Tuesday, 17 March 2015

St Patrick and the Druid

'He is the only saint a man can get drunk in honour of,' Joyce said, in praise of Patrick....The only saint (Joyce) would praise was Saint Patrick, him he vaunted above all other saints in the calendar.' Padraic Colum

Happy St Patrick's Day!

It's a good day to look at Joyce's own treatment of St Patrick in this sketch, which he wrote in the summer of 1923 while on holiday in Bognor Regis. This was the fourth Wake sketch Joyce wrote, following Roderick O'Conor, Tristan and Isolde and St Kevin.

'St Patrick and the Druid' eventually found its way into Finnegans Wake, at the very end, on pages 611-2.

Joyce sent this to his patroness, Harriet Shaw Weaver on 2 August 1923, with a letter saying 'I send you this as promised – a piece describing the conversion of St Patrick by Ireland.' (Letters III: 79)

Harriet Shaw Waver was baffled by it, not least because much of it is written in pidgin English! 

But she made the above typescript for him, which he corrected, and which she then mislaid. So these corrections never found their way into the published text.  This was not among the manuscripts she gave to the British Museum and was published for the first time, in June 1989, by the James Joyce Broadsheet.

The piece is based on the story of Patrick's arrival in Ireland, and his magical duel with the Arch Druids of High King Leary. On the eve of Easter, the saint lit a paschal fire on the Hill of Slane. 

'avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to tauftauf thuartpeatrick' 03.09

'The kindler of the paschal fire.' 128.33

At this time of year, it was the law that no fire could be lit before a new one was kindled at Tara. When the druids at Tara saw the light from Slane, they warned King Leary that he must put it out or it would burn forever. The Tripartite Life of St Patrick gives different versions of the duel that followed. 

Here, the chief druid is called Lochru, a name Joyce added to the typescript above, though the addition was lost.

In the story, the saint wins the magical duel. But in his sketch, Joyce only gives us the druid's side, and so he described the piece as 'the conversion of St Patrick by Ireland.'

Patrick's enemy is the 'archdruid of Irish chinchinjoss' - 'chin-chin' is pidgin for talking and 'joss' means god. So he's the top man in Irish God-talking - or theology!

Our druid is called Berkeley, because he's also the Irish philosopher and bishop, George Berkeley (above), author of An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision (1709), in which he argued that the objects of sight are not material, but ideas in the mind.

Joyce's archdruid has his own theory of vision, which he explains at length to an uncomprehending St Patrick. This is how Joyce wrote it in his very first draft, when it was in clear English, from www.ricorso.net:

'The archdruid then explained the illusion of the colourful world, its furniture, animal, vegetable and mineral, appearing to fallen men under but one reflection of the several iridal gradations of solar light, that one which it had been unable to absorb while for the seer beholding reality, the thing as in itself it is, all objects showed themselves in their true colours, resplendent with the sextuple glory of the light actually contained within them.'

So the druid is claiming that the visible world of colour is an illusion. When we see a coloured object, we are seeing the one colour it has reflected, rather than the six colours of the spectrum it has absorbed. But a true seer, like the druid, can see the 'sextuple glory of the light actually contained within.'

He then points to High King Leary, witnessing the duel, and uses him as an example of what a true seer can see:

To eyes so unsealed King Leary’s fiery locks appeared of the colour of sorrel green, His Majesty’s saffron kilt of the hue of brewed spinach, the royal golden breasttorc of the tint of curly cabbage, the verdant mantle of the monarch as of the green of laurel boughs, the commanding azure eyes of a thyme and parsley aspect, the enamelled gem of the ruler’s ring as a rich lentil, the violet contusions of the prince’s feature tinged uniformly as with an infusion of sennacassia.'

The druid claims that King Leary's red hair, orange kilt, yellow breasttorc, green mantle, blue eyes, indigo gem and violet bruises are all really green!
Joyce then expanded this, adding pidgin English and Latinate terminology - so 'absorb' became 'absorbere'. He also included a description of the druid's rainbow coloured outfit:

Topside joss pidgin fella Berkeley, archdruid of the Irish josspidgin, in his heptachromatic sevenhued roranyellgreeblindigan mantle then explained to Patrick the albed, the illusiones of hueful world of joss its furniture mineral through vegetable to animal appearing to fallen men under but one reflectione of the several iridal gradationes of solar light that one which that part of it had shown itself unable to absorbere whereas for the seer beholding interiorly the true inwardness of reality, the thing as in itself it is, all objects showed themselves in their true coloribus resplendent with the sextuple gloria of light actually retained within them. In other words, to vision so unsealed King Leary’s fiery locks appeared of the colour of sorrel green while, to pass on to his sixcoloured costume His Majesty’s saffron kilt seemed of the hue of boiled spinach the royal golden breast torc of the tint of curly cabbage the verdant cloak of the mouth as of the viridity of laurel leaves, the commanding azure eyes of a thyme upon parsley look, the enamelled Indian gem of the ruler’s maledictive ring as an olive lentil, the violaceous warwon contusions of the prince’s features tinged uniformly as with a brew of sennacassia.' 

I love the change of 'the violet contusions of the prince's features' to 'the violaceous warwon contusions of the prince’s features'. They're King Leary's battle bruises!

Joyce then dramatically developed the transition between the two parts of the druid's speech, changing 'In other words' to this:

'Patfella no catch all that preachybook belong Luchru Berkeley bymby topside joss pidgin fella Luchru Berkeley say him two time with other words' (August typescript)

Patrick didn't understand Berkeley's message, so Berkeley told him a second time in a different way.

You can follow the development of this to the published text, which has more pidgin, at the www.ricorso.net website and the James Joyce Digital Archive.


When Joyce added the piece to his book in 1938, he included Saint Patrick's answer, making him Japanese, because Japan is the land of the Rising Sun.  Joyce could also have been thinking of the Japanese invasion of China in 1937.

'the messanger of the risen sun...shall give to every seeable a hue' 609.19

At his first appearance, Patrick is called 'the Chrystanthemlander with his porters of bonzos' (609.32): 'Chrystanthemlander' combines the Japanese chrysanthemum with Christ, anthem and lander.  Christ is the 'risen sun' (Son). Bonzes are Japanese Buddhist priests or monks.

St Patrick's Japanese answer to the druid's argument is to accuse him of being colour blind:

'you pore shiroskuro blackinwhitepaddynger' 612.18

You poor chiaroscuro black and white Irishman. 'Shiro' is Japanese for white and 'kuro' for black. 

Patrick follows this with an obscure reference to the shamrock, which the saint famously used to demonstrate the Trinity (left).

In Joyce's version, it becomes a handkerchief:

'My tappropinquish to Me wipenmeselps gnosegates ahandcaughtscheaf of synthetic shammyrag to hims hers' (612.24)

There's a scatological level running through the whole piece, echoing the earlier Wake story, of 'How Buckley Shot the Russian General'. That story was reintroduced on page 610, when Juva says that King Leary has bet on both the druid and the saint: 'He has help his crewn on the burkeley buy but he has holf his crown on the Eurasian Generalissimo' 610.11-12

Patrick, the invader from the East, is the Eurasian Generalissmo.  

In the earlier story, the Irish Buckley shoots a Russian general after seeing him relieving himself and wiping himself with a green sod. Our 'shammyrag' plays the role of the sod in the earlier story, and it's not clear if Patrick's wiping his arse ('hims hers') or his nose ('gnosegates') with it! But the story of Buckley and the General is reversed – the Eurasian, wiping his arse with a shamrock, is now victorious over the Irishman.

The Saint then kneels down in prayer to the Rainbow - to the world of visible daytime colours:

'to Balenoarch (he kneeleths), to Great Balenoarch (he kneeleths down) to Greatest Great Balenoarch (he kneeleths down quite-somely), the sound salse sympol in a weedwayedwold of the firethere the sun in his halo cast. Onmen.' 612.27

'Arcobaleno' is Italian for rainbow. Balenoarch is also God, the whale (Balena, Baleine) ruler (arch).

'the firethere the sun in his halo cast. Onmen'  is a play on 'The Father the Son and the Holy Ghost, Amen' - the Trinity again.

The appearance of the sun - 'the firethere the sun' - spells defeat for the druid. In the original story, St Patrick caused the sun, blotted out by the druids, to reappear:

'The druids by their incantations overspread the hill and surrounding plain with a cloud of worse than Egyptian darkness. Patrick defied them to remove that cloud, and when all their efforts were made in vain, at his prayer the sun sent forth its rays and the brightest sunshine lit up the scene.'  

The Catholic Encyclopedia 

'That was thing, bygotter, the thing, bogcotton, the very thing, begad! Even to uptoputty Bilkilly–Belkelly-Balkally. Who was for shouting down the shatton on the lamp of Jeeshees. Sweating on to stonker and throw his seven. As he shuck his thumping fore features apt the hoyhop of His Ards.

Thud.' 612.31-6

The Archdruid, furious at his defeat, tries to shout down the sun. He shakes his thumb and forefingers in defiance at St Patrick's arse, or at the High King (Ard Ri). Then he falls to the ground with a thud. On the scatological level ('shatton' is 'shat on') this may be the sound of the Saint's turd hitting the ground.

The Irish hail the new dawn and the sunrise:

'Good safe firelamp! hailed the heliots. Goldselforelump! Halled they. Awed. Where thereon the skyfold high, trampa-trampatramp. Adie. Per ye comdoom doominoom noonstroom. Yeasome priestomes. Fullyhum toowhoom.'    613.01-4        
The 'firelamp! is the sun and Ireland (''God save Ireland!' said the heroes'). 'Heliots' are helot and worshippers of Helios, the sun. Elsewhere Joyce calls Ireland 'Healiopolis' (24.180 and 'Healiotropolis' (598.08), after Tim Healy, governor general of the Irish Free State from 1922-8. McHugh says Dubliners called the Viceregal Lodge in Phoenix Park 'Healiopolis'.


Describing this piece to Frank Budgen, Joyce wrote:

'Much more is intended in the colloquy between Berkeley the arch druid and his pidgin speech and Patrick the [?] and his Nippon English. It is also the defence and indictment of the book itself, B's theory of colours and Patrick's practical solution of the problem. hence the phrase in the preceding Mutt and Jeff banter 'Dies is Dorminus master' = Deus est Dominus noster plus the day is Lord over sleep, i.e. when it days.'  

20 August 1939, Letters I p 406

So Joyce's druid represents the night world of Finnegans Wake - a world when we don't see daytime colours, but do apprehend the sextuple glory of inner reality (even if it looks green because it's Irish!). Then St Patrick comes and brings the sunrise and daytime colours. The druid defends and St Patrick indicts Finnegans Wake.

Patrick and the Druid are opposites in every way. The druid is dressed in rainbow colours but only sees green. Patrick is dressed in black and white ('niggerblonker'), but can see the rainbow. But each will have their turn as day and night alternate.

'Yet is no body present here which was not there before. Only is order othered. Nought is nulled. Fuit fiat!'

What I wonder is how much of this did Joyce foresee when he originally wrote the sketch in Bognor Regis that summer in 1923? Did he even know he was going to write a night book?

Patrick drives out the snakes from Ireland


A rare example of a red wine praised by Joyce
'Joyce, who loved wine, had the waiter bring us a special kind which he recommended to us very earnestly. It was Clos de Saint Patrice (otherwise known as Chateauneuf du Pape) from the part of France where Saint Patrick sojourned after he made his escape from captivity in Ireland....'He is the only saint a man can get drunk in honour of,' Joyce said, in praise of Patrick as well as the wine. The talk turned on other saints, but Joyce would have none of them.  He dismissed Saint Francis. He declared he took little interest in Augustine. Aquinas then...? Joyce would have none of the good Doctor either, or of Saint Ignatius, despite his Jesuit training.  The only saint he would praise was Saint Patrick, him he vaunted above all other saints in the calendar. 'He was modest and he was sincere,' he said, and this was praise indeed from Joyce. And then he added: 'He waited too long to write his Portrait of the Artist' – Joyce meant Saint Patrick's Confession.'

Padraic Colum, Our Friend James Joyce p182

The saint was with Joyce at the beginning, in Bognor Regis, and at the end of the writing process. Here's a lovely recollection from the Swiss writer, Jacques Mercanton:

'On the Quay de Lutry...he installed himself on the little wall at the harbor's edge, stretched out his legs, pulled his straw hat down over his forehead, closed his eyes like the lion of Asia and basked in the last sunlight....So he sat there, pondered over 'Work in Progress', spoke of St Patrick, whose intercession was indispensable if he was to complete the book, wherein he has the saint carry on a dialogue in Chinese and Japanese with a druid....He made no move to leave until the cold evening air began to chill him: 'I follow St Patrick,' he said, pointing to Mrs Joyce, who was motioning to us from the platform of a streetcar. 'It is the title of an erudite book by my friend Gogarty, the Buck Mulligan of Ulysses. It would interest you.'
  Then with a sigh, 'Without the help of my Irish saint, I think I could never have got to the end of it.'

'The Hours of James Joyce', Portraits of the Artist in Exile, ed Potts, p.219 

A footnote to this tells us that Gogarty's book was found on Joyce's desk after his death.


  1. Great stuff. I love this part of the book (book IV). So much to glean from it.

  2. i love this so much. st. patrick and the druid talking about colors was always one of my favorite parts of finnegans wake, and reading this only affirms that for me more. absolutely beautiful