the Philosopher's Stone could be dung. Read Agnieszka Rec's blog post, 'Dung? Alchemy is full of it' and Barbara DiBernard's article, 'Alchemy in Finnegans Wake', JJQ, 1977.
Here's the whole Latin text, phrase by phrase, with the translations beneath.
Godfrey Tanner: 'First the artist'
Robert Boyle SJ: 'First of all the artificer'
Brendan O'Hehir and John M Dillon: 'In the beginning the maker'
Robert J Schork: 'First of all the Master Maker'
Danis Rose and John O'Hanlon: 'In the beginning the master magician'
Anonymous Latin scholar on Reddit: 'First, the artist'
Google translate: 'First, the workman'
ChatGBT: 'First, the Creator'
Opifex means the maker of a work, from opus (work) and facere (to make), so it could be 'artisan', 'artificer', 'maker' or 'artist'. Schork and Rose both go beyond this sense.
Tanner: 'the eminent writer'
Boyle 'the old father'
O'Hehir and Dillon: 'The High Ancestor'
Schork: 'the Exalted Seedsower'
Rose and O'Hanlon: 'arch artificer'
Reddit: 'the high first-sower'
Google: 'a tall proselyte'
ChatGBT: 'the lofty Progenitor'
Shaun translates this as 'highly prosy'
'Altus Prosator', meaning 'high first sower', is the opening line of a 7th century Hiberno-Latin hymn attributed to Saint Columba. It was a newly invented phrase, to describe God. This is typical of the linguistic inventiveness of Hiberno-Latin.
Altus prosator, vetustus dierum et ingenitus erat absque origine primordii et crepidine est et erit in sæcula sæculorum infinita
(High first sower, Ancient of Days, and unbegotten, who was without origin at the beginning and foundation, who was and shall be in infinite ages of age)
But, since the Renaissance, 'prosator' has also meant prose writer. Imagine how delighted Joyce must have been to find a Latin title for God that also meant this!
'The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork...'
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Robert Boyle's version has a nice echo of the final lines of A Portrait, which Stephen addresses to his namesake, Daedalus:
'Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead.'
ad terram viviparam et cunctipotentem
Tanner: 'to the life-giving and all-powerful earth'
Boyle 'to the viviparous and all-powerful land'
O'Hehir and Dillon: 'to the life-bearing and all powerful earth'
Schork: 'to the life-giving and all-powerful earth'
Rose and O'Hanlon: 'to the fecund and pollent earth of his lair'
Reddit: 'towards the life-giving and all-powerful earth'
Google translate: 'to the living and powerful earth'
ChatGBT: 'approached the viviparous earth and the omnipotent one.'
'Viviparous' means bearing live young. 'Cunctipotens' (all powerful) is a word associated with God in the Latin Gregorian chant 'Cunctipotens Genitor Deus' (all powerful Father God).
There's a contrast here with Shaun, who, as the ascetic St Kevin, cuts himself off from the earth by taking to a bathtub, on pages 605-6.
sine ullo pudore nec venia
Tanner: 'without any shame or apology'
Boyle: 'without any shame and without permission (or, perhaps, pardon)'
O'Hehir and Dillon: 'without any shame or mercy'
Schork: 'without any shame or anyone's by-my-leave'
Rose and O'Hanlon: 'With neither shame nor gentleness'
'Suscepto' means 'taking up', which could apply to the act of lifting the coat or to wearing it in the first place.
Boyle writes, 'To an ancient Roman, the word 'pluvial' conveyed the notion of 'of or belonging to rain, rainy.' In the course of time, the word came to mean 'raincoat, outer garment' and, in ecclesiastical contexts, 'cope' or 'chasuble'. Thus the word in the present context suggests rain which, as we shall see, is tied up with St Medard and Orion. Further the word invokes the activity of the priest. Stephen saw himself as 'a priest of the eternal imagination' and his work as artist as 'transmuting the daily bread of experience into the radiant body of everliving life.''
My 'raincope' combines the raincoat and ecclesiastical cope.
atque discinctis perizomatis
Tanner: 'undid his trousers''
Boyle: 'and undone the girdles'
O'Hehir and Dillon: 'and likewise having unfastened his underclothes'
Schork: 'unfastened his underpants'
Rose and O'Hanlon :'and dropped down his pants'
Reddit: 'unbuttoning his trousers'
Google:'torn his loincloth'
ChatGBT: 'and was loosely dressed'
I like Schork's reading because it strikes me as funny.
Perizoma, a Latin borrowing of the Greek word for a loincloth, is according to Boyle, 'most familiar in its use in the Vulgate for the 'coverings' which Adam and Eve made for themselves after the fall....In correct Latin the word should be perizomatibus'.
Adam and Eve on a Roman sarcophagus
It’s translated as ‘breeches’ in the 1577 Geneva Bible - the 'Breeches Bible'.
natibus nudis uti nati fuissent
Tanner: 'with his buttocks bare as they were born'
Boyle: 'with rump as bare as on the day of birth (literally: as bare as though it had been born)'
O'Hehir and Dillon: 'with buttocks naked as they were born'
Schork: 'with buttocks as bare as the day they merged from the womb'
Rose and O'Hanlon leave this out
Reddit: 'his buttocks naked just as they were born'
Google misses the buttocks: 'as if they had been born naked'
ChatGBT: 'with his buttocks bare as if he were born that way'
Tanner: 'drew himself close to'
Boyle: 'approaching himself to'
O'Hehir and Dillon: 'drawing himself nigh'
Schork: 'positioned himself close to'
Rose and O'Hanlon: 'stooped...to'
Reddit: 'pulled himself to'
Google: 'drew near'
ChatGBT: 'he approached'
flens et gemens
Tanner: 'weeping and groaning'
Boyle: 'weeping and groaning'
O'Hehir and Dillon: 'weeping and sighing'
Schork:'weeping and groaning'
Rose and O'Hanlon: 'weeping and sighing'
Reddit: 'crying and moaning'
Google: 'weeping and groaning'
ChatGBT: 'weeping and moaning'
Shaun translates 'gemens' as 'sorry' (Joyce originally wrote 'groaning').
in manum suam evacuavit
Tanner: 'he relieved himself into his own hands'
Boyle: ‘defecated (literally: emptied) into his hand'
O'Hehir and Dillon: 'evacuated into his hand'
Schork:'loosened his bowels into his hand'
Rose and O'Hanlon: 'he evacuated into his cupped hands’
Reddit: 'evacuated his bowels into his own hand''
Google: 'emptied into his hand'
ChatGBT: 'and then he evacuated his bowels into his hand'
Shaun translates this as 'crap in his hand'.
animale nigro exoneratus
Tanner: 'unburdened of the black beast'
Boyle: 'unburdened himself of the black living thing (or, possibly, of the black air)'
O'Hehir and Dillon: 'disburdened of the black brute'
Schork: 'after he had been relieved of this dark blast'
Rose and O'Hanlon leave this out.
Reddit: 'relieved of the black animal'
Google: 'freed from the black animal'
Chat GBT: 'having relieved himself of the black animal'
Shaun mistranslates 'exoneratus' as 'asks to be exonerated'
The Reddit scholar notes, 'Animale should be animali. Even Joyce, who had known Latin since he was 10 and whose knowledge of the language was supposedly unimpeachable, made mistakes!'
Boyle writes, 'Shem has been relieved of something black and living, unless 'animale' here means air....The phrase may mean...that painful black gas has been voided with the faeces...the 'animale' instead of the expected 'animali' is puzzling and if taken seriously could yield a meaning like having been unburdened of a living thing which lives by a black thing.'
This 'black animal' suggests an alchemical term, 'nigredo', blackness, an early stage of the alchemical process.
Tanner: 'and sounding a trumpet'
Boyle: 'while he beat out his battlesignal'
O'Hehir and Dillon: 'sounding a trumpet call'
Schork:'and was trumpeting a call to action'
Rose and O'Hanlon leave this out.
Reddit: 'he sounded the trumpet '
Google: 'beating the classic'
ChatGBT: 'he sounded a trumpet'
'The classicum, which is a particular sound of the buccina or horn, is appropriated to the commander-in-chief and is used in the presence of the general, or at the execution of a soldier, as a mark of its being done by his authority.'
Vegetius, De Re Militari
Roman soldier blowing a buccina
'Pulsans' means striking or plucking, so we have a trumpet call being plucked.
Trumpeting fits the farting sense.
Tanner: 'he put his own dung'
Boyle: 'he placed his own faeces'
O'Hehir and Dillon: 'his own dung'
Schork: 'he deposited his own shit'
Rose and O"Hanlon leave this out.
Reddit: 'placed his own shit'
Google: 'his own dung'
ChatGBT: 'and placed his own excrement'
Four translators add a verb, missing in the Latin (placed, put, deposited).
quod appellavit deiectiones suas
Tanner: 'which he called his 'downcastings"
Boyle: 'which he entitled his 'purge' (possibly: the sinking of his star)'
O'Hehir and Dillon: 'that he called his purgings'
Schork: 'that is what he terms his droppings'
Rose and O'Hanlon: 'which he christened Katharsis' '
Reddit: 'which he called ‘his dejections’’
Google: 'which he called his dejections'
ChatGBT: 'which he called his waste'
Shaun mistranslates this as 'says he was dejected'
I like 'dejections' because it goes with the weeping and groaning.
in vas olim honorabile tristitiae posuit
Tanner: 'into an urn once used as an honoured mark of mourning'
Boyle: 'in a once honourable vessel of sadness (or, once procuring honor for sadness)'
O'Hehir and Dillon:'in a once honourable vessel of sadness'
Schork: 'into a receptacle which once was the respectable urn of grief'
Rose and O'Hanlon: 'into a once-sacred chalice'
Reddit: 'into a receptacle which once was the respectable urn of grief'
Google: 'in the once honorable vessel of sadness'
ChatGBT: 'into a formerly honorable vessel of sadness'
Rose and O’Hanlon use ‘chalice’ to suggest Shem’s priestly function. The excrement will be turned into ink, like the wine into the blood of Christ. But they lose the sense of mourning.
Fweet points out that 'vas honorabile' (vessel of honour) is an epithet of Mary in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Joyce is also referring to the 'one handled urn' in 'Gas from a Burner'.
eodem sub invocatione fratrorum gemino-rum Medardi et Godardi
The translators all agree that this means 'invoking the twin brothers Medard and Godard'. These two were French saints who, according to Roman Catholic Martyrology, were born on the same day, made bishops on the same day, and died on the same day. Medard was a saint responsible for weather and rain (and so invoked to help Shem piss?). Shem and Shaun are also twins.
laete ac melliflue minxit
Tanner: 'passed water into it happily and mellifluously''
Boyle: 'he pissed happily and melodiously'
O'Hehir and Dillon: 'joyfully and mellifluously (honey-flowingly) he pissed'
Schork: 'he joyfully and mellifluously pissed'
Rose and O'Hanlon: 'cheerfully and mellifluously pissed'
Reddit: 'pissed cheerfully and mellifluously therein'
Google: 'joyfully and sweetly mixed'
ChatGBT: 'he joyfully and melodiously urinated'
Shaun has 'did a piss'.
psalmum qui incipit: Lingua mea calamus scribae velociter scribentis: magna voce cantitans
Tanner: 'while chanting in a loud voice the psalm which begins: 'My tongue is the pen of a scribe writing swiftly''
Boyle: 'continuously singing with a loud voice the psalm which begins, 'My tongue is the reed of a scribe swiftly writing.''
O'Hehir and Dillon: 'chanting in a loud voice the psalm that begins, 'My tongue is the pen of a scribe writing swiftly''
Schork: 'while chanting in a loud voice the Psalm which begins 'My Tongue is the Pen of a Scribe who Writes Speedily''
Rose and O'Hanlon: 'while chanting meanwhile in a loud voice the psalm which goeth, My tongue is the quill of a scribe that writeth swiftly'
Reddit: 'whilst singing with a great voice the psalm which begins thus: "My tongue is the pen of a scribe rapidly writing."
Google gets this wrong again: 'he joyfully and sweetly mixed the psalm which begins: My tongue is the scribe's pen writing quickly: singing with a loud voice'
Chat GBT: 'while singing the psalm that begins, 'My tongue is the pen of a swift writer.'
This is Psalm 45. Like the printer in 'Gas from a Burner', Shem is singing a psalm.
demum ex stercore turpi cum divi Orionis iucunditate mixto
Tanner: 'from the foul dung mixed, as I have said, with the "sweetness of Orion"' '
Boyle: 'from the vile crap mixed with the pleasantness of the divine Orion'
O'Hehir and Dillon: 'out of the foul dung mixed with the good offices of divine Orion'
Schork: 'from the foul crap that had been mixed with the sweet essence of godlike Orion'
Rose and O'Hanlon: 'from a compost of this dung and urine'
Reddit: 'from that foul shit mixed with the jocundity of the divine Orion'
Google: 'from the foul dung mixed with the goodness of the god Orion’
ChatGBT: 'Finally, after mixing the disgusting feces with the enjoyable fragrance of the divine Orion'
Shaun takes Orion to be an Irish name: ‘O’Ryan’s’
Orion was born after Zeus, Poseidon and Hermes urinated on a bull-hide and buried it in the earth to give King Hyrieus a son. Orion's name may be from ourios (urine). 'Orina' is also Latin for urine.
Boyle says that Orion was closely connected with rain. Tanner writes, 'Orion was commonly called nimbosus (of the rain-cloud), imbrifer (rain-bearing), or aquosus (watery)'.
Shem's dung, which he creates while crying and moaning, represents his dejections/ suffering. His urine (the divine Orion) stands for his joys in creation. The artist needs both to create perhaps.
cocto, frigorique exposito,
Tanner: 'baked and then exposed to the cold'
Boyle: 'after the mixture had been cooked and exposed to the cold'
O'Hehir and Dillon: 'cooked and exposed to the cold'
Schork: 'and baked and exposed to the cold'
Rose and O'Hanlon: 'cooked and exposed to chill'
Reddit: 'cooked and exposed to the cold'
Google: 'having received the rain'
Chat GBT: 'by cooking and exposing it to the cold'
Heating and cooling is an alchemical process.
encaustum sibi fecit indelibile
Tanner: 'he made himself an indelible ink'
Boyle: 'he made for himself imperishable ink'
O'Hehir and Dillon: 'he made indelible ink for himself'
Schork: 'he created indelible ink for himselft'
Rose and O'Hanlon: 'he distilled an indelible ink'
Reddit: 'he made for himself an indelible ink'
Google: 'he made an indelible ink for himself'
Chat GBT: 'he made for himself an indelible ink'
Shaun’s mistranslation: 'faked…the indelible ink'
The ink is 'indelible', because Joyce believed that his writing would last for ever. He is 'transmuting the daily bread of experience into the radiant body of everliving life', andcreating 'each word that would not pass away' 186.06
'First the artist, the eminent writer, without any shame or apology, pulled up his rain coat and undid his trousers and then drew himself close to the life-giving and all-powerful earth, with his buttocks bare as they were born. Weeping and groaning he relieved himself into his own hands. Then, unburdened of the black beast, and sounding a trumpet, he put his own dung, which he called his "downcastings", into an urn once used as an honoured mark of mourning. With an invocation to the twin brethren Medard and Godard he then passed water into it happily and mellifluously, while chanting in a loud voice the psalm which begins: "My tongue is the pen of a scribe writing swiftly". Finally, from the foul dung mixed, as I have said, with the "sweetness of Orion", and baked and then exposed to the cold, he made himself an indelible ink'
Godfrey Tanner, like Clive Hart, the Newslitter editor, was an Australian who studied at Cambridge, and had his academic career in England. He was emeritus professor of classics at Newcastle University, and was so popular with his students that they named a bar after him.
It's nice that he translates 'animale' as 'beast', because this was his nickname:
'No longer does "The Beast" stroll the streets of Newcastle. Never again will the mercurial scholar baptise a rugby field or rowing shed with a spray of Toohey's New and a splash of Latin verse. No more will Newcastle shopkeepers hear a timely gem from Aristotle or Tacitus when they pass back the change.'
Later the same year, Father Robert Boyle SJ published a second version in 'Finnegans Wake page 185: An Explication', in the James Joyce Quarterly, Fall 1966:
From Fritz Senn’s Joycean Murmoirs
First of all the artificer, the old father, without any shame and without permission (or, perhaps, pardon), when he had donned a cope and undone the girdles, with rump as bare as on the day of birth (literally: as bare as though it had been born), approaching himself to the viviparous and all-powerful land, weeping and groaning the while, defecated (literally: emptied) into his hand; and, secondly, having unburdened himself of the black living thing (or, possibly, of the black air), while he beat out his battlesignal, he placed his own faeces, which he entitled his "purge" (possibly: the sinking of his star), in a once honourable vessel of sadness (or, once procuring honor for sadness), and into the same, under the invocation of the twin brothers, Medardus and Godardus, he pissed happily and melodiously, continuously singing with a loud voice the psalm which begins, "My tongue is the reed of a scribe swiftly writing." Finally, from the vile crap mixed with the pleasantness of the divine Orion, after the mixture had been cooked and exposed to the cold, he made for himself imperishable ink.
Boyle was an American Jesuit priest who taught at Marquette University in Milwaukee. I saw him speaking at a panel on Finnegans Wake in Dublin on Joyce's centenary in 1982. A flamboyant character with a big red beard, he looked like a cross between Mr Natural and a member of the Grateful Dead. He also had a parrot which he taught to quote passages from Finnegans Wake. According to Fritz Senn, in Joycean Murmoirs, Boyle once said that 'all his life he had been trying to reform the Society of Jesus in the light of the writings of James Joyce.'
The third translation was in 1977, in Brendan O'Hehir and John M Dillon's AClassical Lexicon to Finnegans Wake, which is online here. Both were teaching classics at the time in Berkeley, California. O'Hehir was an Irish American, educated in Dublin, who had previously written AGaelic Lexicon to Finnegans Wake.Dillon is an Irish classicist, whose main interest is Plato and Platonism. After Berkeley, he became Regius Professor of Greek at Trinity College Dublin, where he founded the Dublin Plato Centre.
R J SCHORK
Here's the fourth translation, from R.J.Schork's Latin and Roman Culture in Joyce, 1997. Like Tanner's, it's posted in fweet:
'First of all the Master Maker, the Exalted Seedsower, who positioned himself close to the life-giving and all-powerful earth with buttocks as bare as the day they merged from the womb, lifted up his raincoat and unfastened his underpants, weeping and groaning, but without any shame or anyone's by-my-leave, and loosened his bowels into his hand; next, after he had been relieved of this dark blast and was trumpeting a call to action, he deposited his own shit (that is what he terms his droppings) into a receptacle which once was the respectable urn of grief; then, into that same urn, with an invocation to the twin brothers Medardus and Godardus, he joyfully and mellifluously pissed, while chanting in a loud voice the Psalm which begins "My Tongue is the Pen of a Scribe who Writes Speedily"; finally, from the foul crap that had been mixed with the sweet essence of godlike Orion, and baked and exposed to the cold, he created indelible ink for himself'
Schork is the only translator following Joyce's single long sentence, though he has used one semicolon to break it up. This is a good solution - Finnegans Wake is full of semicolons.
He's professor emeritus of classics at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, with a special interest in Roman Egypt. He's also a genetic critic, and contributed a chapter to How Joyce Wrote Finnegans Wake, where his biography says you can catch him lecturing on a Mediterranean cruise!
The next one was posted in 2016, by an anonymous Latin scholar on Reddit, who wittily comments 'I was really surprised to discover that there's a short paragraph in 100% comprehensible Latin in the middle of Book 1 Episode 7 which is really surprising, since otherwise 99.9% of the book is basically gibberish': 'First, the artist, the high first-sower, pulled himself towards the life-giving and all-powerful earth without any shame or pardon, and taking a raincoat and unbuttoning his trousers, his buttocks naked just as they were born, crying and moaning, evacuated his bowels into his own hand. Afterwards, relieved of the black animal, he sounded the trumpet and placed his own shit, which he called "his dejections," into a once-honorable vessel of sadness, and under the invocation of the twin brothers Medard and Godard pissed cheerfully and mellifluously therein, whilst singing with a great voice the psalm which begins thus: "My tongue is the pen of a scribe rapidly writing." Finally, from that foul shit mixed with the jocundity of the divine Orion, cooked and exposed to the cold, he made for himself an indelible ink.'
Does anyone know the identity of this scholar?
DANIS ROSE AND JOHN O'HANLON
In 2018, Danis Rose and John O'Hanlon provided a free paraphrase, leaving out some of Joyce's phrases and adding new ones of their own, in the Digital Archive's Chicken Guide:
'In the beginning the master magician and arch-artificer pulled up his raincoat and dropped down his pants, stooped weeping and sighing to the fecund and pollent earth of his lair. With neither shame nor gentleness he evacuated into his cupped hands a turd which he christened Katharsis and in the same spot, invoking the twin brothers Medard and Godard, cheerfully and mellifluously pissed into a once-sacred chalice while chanting meanwhile in a loud voice the psalm which goeth, My tongue is the quill of a scribe that writeth swiftly. From a compost of this dung and urine, intermingled, cooked and exposed to chill, he distilled an indelible ink.'
Their digital archive also provides the earliest version of the text, which developed from this passage:
'boycotted, local publican refuse to supply books, paper, synthetic ink, foolscap, makes his own from dried dung sweetened with spittle (indelible ink) writes universal history on his own body (parchment)'
Google translate instantly gave me this version:
'First, the workman, a tall proselyte, to the living and powerful earth without any shame or pardon, having received the rain and torn his loincloth, as if they had been born naked, drew near, weeping and groaning, emptied into his hand (highly prosy, crap in his hand, sorry !), afterwards, freed from the black animal, beating the classic, his own dung, which he called his dejections, he placed in the once honorable vessel of sadness, and under the same invocation of the twin brothers Medard and Godard, he joyfully and sweetly mixed the psalm which begins: My tongue is the scribe's pen writing quickly: singing with a loud voice (did a piss, says he was dejected, asks to be exonerated), finally, from the foul dung mixed with the goodness of the god Orion, cooked, exposed to cold, he made an indelible ink for himself (faked O'Ryan's, the indelible ink).'
So this keeps Joyce's single sentence, but garbles the meaning.
It's astonishing how Google translate has improved in recent years. I remember when it made no attempt to create meaningful sentences.
My friend Gavan Kennedy asked ChatGBT to translate the passage, and this was the astonishing result:
‘Here is a translation of the passage:
'First, the Creator, the lofty Progenitor, without shame or pardon, approached the viviparous earth and the omnipotent one. He wore a raincoat and was loosely dressed, with his buttocks bare as if he were born that way. He approached weeping and moaning, and then he evacuated his bowels into his hand (sorry, highly prosy and crappy!), and afterwards, having relieved himself of the black animal, he sounded a trumpet and placed his own excrement, which he called his waste, into a formerly honorable vessel of sadness. Under the invocation of the twin brothers Medard and Godard, he joyfully and melodiously urinated while singing the psalm that begins, 'My tongue is the pen of a swift writer.' (He says he was dejected, did a piss, and asks to be exonerated.) Finally, after mixing the disgusting feces with the enjoyable fragrance of the divine Orion, he made for himself an indelible ink by cooking and exposing it to the cold.'
It's worth noting that this passage from Finnegans Wake is known for its playful and nonsensical use of Latin and should not be taken too seriously as a work of accurate Latin grammar or vocabulary.’
Translators of the future (by Lisa)
So ChatGBT is much better than google translate - and it even has an opinion on Joyce's use of Latin! But why did it change 'crap in his hand' to 'crappy!'?
Today is Christmas Eve, which is also the title of a little known story that James Joyce wrote in late October-November 1904, intending to include it in his collection Dubliners. This was his third short story, following 'The Sisters' and 'Eveline', both published in the Irish Homestead in 1904.
Though 'Christmas Eve' was discarded by Joyce, the manuscript was kept by his brother Stanislaus. This facsimile was published by the textual scholar Alfred Walton Litz, in Dubliners: A Facsimile of Drafts & Manuscripts, Garland Press, 1978. I made this photocopy of it more than forty years ago.
This is how Alfred Walton Litz describes the story in his introduction:
'In late October 1904 he began 'Christmas Eve.' What he wrote of it has been preserved in fragmentary fair copy manuscript, but he left the story in an unfinished state and recast it as, or replaced it by, 'Hallow Eve'.'
This dating makes the story the first thing that James Joyce wrote after leaving Dublin with Nora Barnacle. He must have begun this in Trieste, while unemployed and living out of a suitcase, before moving to Pola at the end of the month. In his mind, he was still thinking of Dublin.
Joyce's biographers don't talk about this story. John McCourt doesn't mention 'Christmas Eve' in The Years of Bloom, but says this of Joyce's first days in Trieste:
'Despite the appalling uncertainty of these days, Joyce continued to write, with a stoic determination which would rarely leave him....He was starting his life on the continent with Nora as he intended to continue it. His writing, no matter what the turmoil around him, would always come first.'
John McCourt, The Years of Bloom: James Joyce in Trieste 1904-1920, Liliput Press, Dublin, 2000, p9-10.
A little of that turmoil gets into the manuscript where, at the very top, you can see the paper has been used to add up sums of money.
John Wyse Jackson and Bernard McGinley give some background to the story:
'Clay...began life as 'Christmas Eve', in which the main characters were to include Mr Callanan, based on Joyce's uncle, William Murray, and his daughter – who bore the name Katsey both in real life and in the unfinished story. However Joyce recast the narrative, telling the tale from Maria's point of view, and using John Murray, William's brother, as the basis for the main character. This later version was originally called 'Hallow's Eve'.'
John Wyse Jackson and Bernard McGinley, James Joyce's Dubliners: An Annotated Edition, Sinclair-Stevenson, 1993.
In its style, 'Christmas Eve' fits Dubliners well, using what Hugh Kenner called the 'Uncle Charles Principle', in which the narrative idiom reflects the character's way of thinking and speaking.
'...he had met many friends. These friends had been very friendly...'
But unlike in most other Dubliners stories, where the protagonists are usually thwarted or trapped, nothing disturbs Mr Callanan's complacency. He is only limited by his lack of imagination.
'His mind was vacant. He had calculated all his expenses and discovered that all had been done well within the margin.'
Mr Callanan is a happily married man who drinks moderately (a daily pint in Swan's pub), whose seasonal shopping trip is a success (unlike Maria's in 'Clay') and who gets on well with his boss:
– He's not a bad sort after all if you know how to take him. But you mustn't rub him the wrong way.
That's the only part that Joyce reused when he wrote 'Clay':
'He told her all that went on in his office, repeating for her a smart answer which he had made to the manager. Maria did not understand why Joe laughed so much over the answer he had made but she said that the manager must have been a very overbearing person to deal with. Joe said he wasn't so bad when you knew how to take him, that he was a decent sort so long as you didn't rub him the wrong way.'
Joyce saw 'Christmas Eve' as an unsuccessful experiment, perhaps because of the lack of conflict in the story. He went on to write 'Counterparts', in which we meet a very different solicitor's clerk, an unhappily married alcoholic, who hates his work and can't help rubbing his boss the wrong way. Perhaps 'Christmas Eve' was recast as 'Counterparts' as well as 'Clay'?
By a twist of fate, the manuscript of 'Christmas Eve' is divided between the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale (pages 1,2 and 4) and the Cornell Joyce Collection (page 3). Thank you Alfred Walton Litz for reuniting the pages in print!
Wouldn't it make sense for Cornell to swap their lonely page for some other document in Yale's massive Joyce collection?
A JAMES JOYCE MISCELLANY
After posting this, I learned from joyceans ⱅ woke² on Twitter that 'Christmas Eve' was published in 1962, in A James Joyce Miscellany edited by Marvin Magalaner. It was introduced by John J Slocum, who created the Joyce collection at Yale, and Herbert Cahoon, curator of the Morgan library. They say that Joyce tried to have the story published, and provide more information on its date:'It is possible to date ''Christmas Eve" as having been
written in Trieste and Pola during the eventful months of
October and November, 1904. Joyce mentions it in letters
to his brother, Stanislaus, dated 31 October and 19 November, 1904, which are now in the Cornell University Library. In the second letter Joyce states, "I have written about
half of 'Xmas Eve'." Ellmann gives 19 January, 1905 as the
date for the completion of the story; on this day Joyce mailed
it to Stanislaus in Dublin. Upon the receipt of the story,
Stanislaus tried but failed to place it in The Irish Homestead
which had recently published three of the stories that were
part of Dubliners. He may also have tried to place it with
At this writing, a complete manuscript of "Christmas
Eve" is not known to have survived nor has any portion of
a manuscript of "Clay." This incomplete fair copy of
"Christmas Eve" (and there may have been more of this
present narrative) was probably retained by Joyce and passed
into the keeping of Stanislaus, as did many of Joyce's manuscripts and books, when the Joyce family moved from Trieste to Paris in 1920.'
Mr Callanan felt homely. There was a good fire burning
in the grate and he knew that it was cold outside. He had
been about town all day shopping with Mrs Callanan and
he had met many friends. These friends had been very
friendly, exchanging the compliments of the season, joking
with Mrs Callanan about her number of parcels, and pinching Katsey's cheek. Some said that Katsey was like her
mother but others said she was like her father — only better-
looking: she was a rather pretty child. The Callanans — that
is, the father and mother and Katsey and an awkward brother
named Charlie — had then gone into a cake-shop and taken
four cups of coffee. After that the turkey had been bought
and safely tucked under Mr Callanan's arm. As they were
making for their crowded tram Mr Callanan's 'boss' passed
and saluted. The salute was generously returned.
— That's the 'boss'. He saluted — did you see? —
— That man? —
— Ah, he's not a bad sort after all if you know how to
take him. But you mustn't rub him the wrong way. —
There was wood in the fire. Every Christmas Mr Callanan
got a present of a small load of wooden blocks from a friend
of his in a timber-yard near Ringsend. Christmas would not
have been Christmas without a wood-fire. Two of these
blocks were laid crosswise on the top of the fire and were
beginning to glow. The brave light of the fire lit up a small,
well-kept room with bees-waxed borders arranged cleanly
round a bright square carpet. The table in the middle of the
room had a shaded lamp upon it. The shade set obliquely
sprayed the light of the lamp upon one of the walls, revealing a gilt-framed picture of a curly-headed child in a nightdress playing with a collie. The picture was called ''Can't you
A print of 'Can't you talk?' by George Augustus Holmes
Mr Callanan felt homely but he had himself a more descriptive phrase for his condition: he felt mellow. He was a
blunt figure as he sat in his arm-chair; short thick legs resting
together like block pipes, short thick arms hardly crossing
over his chest, and a heavy red face nestling upon all. His
scanty hair was deciding for grey and he looked a man who
had come near his comfortable winter as he blinked his blue
eyes thoughtfully at the burning blocks. His mind was vacant. He had calculated all his expenses and discovered that
all had been done well within the margin. This discovery had
resulted in a mood of general charity and in particular desire
for some fellow-spirit to share his happiness, some of his
old cronies, one of the right sort.
Someone might drop in: Hooper perhaps. Hooper and he
were friends from long ago and both had been many years
in the same profession. Hooper was a clerk in a solicitor's
office in Eustace St and Mr Callanan was a clerk in a
solicitor's office close by on Wellington Quay.* They used
often meet at Swan's public-house where each went every
day at lunch-time to get a fourpenny snack and a pint and
when they met they compared notes astutely for they were
legal rivals. But still they were friends and could forget the
profession for one night. Mr Callanan felt he would like
to hear Hooper's gruff voice call in at the door "Hello Tom!
How's the body?"
The kettle was put squatting on the fire to boil for punch
and soon began to puff. Mr Callanan stood up to fill his pipe
and while filling it he gave a few glances at Katsey who was
diligently stoning some raisins on a plate. Many people
thought she would turn out a nun but there could be no
harm in having her taught the typewriter; time enough after
the holidays. Mr Callanan began to toss the water from
tumbler to tumbler in a manner that suggested technical
difficulties and just at that moment Mrs Callanan came in
from the hall.
— Tom! here's Mr Hooper! —
— Bring him in! Bring him in! I wouldn't doubt you,
Paddy, when there's punch going —
— I'm sure I'm in the way . . . busy night with you, Mrs
Callanan . . . —
— Not at all, Mr Hooper. You're as welcome as the flowers
in May. How is Mrs Hooper?
— Ah! we can't complain. Just a touch of the old trouble,
you know . . . indigestion —
— Nasty thing it is! She is quite strong otherwise? —
— O, yes, tip-top —
— Well, sit down, my hearty and make yourself at home —
— I'll try to, Tom —
Do you think this is 'unfinished'? This ending feels like a satisfactory resolution to me.
What might have happened in the rest of the story?
*I looked up Wellington Quay in Thom's 1904 Dublin Directory, and found that lots of solicitors had their offices there, at number 13 and 21.
He was so pleased with this that, on 27 July 1927, he sent an explanation of it to Harriet Shaw Weaver in a letter. Here he described seven different layers of meaning, perhaps for the seven colours of the rainbow (arc-en-ciel).
Selected Letters, 326
In his letter, Joyce gives the text as 'L'Arcs en' rather than the 'Arcs in' of the published version (below). The loss of the 'L' undermines three of Joyce's readings, losing the 'birds flying' in 3, the 'merriment above (larks)' in 4 and the 'birds (doves and ravens)' in 7. Yet it's not in Rose and O'Hanlon's restored text.
1) God's in his heaven and All's Right with the World
This is a line from Browning's verse drama, Pippa Passes, where the verse also includes a lark on the wing. The year's at the spring And day's at the morn; Morning's at seven; The hill-side's dew-pearled; The lark's on the wing; The snail's on the thorn: God's in his heaven— All's right with the world!
2) The Rainbow is in the sky (arc-en-ciel) the Chinese (Chinks) live tranquilly on the Chinese meadowplane (China alone almost of the old continent(s) has no record of a Deluge. Flur in this sense is German. It suggests also Flut (flood) and Fluss (river) and could even be used poetically for the expanse of a waterflood Flee = free)
This rainbow, 'the sky sign of soft advertisement' (4.12) is one of 122 in the book, usually linked to Noah and the flood (also in 'arc').
Joseph Koch, 'Noah's Offering', 1803
'And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.'
Genesis 9 12-16
I wonder where Joyce got the idea that the Chinese had no record of a deluge. The opposite is true.
'The theme of flood control and myths of a great deluge constitute a fundamental and recurring topic in classical Chinese writing.'
The earliest version of the line is a note 'Free Chinks on the Flure'. Then Joyce changed the 'free' to 'flee', creating the alliteration with 'flure' (which became ‘flur’) and also mimicking the supposed Chinese confusion pronouncing l and r.
'below stairs' suggests the servants who in FW are called Kate and Joe.
5) The electric lamps of the gin palace are lit and the boss Roderick Rex is standing free drinks to all on the 'flure of the house'
Joyce expected Weaver to remember the very first Wake sketch he wrote, which features Roderick O'Conor, the last high king of Ireland as a Dublin publican, after closing time drinking the dregs and coming 'crash a crupper' - the first fall in Finnegans Wake. You can read it on pages 380-382 of FW.
6) He is a bit gone in the upper storey, poor jink. Let him lie as he is (Shem, Ham and Japhet)
'gone in the upper storey' - one of many ways of describing crazy behaviour, like 'the rats in his garret, the bats in his belfry' (180.26).
'poor jink' - I can't find anything about this phrase online.
'let him lie as he is (Shem Ham and Japhet)' Here's another story about Noah, who made and drank the first wine, which led to him drunkenly passing out and exposing himself to his three sons.
In the Wake, these three are another version of the three soldiers who witness HCE's sin in the park on page 34. They are HCE's sons, Shem, Shaun and a composite third son, a fusion of the two.
Joyce identified Noah with Arthur Guinness and John Jameson on the opening page of the book, where we have another rainbow described as 'arclight':
'Rot a peek of pa's malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and Rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface.' 3.13
'Noah planted the vine and was drunk
John James is the greatest Dublin distiller
Arthur Guinness " " " " brewer'
Joyce's gloss to Harriet Shaw Weaver, 15 November 1926
7) The birds (doves and ravens) (cf the jinnies is a cooin her hair and the jinnies is a ravin her hair) he saved escape from his waterhouse and leave the zooless patriark alone.
There are 43 uses of this dove/raven motif, which you can find listed in fweet. Would we find them in this line without Joyce's note?
This is another part of the Noah story in Genesis.
'the jinnies is a coin her hair...' is a quote from the Museyroom passage, on pages 8-10, where the jinnies are the two girls and also dove and raven.
'Zooless patriark' is a great phrase. It's a shame he didn't use it in Finnegans Wake.
We get a zookeeping Noah, with larks and the cooing of doves, in 'The Ballad of Persse O'Reilly', on page 47. But here HCE is one of the animals on show:
Begob he's the crux of the catalogue
Of our antediluvial zoo,
(Chorus) Messrs. Billing and Coo.
Noah's larks, good as noo. 47.3-6
Perhaps if Joyce hadn't been thinking of a seven layered rainbow he could have found even more meanings. How many more can you come up with?
This Wake line reminds me of Frank Budgen's story of the writing of 'Perfume of embraces all him assailed. With hungered flesh obscurely, he mutely craved to adore.' in Ulysses:
I enquired about Ulysses. Was it progressing? "I have been working hard on it all day," said Joyce. "Does that mean that you have written a great deal?" I said. "Two sentences," said Joyce.... "You have been seeking the mot juste?" I said. "No," said Joyce. "I have the words already. What I am seeking is the perfect order of words in the sentence. There is an order in every way appropriate. I think I have it."
He could have spent even longer working on 'L'arcs en his ceiling...' where he was not just rearranging English words but inventing new ones.
After I posted this on social media, several Wake readers sent in suggestions.
'Fleets of arcs/ships in his head flee whirlpools on the floor'
'I am no Wake scholar but to me it has the rhythm of the nursery rhyme "Ride a Cock Horse" - Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes - (She shall have music wherever she goes).'
Frederick J Hayn
'Ling is a a word packed with many meanings with idem spelling variations. It is, of course, a Chinese surname name with several meanings. One possible connection with flee (or free) is that it seems to be used by Chinese people outside of China, the diaspora which entails sea journeys and vessels....
If you follow the Chinese theme then the His becomes an other God(s). Wiki has handy info on Chinese cosmogony and deities. “The gods are energies or principles revealing, imitating and propagating the way of Heaven (Tian 天), which is the supreme godhead manifesting in the northern culmen of the starry vault of the skies and its order.”'
Paul Devine 'L'Arcs on the ceiling (with or without the "L") could indeed be electric arc lights (JJ's lamps) -- but due to their extreme brightness rather uncommon on ceilings, but used in cinema projectors, which JJ knew his way around. Flór is also an Irish word for flower (though only in imitation of the French -- Flór de lúis)'
'Arcs remind me of the innards of a large ship or the ribbings of a large whale. Noah's Ark? Jonah and the Whale?'
'The phrase 'All aboard the skylark' has been around since the 19th century and 'Skylark' was, as you say, a popular name for small vessels that took holiday-makers for trips around the bay. We had one in Southend-on-Sea, and it was famously one of the small boast that took part in the Dunkirk operation. But there's also the verb, meaning to muck about (as in 'No Skylarking on the Platform') - it's something schoolboys used to do. See attached (found in Armley Museum, Leeds)'