Monday, January 19, 2009

Episode of Hades

The following is an excerpt from the Episode of Hades, Ulysses, James Joyce. At this point the characters are nearing the end of the funeral procession past Dublin monuments, through her well-known streets, and are approaching the cemetery. I would be curious to hear anyone's opinion of how the characters address the death of their friend and their general mood, paying particular attention to their characters, as seen through their language:

"

Bom! Upset. A coffin bumped out on to the road. Burst open. Paddy Dignam shot out and rolling over stiff in the dust in a brown habit too large for him. Red face: grey now. Mouth fallen open. Asking what's up now. Quite right to close it. Looks horrid open. Then the insides decompose quickly. Much better to close up all the orifices. Yes, also. With wax. The sphincter loose. Seal up all.


-Dunphy's, Mr Power announced as the carriage turned right.


Dunphy's corner. Mourning coaches drawn up, drowning their grief. A pause by the wayside. Tiptop position for a pub. Expect we'll pull up here on the way back to drink his health. Pass round the consolation. Elixir of life.


But suppose now it did happen. Would he bleed if a nail say cut him in the knocking about? He would and he wouldn't, I suppose. Depends on where. The circulation stops. Still some might ooze out of an artery. It would be better to bury them in red: a dark red.


In silence they drove along Phibsborough road. An empty hearse trotted by, coming from the cemetery: looks relieved.


Crossguns bridge: the royal canal.


Water rushed roaring through the sluices. A man stood on his dropping barge, between clamps of turf. On the towpath by the lock a slacktethered horse. Aboard of the ...Bugabu....


Their eyes watched him. On the slow weedy waterway he had floated on his raft coastward over Ireland drawn by a haulage rope past beds of reeds, over slime, mudchoked bottles, carrion dogs. Athlone, Mullingar, Moyvalley, I could make a walking tour to see Milly by the canal. Or cycle down. Hire some old crock, safety. Wren had one the other day at the auction but a lady's. Developing waterways. James M'Cann's hobby to row me o'er the ferry. Cheaper transit. By easy stages. Houseboats. Camping out. Also hearses. To heaven by water. Perhaps I will without writing. Come as a surprise, Leixlip, Clonsilla. Dropping down lock by lock to Dublin. With turf from the midland bogs. Salute. He lifted his brown straw hat, saluting Paddy Dignam.


They drove on past Brian Boroimhe house. Near it now.


-I wonder how is our friend Fogarty getting on, Mr Power said.


-Better ask Tom Kernan, Mr Dedalus said.


-How is that? Martin Cunningham said. Left him weeping, I suppose?


-Though lost to sight, Mr Dedalus said, to memory dear.


The carriage steered left for Finglas road.


The stonecutter's yard on the right. Last lap. Crowded on the spit of land silent shapes appeared, white, sorrowful, holding out calm hands, knelt in grief, pointing. Fragments of shapes, hewn. In white silence: appealing. The best obtainable. Thos. H. Dennany, monumental builder and sculptor.


Passed.


On the curbstone before Jimmy Geary, the sexton's, an old tramp sat, grumbling, emptying the dirt and stones out of his huge dustbrown yawning boot. After life's journey.


Gloomy gardens then went by: one by one: gloomy houses.


Mr Power pointed.


-That is where Childs was murdered, he said. The last house.


-So it is, Mr Dedalus said. A gruesome case. Seymour Bushe got him off. Murdered his brother. Or so they said.


-The crown had no evidence, Mr Power said.


-Only circumstantial, Martin Cunningham added. That's the maxim of the law. Better for ninetynine guilty to escape than for one innocent person to be wrongfully condemned.


They looked. Murderer's ground. It passed darkly. Shuttered, tenantless, unweeded garden. Whole place gone to hell. Wrongfully condemned. Murder. The murderer's image in the eye of the murdered. They love reading about it. Man's head found in a garden. Her clothing consisted of. How she met her death. Recent outrage. The weapon used. Murderer is still at large. Clues. A shoelace. The body to be exhumed. Murder will out.


Cramped in this carriage. She mightn't like me to come that way without letting her know. Must be careful about women. Catch them once with their pants down. Never forgive you after. Fifteen.


The high railings of Prospect rippled past their gaze. Dark poplars, rare white forms. Forms more frequent, white shapes thronged amid the trees, white forms and fragments streaming by mutely, sustaining vain gestures on the air.


The felly harshed against the curbstone: stopped. Martin Cunningham put out his arm and, wrenching back the handle, shoved the door open with his knee. He stepped out. Mr Power and Mr Dedalus followed.


Change that soap now. Mr Bloom's hand unbuttoned his hip pocket swiftly and transferred the paperstuck soap to his inner handkerchief pocket. He stepped out of the carriage, replacing the newspaper his other hand still held.


Paltry funeral: coach and three carriages. It's all the same. Pallbearers, gold reins, requiem mass, firing a volley. Pomp of death. Beyond the hind carriage a hawker stood by his barrow of cakes and fruit. Simnel cakes those are, stuck together: cakes for the dead. Dogbiscuits. Who ate them? Mourners coming out.


He followed his companions. Mr Kernan and Ned Lambert followed, Hynes walking after them. Corny Kelleher stood by the opened hearse and took out the two wreaths. He handed one to the boy.


Where is that child's funeral disappeared to?


A team of horses passed from Finglas with toiling plodding tread, dragging through the funereal silence a creaking waggon on which lay a granite block. The waggoner marching at their head saluted.


Coffin now. Got here before us, dead as he is. Horse looking round at it with his plume skeowways. Dull eye: collar tight on his neck, pressing on a bloodvessel or something. Do they know what they cart out here every day? Must be twenty or thirty funerals every day. Then Mount Jerome for the protestants. Funerals all over the world everywhere every minute. Shovelling them under by the cartload doublequick. Thousands every hour. Too many in the world.


Mourners came out through the gates: woman and a girl. Leanjawed harpy, hard woman at a bargain, her bonnet awry. Girl's face stained with dirt and tears, holding the woman's arm, looking up at her for a sign to cry. Fish's face, bloodless and livid.


The mutes shouldered the coffin and bore it in through the gates. So much dead weight. Felt heavier myself stepping out of that bath. First the stiff: then the friends of the stiff. Corny Kelleher and the boy followed with their wreaths. Who is that beside them? Ah, the brother-in-law.


All walked after.


"

3 comments:

  1. I will use George Orwell's words to begin:

    "Tropic of Cancer has been vaguely associated with two other books, Ulysses and Voyage au bout de la nuit, but in neither case is there much resemblance. What Miller has in common with Joyce is a willingness to mention the inane, squalid facts of everyday life. Putting aside differences of technique, the funeral scene in Ulysses, for instance, would fit into Tropic of Cancer; the whole chapter is a sort of confession, an exposé of the frightful inner callousness of the human being. But there the resemblance ends. As a novel, Tropic of Cancer is far inferior to Ulysses. Joyce is an artist, in a sense in which Miller is not and probably would not wish to be, and in any case he is attempting much more. He is exploring different states of consciousness, dream, reverie (the ‘bronze-by-gold’ chapter), drunkenness, etc., and dovetailing them all into a huge complex pattern, almost like a Victorian ‘plot’. Miller is simply a hard-boiled person talking about life, an ordinary American businessman with intellectual courage and a gift for words. It is perhaps significant that he looks exactly like everyone's idea of an American businessman. As for the comparison with Voyage au bout de la nuit, it is even further from the point. Both books, use unprintable words, both are in some sense autobiographical, but that is all. Voyage au beut de la nuit is a book-with-a-purpose, and its purpose is to protest against the horror and meaninglessness of modern life — actually, indeed, of life. It is a cry of unbearable disgust, a voice from the cesspool.

    I agree with this sentiment and can't add much more to it, other than to make it specific for what you have selected. Your selection is from the funeral scene referred to by Orwell. It does show the callousness and hardheatedness inherent in mankind. I believe it was Joyce's intention to reveal this, because this is what we can all identify with. We do love live in a romantic, Hollywoodised world, and nor will we ever. Our base instincts as human beings, are not much different to other animals - we are surviving, we are struggling. I for one happen to think that this is what makes the human race more beautiful. Those people who try to find the faults of others only to victimise them or degrade them are another kettle of fish. For me, these writers, Joyce, and to a lesser extent Miller, have found that which we do not admit to ourselves, but to which we can most easily recognise and adhere to.

    The problems arise when these issues are manipulated by others for their own gain. I believe some levels of violence are justifiable and simulataneously innocent, it is the quest for perfection and obedience that ruins us.

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  2. Thank you for your response. I just read the rest of George Orwell's letter, Inside the Whale, 1940. Here is a little more of what he said that you didn't show:

    "(Tropic of Cancer) has become so unusual as to seem almost anomalous, but it is the book of a man who is happy. With years of lumpen-proletarian life behind him, hunger, vagabondage, dirt, failure, nights in the open, battles with immigration officers, endless struggles for a bit of cash, Miller finds that he is enjoying himself. Exactly the aspects of life that fill Céline with horror are the ones that appeal to him. So far from protesting, he is accepting. And the very word ‘acceptance’ calls up his real affinity with, another American, Walt Whitman.

    But there is something rather curious in being Whitman in the nineteen-thirties. It is not certain that if Whitman himself were alive at the moment he would write anything in the least degree resembling Leaves of Grass. For what he is saying, after all, is ‘I accept’, and there is a radical difference between acceptance now and acceptance then.

    Whitman was writing in a time of unexampled prosperity, but more than that, he was writing in a country where freedom was something more than a word. The democracy, equality, and comradeship that he is always talking about arc not remote ideals, but something that existed in front of his eyes. In mid-nineteenth-century America men felt themselves free and equal, were free and equal, so far as that is possible outside-a society of pure communism. There was povery and there were even class distinctions, but except for the Negroes, there was no permanently submerged class. Everyone had inside him, like a kind of core, the idea or knowledge that he could earn a decent living, and earn it without bootlicking. The reason is simply that they are free human beings. Life has a buoyant, carefree quality that you can feel as you read, like a physical sensation in your belly. It is this that Whitman is celebrating, though actually he does it very badly, because he is one of those writers who tell you what you ought to feel instead of making you feel it. Luckilly for his beliefs, perhaps, he died too early to see the deterioration in American life that came with the rise of large-scale industry and the exploitation of cheap immigrant labour.

    Miller's outlook is deeply akin to that of Whitman, and neaarly everyone who has read him has remarked on this. Tropic of Cancer ends with an especially Whitmanesque passage, in which, after the lecheries, the swindles, the fights, the drinking bouts, and the imbecilities, he simply sits down and watches the Seine flowing past, in a sort of mystical acceptance of thing-as-it-is. Only, what is he accepting? In the first place, not America, but the ancient bone-heap of Europe, where every grain of soil has passed through innumerable human bodies. Secondly, not an epoch of expansion and liberty, but an epoch of fear, tyranny, and regimentation. To say ‘I accept’ in an age like our own is to say that you accept concentration camps, rubber truncheons. Hitler, Stalin, bombs, aeroplanes, tinned food, machine guns, putsches, purges, slogans, Bedaux belts, gas masks, submarines, spies, provocateurs, press censorship, secret prisons, aspirins, Hollywood films, and political murders. Not only those things, of course, but, those things among-others. And on the whole this is Henry Miller's attitude."

    Essentially, Orwell is not comparing Miller with Joyce. He says that there language, specifically that of their characters has a similar attribute, something real, but Joyce is an artist. Comparing Miller to Whitman, is not saying he is Whitman. It is saying he is living in an naive point of literature. The trouble is, the acceptance now, is of something dangerous, though I believe this danger was there for Whitman on a smaller degree.

    But, back to Joyce. He is a realist, a crtic and a sceptic. He was unpolitical and revolutionary. He made us feel, and he encouraged us to feel as every other person does, and used that, and helped make us form at least a few more thoughts. Miller, enjoyed his life, I dare say, took no responsibilty, and when he talked about revolution, it was only to use the word and refer to it as a dream like condition and not worth a second of effort to even contemplate seriously. His sufferance was dangerous. But taking him for what he is, you can read the Tropic of Cancer and be very satisfied. It is a good read after all, it is just not that inspiring.

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  3. AnonymousJune 09, 2009

    I would be interested to know how a writer can be both "unpolitical and revolutionary." It seems to me that a revolution of any kind, literary or otherwise, is political: it finds the present state or order of things to be unsatisfactory and seeks to change it. Such an intention can only depend upon ideological motives, hence, political ones.

    Anyway, I applaud your enjoyment of Joyce, thanks.

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