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Mulligan has been waiting for a chance to perform his masterpiece, the “Ballad of Joking Jesus.” More is coming in the next few pages.

The ballad is one of many things in Ulysses not written by James Joyce. It was written by the real-life inspiration for Buck Mulligan, Oliver St. John Gogarty. The ballad even has its own Wikipedia page. It’s brilliant. A friendly Welshman (Gareth, you out there?) once told me that the song was meant to be sung to the tune of “Sweet Betsy from Pike.”

I’ve cherished this as a bit of inherited Joycean lore, but it does seem to have some basis in tradition. Note this retro website from John Patrick, a scholar of bawdy songs. Mr. Patrick (surely he is Dr. Patrick by now?) has an mp3 snippet of a 1962 recording of the song here. The snippet comes from the Library of Congress, and a recording in the Archive of Folk Culture of an interview with a man named Donald Laycock who was from New South Wales.

Would cherish further information, or even video of a boozy rendition of the song…

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Haines has been trying to get Stephen’s Hamlet theory out of him, but Stephen isn’t interested in telling it, and Mulligan is running interference, trying to get at least a pint out of the deal.

Haines’ wants to prove his intellectual mettle with Stephen. He’s eager to show that he knows something about Hamlet, that he can even quote a line or two. [Elsinore is the castle where the action happens in Shakespeare’s play].

Back in December, when these pages were first posted, we got an email from a reader reminding us that we had left out a line of internal dialog here at this point. Just after Haines says “that beetles o’er his base into the sea,” the next line is “Buck Mulligan turned suddenly for an instant towards Stephen but did not speak.”  We don’t really use this, but the reader felt it was a critical moment, because it showed (he felt) Mulligan having a flash of anxiety about Stephen killing himself.  I was skeptical — I thought it more likely that Mulligan was having a flash of anxiety about Stephen further ridiculing the meal ticket Haines. But upon looking at the context of the “beetles o’er his base” quotation, I can see the possibility of the reading.

See this Hamlet vid. [The relevant line comes up around 2:50]

In any event, when Stephen sees himself in “dusty mourning” next to their “gay attires,” he’s clearly thinking of himself as Hamlet. Whether his two companions are Horatio and Marcellus or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern… that’s another question.

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To anyone out there who’s reading this book for the first time, I’d suggest you not spend too much time trying to parse Mulligan’s summary of  Stephen’s theory of Shakespeare.  I will tell you, however, it is far more concise than Stephen’s own version, which you will read in Episode 9.

When Mulligan says to Stephen “O Shade of Kinch the Elder,” the reference ties back to him saying that Stephen is the ghost of his own father a moment before, but also ties to Hamlet, and the appearance of the ghost of Hamlet’s father in the first act.

We don’t know anything yet about Stephen’s father, though we will be meeting him shortly.  We do know, however, that the title of this episode is “Telemachus,” and Stephen is Joyce’s Telemachus, another famous son of an absent father.  The Odyssey structure prompts us to ask in what way Stephen is looking for a father, and here the discussion comes straight to the point.

from Aida Yared's

The phrase “Japhet in Search of a Father” requires a little more excavation.  It’s the title of a novel from 1836 by the once-enormously-popular Capt. Frederick Marryat.  And if you’d like to take a few weeks out of your life to read it, thanks to Google Books, now you can.

And of course, there’s more.  Japhet is also Japheth, the third son of Noah (after Shem and Ham. Or possibly before. Unclear whether he was oldest or youngest.).  According to Biblical legend, Japheth is the ur-ancestor of Europeans.

On the most basic level, though, Mulligan is using Hamlet and the once-familiar title of a once-familiar book to give Stephen a little of the old “Who’s Your Daddy.”

This isn’t the easiest moment in the chapter for all of the references flying, but you can best get at what’ s happening here by just spending a minute thinking generally about what it means to be a father vs. a mother (obvious biology aside), and what it means to be a ghost. These are big questions in Ulysses, especially the uncertainty of paternity (in a pre-DNA age) vs. the certainty of maternity…

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The tryptich of the three men is quite wonderful here. Despite the clarity of the arrangement, however, the politics of this moment are quite complex.

Haines, the Englishman, asks about the tower, “Martello, you call it?,” apparently unaware of who built the towers or why, or how they represent a particularly painful moment in British/Irish relations.  Mulligan explains that the famous British Prime Minister William Pitt had them built “when the French were on the sea,” that is, at a moment when many Irish people hoped that Napoleon would invade Ireland and free them from British rule. So the towers were build not purely for the defense of Ireland, but rather to defend against an invasion that a significant number of natives would have welcomed.

Mulligan is quoting to an Irish song called the “Shan van Vocht,” a/k/a the Poor Old Woman, in which the nation of Ireland, in her frequent guise as an old woman, sings about how the French will soon come to save them from the devils who rule Great Britain, of the House of Orange (“and the Orange will decay,” etc.), and who, after the Battle of the Boyne, will rule Ireland without rival for a long time. Of course the old woman is wrong, and the French never came. But it’s an Irish song, so this all has a nostalgic glow to it anyway.

Here is a latter-day Mulligan, Haines, and Dedalus doing a bit of a dance that is reminiscent of Joyce’s famous “spider dance” to the same tune:

Mulligan quickly redirects Haines away from this line of thought by saying that the tower now serves as the “omphalos,” or center, of modern Irish thought.  In talking about the last page, we mentioned how Mulligan’s real-life counterpart Oliver Gogarty hoped that the tower would become a new capital of Irish bohemian intellectualism, and that Joyce would play a significant part in this.

Haines is quite interested in Irish culture, but not contemporary Irish intellectuals. As we will soon hear more about, when Haines looks at the tower he thinks, naturally, of the greatest English poet, Shakespeare.

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Having left the tower, Mulligan, Haines, and Stephen walk towards the sea.

Mulligan is beating the grass with his towel, seeming playful, but when Haines asks about the rent, he quickly inserts himself into the conversation. In an early version of this drawing, we had attributed the statement about the rent to Stephen–it seems like a logical thing for him to say, since he makes that following comment about paying the rent to the Secretary of State for War. But Joyce clearly puts those words in Mulligan’s mouth. What this does is to remind us of Mulligan’s interest in money, particularly in making some money off of their gentleman houseguest. He needs to make sure that Haines knows what the rent is–perhaps in order to set up an “ask” later on–and doesn’t want Stephen to step in the opportunity again.

Richard Ellmann’s biography of Joyce has a surprising amount to say about Joyce’s life in the actual Martello tower. It also has a great image of the original lease from the government, which was signed by Oliver St. John Gogarty, and was for 8 pounds, not 12. Ellmann describes Gogarty as wanting the tower to seem a a “haven of unrespectability in ‘priestridden godforsaken’ Ireland” a “temple of neo-paganism” where “Nietzsche was the principal prophet, Swinburne the poet laureate” (172).

Skipping back to Ulysses for a moment–Mulligan also has these dreams of the tower being an “omphalos,” a kind of center of bohemian and free thought.  But his credibility depends on Stephen, who’s the real artist.  But Stephen doesn’t look like he’s going to want to play this part.

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Mulligan’s friendly condescension in the first part of this chapter has now turned into something a little darker. “You have eaten all we left, I suppose,” a comment directed at Stephen, is basically insulting. Stephen is the last to leave the tower, and he has the key. He’s being treated like the help, like unreliable help, the “server of a servant” again.

For the sake of clarity we left a line out here — after the “You have eaten” line, Mulligan says “And going forth he met Butterly.” It’s yet another instance of Mulligan using scripture for a (rather elliptical) joke. It’s based on a passage in the passion of the Gospel of Matthew where the apostle Peter realizes that he has betrayed Jesus three times over the course of one night, as Jesus had predicted he would. The original passage is: “And going forth he wept bitterly.” Mulligan’s quote puts him, curiously, in the place of Peter, whereas before he was Jesus. There is no other mention of a Butterly in the book, by the way.

Finally, keep an eye on the key. It’s a symbol of ownership, property, and power.

Oh and one more thing — Rob, is it time to say something about the “Latin Quarter Hat”?

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Mulligan’s regret over his obsequious behavior to Haines is quickly forgotten.  A minute ago, he said he would join Stephen in surly revolt against their guest’s acquisitive interest in all things Irish, but now he dons a “rebellious” collar, tie, and watch chain, and goes out to join his guest. [The backwards text is meant to suggest Mulligan muttering as he rummages through his clothes.]

Mulligan’s line “do I contradict myself?” is a quotation from Walt Whitman’sSong of Myself.”  Whitman was a highly controversial figure in the English-speaking world at the turn of the century.   None other than Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, spoke out as an undergraduate at Trinity College, Dublin, on the virtue of Whitman’s work.  Whitman was a very important figure to Stoker, though whether or not Whitman is a presence in Stoker’s most famous work is a matter for conjecture.

Oscar Wilde knew Stoker as well… Stoker occasionally attended salons at Sir William Wilde’s house, where he met his future wife, Florence Balcombe. Ms. Balcombe was Oscar Wilde’s first love.. he never quite got over her. But I mention Oscar only because Mulligan’s reference to “puce gloves and green boots” evokes Wilde’s aesthetic tastes.

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By pushing Haines about how much he might be paid for his clever sayings, Stephen has apparently screwed up the deal.  Mulligan is annoyed, and asks Stephen why he can’t just play along for the sake of making a little money.

Stephen explains that they have to get money from somewhere, and given the options of getting money from the milkwoman or from Haines, the Englishman seems to be the more likely source.

Mulligan’s response–“From me, Kinch” — is one of those moments in the book that I had not really given much thought to until seeing Rob’s interpretation.  And now, it seems to be the turning point in Mulligan’s and Stephen’s relationship.   What I now think Mulligan means is that he’s figured out that in Stephen’s mind, he is the real source of any money, and that Stephen has basically torpedoed a perfectly good grift of Haines out of petulance and the underlying belief that Mulligan’s own money will come through.  While he doesn’t come out and say it, this does seem to be the moment where Mulligan is officially done with Stephen, and vice versa.

There’s a lot that could be said here about Joyce’s own relationship to money and the means of literary production.  Joyce struggled for much of his life to realize any income from his writings, partly because he was always unwilling to compromise his artistic integrity for the sake of getting things printed, partly because he never had great business sense.  Over time, however, he became the beneficiary of very generous patrons and friends, and by the end of his life had managed to earn a small fortune through his benefactors and publishers. He also managed to spend pretty much everything he earned…

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Having just come to the realization that he is never going to be able to cash in on Stephen’s talent, as well as, arguably, that Stephen has caught on to him, Mulligan backs away from his scolding and attempts a half-hearted rapprochement.

Something has snapped between them, however, as the handing-back of the snotrag suggests. Mulligan’s complete insincerity about what he is saying to Stephen is also underlined by his immediate contradiction of it. He agrees that Haines isn’t worth trying to squeeze money or support out of, but still continues courting him.

Mulligan’s line about being stripped of his garments refers to the Stations of the Cross, or the “Way of the Cross,” a devotional practice used by Christians, particularly Catholics. This gives you another example of Mulligan’s wiseassery, but also one that points to his sense that he is the innocent victim of Stephen’s role as Artist.

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Haines suggests that he might publish a collection of Stephen’s sayings, but Stephen impertinently suggests he’ll participate if he stands to make any money by it.  He thinks to himself how Mulligan’s and Haines’ habit of bathing is an attempt to cleanse themselves of more than just dirt.

In the first panel of this page, there’s a kind of exchange between Haines’ dialogue and Stephen’s internal monologue.  Of course, what Stephen is thinking to himself (in the dark boxes) is harder to understand than what Haines is saying out loud.  “They wash and tub and scrub” refers back to Mulligan’s teasing about Stephen’s infrequent bathing (check the last page), which Stephen also associates with Lady Macbeth’s scrubbing.

“Agenbite of Inwit” is a little more obscure.  It’s a Middle English phrase that means (again according to Professor Gifford) “remorse of conscience.”    When you think about it, it makes wonderful sense.  Your inner wits bite  you.  again.

The kick under the table is Mulligan kicking Stephen, so as to get him to perform his Shakespeare theory and close the deal on Haines’ support. Or at least to get Haines to buy a few round of drinks.  But Stephen does not want to play–apparently he’s in no mood, and since he’s getting paid today he doesn’t need Haines’ help. So he does a decidedly un-English thing and puts his desire to be paid for his work out in plain view.

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