Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 25, 2017

Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #4 Chapter 3

Finnegans Wake (Folio Edition)Chest Cee! ’Sdense! Corpo di barragio! you spoof of visibility in a freakfog, of mixed sex cases among goats, hill cat and plain mousey, Bigamy Bob and his old Shanvocht! The Blackfriars treacle plaster outrage be liddled! Therewith was released in that kingsrick of Humidia a poisoning volume of cloud barrage indeed. Yet all they who heard or redelivered are now with that family of bards and Vergobretas himself and the crowd of Caraculacticors as much no more as be they not yet now or had they then not-ever been. Canbe in some future we shall presently here amid those zouave players of Inkermann the mime mumming the mick and his nick miming their maggies, Hilton St Just (Mr. Frank Smith), Ivanne Ste Austelle (Mr. J. F. Jones), Coleman of Lucan taking four parts, a choir of the O’Daley O’Doyles doublesixing the chorus in Fenn Mac Call and the Serven Feeries of Loch Neach, Galloper Troppler and Hurleyquinn the zitherer of the past with his merrymen all, zimzim, zimzim. Of the persins sin this Eyrawyggla saga (which, thorough readable to int from and, is from tubb to buttom all falsetissues, antilibellous and nonactionable and this applies to its whole wholume) of poor Osti-Fosti described as quite a musical genius in a small way and the owner of an exceedingly niced ear, with tenorist voice to match, not alone, but a very major poet of the poorly meritary order (he began Tuonisonian but worked his passage up as far as the we-all-hang-together Animandovites) no one end is known.

Finnegans Wake by James Joyce (Penguin Modern Classics) (p. 48). Penguin UK. Kindle Edition.

Gasp! Who are all these people?  Have I forgotten them already from chapters 1 & 2?

It seems probably not, though Osti-Fosti was in chapter 2.  According to my trusty guides Tindall and Campbell, chapter 3 is notoriously hard and Campbell says that Joyce takes nine pages to drive this fact home – the characters of our piece are very hard to fix and distinguish from one another.  

Throughout the remainder of Finnegans Wake, the reader must watch sharply for incoherent shifts of scene and character; a deluge of gossip has confused the evidence, mixing this story with many another, splitting personalities and recompounding them, mixing centuries, countries, heroes, villains, and tenses, in a great broth.  (Campbell, p. 65)

So really, we come back again to why, why would we want to read this most difficult of difficult books? I don’t have a good answer – I’m just intrigued, and I want to see if I am smart enough to make any sense of it by myself.  I want to test my instincts too: if Joyce deliberately wrote a muddle of characters in a muddle of time frames, then they must not really matter as individuals, right?  They must be symbols of this and that, and maybe at surface level these names are just like a crowd of people in a pub: some you might know, some you might confuse for someone else, some breeze in and out – here today and gone the next.  And if you were asked to testify as to their presence or otherwise in some court case about the guilt or innocence of a person, you’d be hard-pressed to say who was actually there and when.  This jumble of characters are the gossips spreading the rumour about the ruination of Earwicker, and Joyce tells us right at the beginning of this chapter not to take any notice of them:

Of the persins sin this Eyrawyggla saga (which, thorough readable to int from and, is from tubb to buttom all falsetissues, antilibellous and nonactionable).

Joyce, James. Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics) (p. 48). Penguin UK. Kindle Edition.

But of course his readers, me included, take no notice.  Warned not to listen to these gossips, we do it anyway. And everything to do with the facts has changed, though that doesn’t stop everyone from lord and lady to drab and dustman having an opinion anyway. This is supposed to be HCE’s trial but it’s a shambles. (But in an era of fake news, who are we to complain about unfacts).

BTW#1 You will have noticed that while I am reading the Folio Edition, I am quoting my Penguin UK Kindle edition using copy-and-paste.  This is because it’s very hard work to type up excerpts from FW because auto correct keeps wanting to fix it).

Campbell offers a piece of IMO unnecessary advice about reading the passage introducing The Four Old Chroniclers and their donkey. One is from Ulster, one from Munster, one from Leinster and the last from Connaught, and they are counterparts of the Four Zoas of the later visions of William Blake.  These pages, says Campbell, demand strict attention and slow reading.  I can’t imagine anyone trying to read them any other way, though of course it’s more than possible that no amount of strict attention and slow reading is going to be enough.

I can’t remember now which of Tindall or Campbell it was that said he did not know any other languages besides English.  I think that must make reading FW even more difficult, since as well as using languages in common usage amongst educated people (i.e. Latin, French, German, Italian and Spanish) Joyce warns us again that he is messing about with all kinds of not-very-well-known languages:

Will whatever will be written in lappish language [i.e. Lappish, from Lapland] with inbursts of maggyer [i.e. Magyar, which is Hungarian]always seem semposed, black looking white and white guarding black, in that siamixed twoatalk used twist stern swift and jolly roger?

Joyce, James. Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics) (p. 66). Penguin UK. Kindle Edition.

BTW#2 I knew that Magyar is Hungarian from my stamp-collecting days.  How strange are the ways that we learn odd scraps of knowledge!

Unlike early readers of FW, today we can enlist Google Translate in the search for meaning, though you still need to allow for idiosyncratic spelling (often approximating an Irish accent) and for tweaking the words apart or together as the case may be.   Here’s an excerpt where the Spanish word Usted alerted me to the possibilities of using it:

Any dog’s life you list you may still hear them at it, like sixes and seventies as eversure as Halley’s comet, ulemamen, sobran-jewomen, storthingboys and dumagirls, as they pass its bleak and bronze portal of your Casaconcordia: Huru more Nee, minny frickans? Hwoorledes har Dee det? Losdoor onleft mladies, cue. Millecientotrigintadue scudi. Tippoty, kyrie, tippoty. Cha kai rotty kai makkar, sahib? Despenseme Usted, senhor, en son succo, sabez. O thaw bron orm, A’Cothraige, thinkinthou gaily? Lick-Pa-flai-hai-pa-Pa-li-si-lang-lang. Epi alo, ecou, Batiste, tuvavnr dans Lptit boing going. Ismeme de bumbac e meias de portocallie. O.O. Os pipos mios es demasiada gruarso por O piccolo pocchino. Wee fee? Ung duro. Kocshis, szabad? Mercy, and you? Gomagh, thak.

Joyce, James. Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics) (p. 54). Penguin UK. Kindle Edition.

GT helped me with ulemamen: drop the ‘men’ off the end and lo! ulema is a body of Muslim scholars recognized as having specialist knowledge of Islamic sacred law and theology.  Sobran is a conjugation of the Spanish sobrar meaning to remain so the Jew women are still there.  I wouldn’t have guessed storthingboys as being MPs from the Irish parliament at Stormont if I hadn’t recognised the Russian legislative body called the duma in dumagirls.   Once I had that sorted, it was easy to split Casaconcordia into Casa Concordia to get House of Peace, or House of Agreement or Harmony.  But the rest of it?  I only recognise scraps here and there, and am not willing to invest too much time in it because, alas, ultimately none of it makes sense:

  • Huru more Nee, minny frickans baffles me, until I get the disembodied voice of Google Translate to read it aloud, and bizarrely, it sounds a bit like a greeting, more Nee sounding like morning and minny sounds like ‘many’.
  • Hwoorledes har Dee det, according to GT is Norwegian, and it means ‘hence, Dee has it’.  Has what??
  • Mille-ciento- triginta-due scudi is Italian but I’m not sure where the syllables divide and so, huh? I can only get 1000 – 100 -??? – shields
  • The middle word in Tippoty, kyrie, tippoty is Latin: I remember the translation of kyrie is ‘Lord’ from A Portrait of the Artist and Stephen Daedalus in that book was mocking the offering in the communion service.
  • Cha kai rotty kai makkar, sahib? has to be Hindi.  Cha = tea (I think) , and Rotty = roti i.e. flatbread.  Sahib = master.  GT says makkar is ‘tricksy’.  Indeed, yes.
  • Despenseme Usted, senhor, en son succo, sabez must be Spanish because Usted is the formal word for ‘you’; senhor is obvious and sabez means ‘you know’. Google Translate offers ‘have lunch’ for despenseme, which might follow on with some sort of logic from the Hindi food and drink that preceded it, but I am tempted to translate it as ‘dispense with you’ as if this whole passage is a curse of some sort.
  • O thaw bron orm, A’Cothraige, thinkinthou gaily? is Gaelic, and is asking if we think-in it.
  • Epi alo, ecou, Batiste, tuvavnr dans Lptit is, GT tells me, Romanian, and so is Ismeme de bumbac e meias de portocallie, but it doesn’t tell me what it means.  Oh well…

But sometimes, it’s just easy: when the Coldstream Guards (three tommix = three Tommies, WW1 slang for English soldiers) were walking in Montgomery Street, pardonnez-leur, je vous en prie is straightforward French for forgive them, I beg you.  And what they say seems straightforward too, that one of the girls accusing Earwicker actually invited him to go into the field with her – and we might believe it if we hadn’t been warned not to because this whole chapter is from tubb to buttom all falsetissues, antilibellous and nonactionable.

Sometimes, I just love the word play:

  • ’tis pholly to be fortuneflouting
  • unprecise unfacts (how relevant, Mr President!)
  • stenk and kitteney phie in a hashoush

And I like the splendid long list (now feared in part lost) to be kept on file of all the abusive names Earwicker has been called.  It goes for almost a whole page in my Folio edition, which means it must go for two pages or more in an ordinary paperback!

BTW#3 I discovered two new sources today.

  • First up is a blog called Original Positions, which blogged progress chapter by chapter back in 2013.  I was interested to read this one after I’d finished my struggle through the chapter, and found it more comprehensible than either Tindall or Campbell, but it is less detailed.
  • The other is at Project Gutenberg and it has summaries and analysis.  I didn’t read this one, I’m just noting it here in case I want it one day.

So on to Chapter 4!




  1. Well congratulations for plugging away! I read it more like a dream – I didn’t question it, just let it flow like a meditation or a stream of subconsciousness, if you will. I did annotations on Gertrude Stein’s books – “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.” it was really quite a lot of fun so enjoy it!

    • I’ve never read that one, though I’ve been hearing about it for years. *chuckle* I’ll come and pester you for help when I finally get to it:)

    • No particular help needed for “The Autobiography of Alice B.” There’s just an awful lot of name-dropping.

      • I find that harder, especially as time goes by and the names drop out of everyday usage.

  2. I learnt about Magyar the same way. Apparently it is completely unconnected with any other European language. I wonder what languages Joyce knew, and which he just appropriated phrases from.

    • He would have known Latin and French from school, and he was living in France so his French would have been pretty good. I’ve never read a bio of Joyce, I don’t actually know much about his life.
      Hungarian is the language that Gerald Murnane taught himself (even though he’s famous for not travelling anywhere, not even within Australia). He needed it for one of his books but he doesn’t quote it, as far as I remember/

  3. I can see you reading this with steam coming out of the ears as you wrestle with Joyce’s textual games…. I wonder if reading it while you have a few glasses of wine to hand makes any difference?

    • Ah, I do like a nice glass of wine, but not anywhere near this beautiful edition of FW!

  4. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #4 Chapter 3 […]

  5. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #4 Chapter 3 […]

  6. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #4 Chapter 3 […]

  7. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #4 Chapter 3 […]

  8. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #4 Chapter 3 […]

  9. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #4 Chapter 3 […]

  10. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #4 Chapter 3 […]

  11. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #4 Chapter 3 […]

  12. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #4 Chapter 3 […]

  13. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #4 Chapter 3 […]

  14. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #4 Chapter 3 […]

  15. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #4 Chapter 3 […]

  16. […] of a style, I think, in the way of James Joyce, but Joyce knew when to stop. In Chapter 3 of Finnegans Wake can get away with a two page list of insults; he doesn’t test the reader’s endurance […]

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