Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 14, 2017

Finnegans Wake, (1939), (2014 Folio Edition) by James Joyce #7 Chapter 6

Well, there’s been a bit of a break since my last post about Finnegans Wake – but I’ve been busy – re-reading what I’ve read so far, making links with what has gone before …

And now we’re up to Chapter 6.  And straight away I am reminded of those bizarre ABC quiz programs where only the nerdiest of nerds could possibly know the answer.   There are twelve riddles set by Jockit Mic Ereweak and Shaun (son of Earwicker and Anna Livia Plurabelle) misunderstands three and gets four right:

Shaun Mac Irewick, briefdragger, for the concern of Messrs. Jhon Jhamieson and Song, rated one hundrick and thin per storehundred on this nightly quisquiquock of the twelve apostrophes, set by Jockit Mic Ereweak. He misunderstruck and aim for am olio of number three of them and left his free natural ripostes to four of them in their own fine artful disorder.    (Finnegans Wake, Penguin Modern Classics Kindle Edition p. 126)

As far as I can tell this chapter doesn’t advance the trial of Earwicker but just tells us more about some of the characters.  In considerable and comic detail…

Joyce plays with the ancient form of the riddle by going into overdrive.

You know what you are looking at here?

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These ten pages (twelve in the Penguin edition) are the first riddle.   Here’s a little bit of it:

I. What secondtonone myther rector and maximost bridges-maker was the first to rise taller through his beanstale than the bluegum buaboababbaun or the giganteous Wellingtonia Sequoia; went nudiboots with trouters into a liffeyette when she was barely in her tricklies; was well known to claud a conciliation cap onto the esker of his hooth; sports a chainganger’s albert solemenly over his hullender’s epulence; thought he weighed a new ton when there felled his first lapapple; gave the heinousness of choice to everyknight betwixt yesterdicks and twomaries; had sevenal successivecoloured serebanmaids on the same big white drawringroam horthrug; is a Willbeforce to this hour at house as he was in heather; pumped the catholick wartrey and shocked the prodestung boyne; killed his own hungery self in anger as a young man; found fodder for five when allmarken rose goflooded;   (Penguin Modern Classics Kindle Edition p. 126).

It’s a great long catalogue of comings and goings, deeds both minor and major, and the answer, when it finally comes is Finn MacCool. But it’s also HCE because (it seems to me) the default character is HCE.  If you can’t work out who someone is, it’s probably HCE hounded become hunter; hunter become fox; harrier. marrier, terrier, tav.  But why should we feel he is Vespasian yet … think of him as Aurelius?  Aurelius (as in Marcus Aurelius Emperor of Rome from 161 to 180) is my favourite Emperor, and I like to read his Meditations at bedtime, as some people might read The Bible.  Vespasian was a military man, not a thinker.  Neither Campbell nor Tindall enlighten me on this point…

There are parts that one simply must read aloud:

… die king was in his cornerwall melking mark so murry, the queen was steep in armbour feeling fain and furry, the mayds was midst the hawthorns shoeing up their hose, out pimps the back guards (pomp!) and pump gun they goes;  (Penguin Modern Classics Kindle) (p. 134-5).

see attribution below

The king was in his counting house,
Counting out his money;
The queen was in the parlour,
Eating bread and honey.
The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird
And pecked off her nose.

Other bits are just plain incomprehensible: the cryptoconchoidsiphonostomata in his exprussians.  Oh well…

I think that one of the riddles that Shaun solved was No 4 because I guessed it too:

4. What Irish capitol city (a dea o dea!) of two syllables and six letters, with a deltic origin and a nuinous end, (ah dust oh dust!) can boost of having a) the most extensive public park in the world, b) the most expensive brewing industry in the world, c) the most expansive peopling thoroughfare in the world, d) the most phillohippuc theobibbous paùpulation in the world: and harmonise your abecedeed responses?   (Penguin Modern Classics Kindle Edition p. 140).

Well, the answer is Dublin, but Joyce plays games with this too, with four old men naming (in obscurantist ways)  the four cities (Belfast,  Cork, Dublin and Galway) of their four provinces Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connaught.  (This is where it helps to have familiarity with the Irish accent: only saying it aloud transforms Dorhqk into Cork, eh?)

Riddle No 10 is mainly a very long answer, given by Isabel, sister to Shaun and daughter of Earwicker and Anna Livia Plurabelle.  Isabel seems to be having a light-hearted incestuous relationship with her brother.  She also seems to be an airhead.

Riddle 11 is in verse, and it’s answered in a long-winded roundabout way by a pedantic schoolmaster, who digresses every now and again to tick off his students.

As my explanations here are probably above your understandings, lattlebrattons, though as augmentatively uncomparisoned as Cadwan, Cadwallon and Cadwalloner, I shall revert to a more expletive method which I frequently use when I have to sermo with muddlecrass pupils. Imagine for my purpose that you are a squad of urchins, snifflynosed, goslingnecked, clothyheaded, tangled in your lacings, tingled in your pants, etsitaraw etcicero. And you, Bruno Nowlan, take your tongue out of your inkpot! As none of you knows Javanese I will give all my easyfree translation of the old fabulist’s parable. Allaboy Minor, take your head out of your satchel! Audi, Joe Peters! Exaudi facts! (Penguin Modern Classics Kindle Edition) (p. 152).

The schoolmaster’s lecture, says Campbell, is in three phases:

  1. discussion in abstract terms of the general principles involved
  2. a fable, The Mookse and the Gripes, translated from the Javanese and quoted by the professor to illustrate the main drift of his argument
  3. a more complex classroom illustration, the story of Burrus, Caseous, and the cowrymaid Margareen, to clarify the more abstruse of the professor’s implications and to carry the argument forward to its main point. (Campbell, p109)

The introduction to my Folio edition says that Joyce claimed not to have read Lewis Carroll, but I thought of Alice and the Mock Turtle and the Griffin straight away when I came to the crazy logic of the Mookse and the Gripes. The illustration shows Pope Adrian IV  (the Mookse, and also Shaun) sitting on a stone, while the overripe gripes (grapes, and also Shaun’s brother Shem) are winding around a tree by the side of a stream (the River Liffey) while Nuvoletta is looking down on them from a balcony (and being ignored).  This sequence is about the old conflict between the authority of the Catholic church and those who reject it.  The argument descends into a volley of insults, as sibling arguments do, and the scene ends, apparently, with them metamorphosing into an apron and a hankie, but I couldn’t identify the part where that happens!

So on to Chapter 7!


Sing a Song of Sixpence image: Downloaded from Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by EuTuga., Public Domain,



  1. Ye are beyond me. But can give you a twist that James might have enJoyced:
    New Title
    WinAgain’s Fake


  2. Did your latest reading of the earlier chapters flow better, with your better understanding – as revealed to us in these posts – of all that background information?


    • Yes, it helps with the multiplicity of characters, who are all (I think, everything is hedged by an ‘I think’) manifestations of the same core group of people.


  3. Most of this baffles me. The only thing I recognised was the version of Sing a Song of Sixpence. I did solve the Dublin clue but that wasn’t difficult. Did I understand you correctly that you not only have read chapters 1-5 but also re-read them? Astonishing….


    • *chuckle* I think you need to be a bit daft to undertake it… I am starting to worry that if I understand it, it must mean I am barmy…


      • Well the test would be if you suddenly started talking to your family using some of his expressions…


  4. I’m impressed you’re still going. Looking on GR I see that I got 23% of the way through; I think you must be beyond that. I didn’t understand any of it. Some of the words and phrases were amusing though.


    • Ah well, I have along way to go yet… I reckon just starting it deserves a medal and somebody had better nominate me for an AO if I actually get to the end…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. […] a play for their parents.  There is a guessing game like the one that Shem inflicted on Shaun in Chapter VI. But this time it’s Shaun who has to answer the impossible questions, and he fails three times […]


  6. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #7 Chapter 6 […]


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  8. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #7 Chapter 6 […]


  9. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #7 Chapter 6 […]


  10. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #7 Chapter 6 […]


  11. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #7 Chapter 6 […]


  12. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #7 Chapter 6 […]


  13. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #7 Chapter 6 […]


  14. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #7 Chapter 6 […]


  15. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #7 Chapter 6 […]


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