Starting on p. 143, the opening of Question 10
Starting on p. 143, the opening of Question 10
10. What bitter’s love but yurning, what’ sour lovemutch but
a bref burning till shee that drawes dothe smoake retourne? (143.29-30).
Question 10 begins with an allusion to a 17th century song written by Thomas Campion & Philip Rosseter called What Then is Loue but Mourning
“What then is loue but mourning?
What desire, but a selfe-burning?
Till shee that hates doth loue returne…”
But Joyce’s questioner [probably Shem] torques the original song to transform it from a bard’s seemingly hopeless-romantic calling for a young maiden to run away with him into a more complex question about the nature of love. Shem, here, seems to suggest that love is both an baser urge—not such a beautiful, lofty thing—and also a game. We read both “bitter” and “sour,”—aspects of taste—which link love to a hunger. These tastes combined with a yurning [yearning] give the sense that love is instinctual—a baser animalistic need. Or is it a game like Tennis which requires a lot of back and forth play [“lovemutch” as “love / match” scoring measurements in Tennis]. Like a game, love is often briefly played—a “bref burning” [brief burning] flame that peters out quickly like with young lovers.
It is also worth noting that both bitter and sour are more along the lines of acquired tastes and notably not sweet—making this comparatively different than Joyce’s often used allusion to “Love’s Old Sweet Song.” It stands to reason that this question will explore different tropes of love. And, likewise, ask the reader to examine the negative aspects of love as the “bref burning,” may be in the form of Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease that causes a burning sensation in the genitals.
The response, we discussed, seems to come from a feminine voice. The voice appears more loving, affectionate, and playful. At first, we thought this may be Issy responding to the question, and to whom she kept calling “pet” names [pipette, pette, pitounette, pig, pigaleen (143.30-35)]: Is she talking to herself in front of a mirror [as Issy usually appears with a mirror]? A pet [Joyce did have an affection for cats (145.09)]? A friend or brother [It seems as though she is gossiping to someone—“I know her, Slight me, would she? For every got I care! [...] when I think of that espos of a Clancarbry” front of a vanity table discussing the application of make-up to “make [cheeks] look so rosetop glowstop nostop…Three creaming a day…”] (144.01-05). It would make sense for a character discussing putting on make-up would be doing so while looking at a mirror.
Yet, as we slowly drift deeper into her musings on p. 144, the speaker begins, to equate love-making with games. We see her thinking about the espos [spouse?] of a Clancarbry’s—a footballer [foodbrawler] with a “blackleaded chest,” and his fourteen Italian or Spanish [dago] rugby or hurling teammates [“fullback” is a Rugby position, “mauler” is a Rugby play, both sports use teams of fifteen players]—who seem to be men trying to impress women with their physical performance: “Baiting at my…becups” [bra cup measurements began in the mid-to-late 30s] because “they won the egg and spoon” race (144.01-09). The language of sports, here, again seems to serve euphemistically for sexual conquest. While any mauler playing rugby seeks an opening in his opponent’s defense to score a try, there seems to be something more sexual in “He is seeking an opening and means to be first with me as his belle alliance”—possibly taking one’s virginity (144.11-12).
The use of Spanish & Italian & Turkish [“dago” (144.08) + “Such is Spanish” (144.13) + “Julio/Juliet & Romeune/Romeo,” (144.14) feeling “turkish” (144.14)], reminds us of Bloom in “Eumeaus” commenting on sexual temperament being influenced by climate [which is itself not out-of-line with early 20th century Northern European stereotypes of the Southern Europe and the Orient at the time], and also Molly Bloom observing Turkish men in the markets of Gibraltar—a British holding on the Spanish country, and formerly Moorish.
Yet, if this is Issy speaking, something seems off. The use of “Julio and Romeune” seems to give a hint. If it is meant to convey a powerful form of young-love Italian lovers, it is strange that Romeo would take a French feminine form (Romeune) while Juliet takes a Spanish masculine form (Julio). Likewise, we find it strange that Juliet takes the primary position here—as typically, we read Romeo and Juliet. We begin to wonder if this, like criticism of Joyce in writing the “Penelope” episode of Ulysses, is not meant to be a feminine voice after all, but rather a male masquerading as a female—possibly Shaun speaking for Issy—or if it is Issy exploring a reversal of patriarchal sexual power-dynamics.
This masquerading seems to become slightly more apparent as p. 144 continues. The desires of this speaker seem to become more similar to those of stock female constructs—particularly the virgin/bride and the whore—leading us to think it may be Shaun talking as Issy. The middle of 144 features the description of a new bride [“hairpins,” “sigh in shockings” [thighs in stockings] “trousseaurs” [trousers or trousseau—bridal clothing] “reremembrancetie,” “shoeweek,” “snappy new girters” [garters], feeling “proud and glov[e]ing.” This stock image of a pure woman in white, who sees her clothes as “extensions to her personality” (144.17-27) contrasts with a prostitute presented at the bottom of the page.
The prostitute construct, a “fleshmonger […] solicited […] for unlawful converse” may be playing the role of a “naughty girl” feigning baby-garble to excite and arouse through an impersonation of innocence—“Sall I puhim [put him] in momou [my mouth]. Mummum. Funny spot to have a fingey! I’m terribly sorry, I swear to you I am! […] May you never see me in my birthday pelts [birthday suit, naked]” (144.29-145.01).
Continuing the thoughts of a possible male masquerading as a female voice, p. 145 seems to depict feminine sexual desire only through characters from other stories—both literary and historical. Initially, a reference to “blanche mainges,” (145.01) serves to reference Iseult of Brittany—Iseult Blanchmains [with white hands] from Tristan and Iseult’s. Yet both Iseults feature in this section, as it is the other Iseult of Ireland whom Tristan saves from “rot” [rape and deterioration] at the hands of lepers [leprous] (145.01-02), a punishment for her sexual “trysting” (146.07) with Tristan levied by her husband, King Mark. Likewise, we have a Snow White reference at work as well, yet, with the sexual roles reversed—here, the speaker, after consulting with her “mishe-mishe,” and being told that she is the “learningful and considerate,” [fairest of them all?] returns to a garden [possibly Eden/Phoenix] with a “snakelet” [serpent or tiny penis] and decides she will “kiss you back to life, my peachest” [Snow White]. I mean to make you suffer, meddlar, and I don't care this fig for contempt of courting [Garden of Eden by means of fig/fruit for contempt + birthday pelts + woman as the cause for man’s suffering]” (145.07-16).
There is something naturalistic about the form of sexuality described here. It seems the speaker is quite right to claim that “My diaper has more life in it” (145.11)— Joyce (and Shem—which we will explore in greater detail in later blogs) writes from the dung-heap [the contents of a diaper]—that is, Joyce, in Ulysses and the Wake, explores the waste in human existence, the throwaway moments, and finds these moments teeming with life. This may be the way of the natural world—which, also, uses shit [manure] to aid in the growth of the beautiful, and the necessary—“vegetables,” “buttercups,” “clover,” “fleurting,” “peachest,” “fig”] (145.3-16).
The want of sexual fulfillment takes on a form of an all-encompassing sensation possibly wanting to reach orgasm [“Bite my laughters, drink my tears. Pour into me, volumes, spell me stark and spill me swooning.”] The Issy-like voice wants to be completely consumed by the “Transname” [Tristan or any other interchangeable male]. The voice does not care how she will be remembered in posterity because of the love she feels this moment, the here and now: “I just don’t care what my thwarters think, [Tristan, my] loveliness, now and here me for all times!”] (145.17-21)
Again, though, we are not sure as to whether this is purely a feminine form of desire or if it is an instruction of how a woman would be cultured to feel desire [or possibly Shaun using archetypes to project forms of feminine desires]—after all, her yearnings have been informed by stories: Tristan and Iseult, Snow White, Genesis, and, toward the bottom of the page, now include readings of Shakespeare [“Chickspeer” here as Chick’s view or girl’s friend (145.24)], Bram Stoker’s Dracula [Dracula’s out Brimstoker (145.32-33)], and possibly even The Dead—“to adore me there and then cease to be” (146.01)—like Greta thinking of Michael Furey]. Likewise, toward the end page 146, after what appears as a young girls wish for sexual fulfillment, it may all be a forgery—a long Pigott letter—due to the presence of “hisshitenency” (146.34-35).
But is the love and desire in this section “moral?”—does the speaker “be leib [believe] in the immoralities?” (145.26). This question being teased out depends on whom one think is talking—Issy or Shaun.
In one regard, this form of all-consuming sexual desire seems to be “holy”—“poestries [poetic, poetry, or positive] from Chickspeer’s with gleechoral music or a jaculation from the garden of the soul.” If the desire is more revered than the poetry of Shakespeare accompanied with gleeful choral music, OR a sudden burst from the soul—it must be something holy—especially considering how orgasm—the male “[e]jaculation” pores the soul of life into an egg—creation from nothing (145.25).
Yet, the speaker also invokes Darwin’s “struggle for life and survival of the fittest,” but complicates “life and fittest,” by rewriting it as “the struggle for love and the sowiveall of the prettiest?” Is “love”—as we are no longer solely concerned with survival for selecting a mate? And are women capable of surviving in non-wive roles—won’t only the pretty be selected as wives? On the contrary, with “Man [is] in Surplus,” women wield greater power to select men as they would “coseries [Groceries] at homes.” The New Free Woman has greater choice, that is to say, in her selection of a mate. After all, Joyce’s novel, Portrait of the Artist, was published serially in the magazine formerly called New Free Woman—Harriot Weaver’s The Egoist. In a way, Weaver takes the role of the empowered “Lady” who can “Pay the Rates,” and not need a man. In a way, it is Weaver who selected Joyce as a commodity to share with women “seeking to improve on myself” by reading New Free Woman / Egoist (146.25-31).
We were slightly confused as to the use of Bram Stoker’s Dracula at the bottom of the page. In some ways, we discussed connections between vampire literature and decadence—the sucking of the vitality from a city, the vampire using sexual allure to prey upon its victim, and London during the fin de siècle, the feelings of decline in morals and sexual propriety. If this is Shaun speaking as Issy, it seems to make sense as to why the speaker would associate the New Free Woman, a “Lady” who can “Pay the Rates” (pay her own rents, rates, bills without the need of a man—now in surplus), as signs of a declining civilization. Likewise, it would then make sense that the speaker asks to “Draw the shades” [as with certain beds, or with city windows, or with a play] thereby ending what can be seen publicly, especially this discussion of female desire (145.29-34).
But the speaker’s early enthusiasm seems to show signs of disappointment at the possible lovers with whom she is presented. The speaker refers to one as a “pluckless lankaloot [Lancelot]” (and what would Lancelot be without his courage?) She regrets her current position—hating not just the thought of one lover, but the “thought of the thought of you,” imagining who she was “meant” to marry—“some engineer from the French college” a “nomme d’engien” someone who (possibly like a character from stories she’s read—possibly part of a youthful naiveté similar to Gerty Macdowell in “Nausicaa”) would carry her “from a boat, [my savior] of eroes [sexual love], to the beach,” rests on his shoulder, and have him listen to every treasured word from her lips, even talk about her Granny—not someone who is married to “pleasebusiness” of “reading and writing” [a Shem character?—or possibly Joyce himself, who would know the business of asking “please” quite well by often asking for financial assistance so that he could continue to work at his reading and writing] (146.17-29).
The disappointment on p. 146 then moves onto a wedding on p. 147, with the speaker on center stage—she “Musforget there’s an audience” watching her, highlighted by her references to “The little passdoor” and my apron stage” (146.36-147.01). The audience comprises of “…four courtships [Mamalujo?]… Bigbawl [HCE/Mr. Porter] and his boosers’ eleven makes twelve territorials [the men in the pub], her brothers “Mitchel [Mick/Shaun] v. Nicholls” [Nick/Shem], and her twenty-eight classmates [“waiting twenty” read as eight and twenty]—one for each letter in the alphabet, plus Phoebe, Thelma, and Mee [Issy] (147.03-15).
They appear at her wedding—there is a huge feast where they eat like “groupsuppers” [grasshopper in Ant & Grasshopper tale, “or the signing off of her marriage contract—Aves Selvae Acquae Valles [Ave, Salve, atque Vale—Hail, hail and farewell! (147.06-07)] Her classmates sing—“all my belles began ti ting. A ring a ring a rosaring!”— and bells ring, and “Bright pigeons” are released and fly “all over the whirrld” (147.18-22)
Her wedding kiss, a “mistletoe message,” will appear in the newspapers [Sundry/Sunday Papers]. And in the “amourlight” [love light], she will reveal the “secret[s]” in her “underworld” [underwear, underworld, nether-regions?] her “naughties,” [night-gown/naughty], and “all [her] other wonderwearlds!” (148.26-28)—just as she did with “Dan Holohan” “up Smock Alley” after the flannel dance—“when you [taught] me the linguo [lingo/language] to melt [sex?]. (147.30-36).
We finished with some gentle pillow talk. And a question to ponder before we meet next Sunday:
“Are you enjoying this same little me, my life, my love?”