I’ve been reading Joyce’s Ulysses in odd moments for the last 2 weeks. Its 265,000 words cover a single day in and around Dublin. It never loses a keen reader’s interest but the action moves slowly. In fact so far as I’ve reached, the action is mostly implied rather than described. It starts at six in the morning with a medical student Buck Mulligan shaving at the top of a Martello tower in Dalkey. Other renters of this property include Stephen Dedalus and an Englishman called Haines. Stephen has a swim in a pond, part of the tidal Irish Sea. Karleen & I have been up the tower, it’s a museum now.
a candid shot
swimmers as in Ulysses
The novel starts like this:
“Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressing-gown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned: —
Introibo ad altare Dei. Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called up coarsely: —Come up, Kinch. Come up, you fearful Jesuit. Solemnly he came forward and mounted the round gunrest. He faced about and blessed gravely thrice the tower, the surrounding country and the awaking mountains. Then, catching sight of Stephen Dedalus, he bent towards him and made rapid crosses in the air, gurgling in his throat and shaking his head. Stephen Dedalus, displeased and sleepy, leaned his arms on the top of the staircase and looked coldly at the shaking gurgling face that blessed him, equine in its length, and at the light untonsured hair, grained and hued like pale oak. Buck Mulligan peeped an instant under the mirror and then covered the bowl smartly. —Back to barracks, he said sternly. He added in a preacher’s tone: —For this, 0 dearly beloved, is the genuine Christine: body and soul and little trouble about those white corpuscles. Silence, all. He peered sideways up and gave a long low whistle of call, then paused awhile in rapt attention, his even white teeth glistening here and there with gold points. Chrysostomos. Two strong shrill whistles answered through the calm. —Thanks, old chap, he cried briskly. That will do nicely. Switch off the current, will you? He skipped off the gunrest and looked gravely at his watcher, gathering about his legs the loose folds of his gown. The plump shadowed face and sullen oval jowl recalled a prelate, patron of arts in the middle ages. A pleasant smile broke quietly over his lips. —The mockery of it, he said gaily. Your absurd name, an ancient Greek. He pointed his finger in friendly jest and went over to the parapet, laughing to himself. Stephen Dedalus stepped up, followed him wearily halfway and sat down on the edge of the gunrest, watching him still as he propped his mirror on the parapet, dipped the brush in die bowl and lathered cheeks and neck. Buck Mulligan’s gay voice went on.
—My name is absurd too: Malachi Mulligan, two dactyls. But it has a Hellenic ring, hasn’t it? Tripping and sunny like the buck himself. We must go to Athens. Will you come if I can get the aunt to fork out twenty quid? He laid the brush aside and, laughing with delight, cried: —Will he come? The jejune Jesuit. Ceasing, he began to shave with care. —Tell me, Mulligan, Stephen said quietly. —Yes, my love? —How long is Haines going to stay in this tower? Buck Mulligan showed a shaven cheek over his right shoulder. —God, isn’t he dreadful? he said frankly. A ponderous Saxon. He thinks you’re not a gentleman. God, these bloody English. Bursting with money and indigestion. Because he comes from Oxford. You know, Dedalus, you have the real Oxford manner. He can’t make you out. 0, my name for you is the best: Kinch, the knife-blade. He shaved warily over his chin. —He was raving all night about a black panther, Stephen said. Where is his guncase? —A woful lunatic, Mulligan said. Were you in a funk? —I was, Stephen said with energy and growing fear. Out here in the dark with a man I don’t know raving and moaning to himself about shooting a
black panther. You saved men from drowning. I’m not a hero, however. If he stays on here I am off. Buck Mulligan frowned at the lather on his razorblade. He hopped down from his perch and began to search his trouser pockets hastily. —Scutter, he cried thickly. He came over to the gunrest and, thrusting a hand into Stephen’s upper pocket, said: —Lend us a loan of your noserag to wipe my razor. Stephen suffered him to pull out and hold up on show by its corner a dirty crumpled handkerchief. Buck Mulligan wiped the razorblade neatly. Then, gazing over the handkerchief, he said: —The bard’s noserag. A new art colour for our Irish poets: snotgreen. You can almost taste it, can’t you? He mounted to the parapet again and gazed out over Dublin bay, his fair oakpale hair stirring slightly. —God, he said quietly. Isn’t the sea what Algy calls it: a grey sweet mother? The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea. Epi oinopa ponton. Ah, Dedalus, the Greeks. I must teach you. You must read them in the original. Thalatta! Thalatta! She is our great sweet mother. Come and look.
Stephen stood up and went over to the parapet. Leaning on it he looked down on the water and on the mailboat clearing the harbour mouth of Kingstown. —Our mighty mother. Buck Mulligan said. He turned abruptly his great searching eyes from the sea to Stephen’s face. —The aunt thinks you killed your mother, he said. That’s why she won’t let me have anything to do with you. —Someone killed her, Stephen said gloomily. You could have knelt down, damn it, Kinch, when your dying mother asked you, Buck Mulligan said. I’m hyperborean as much as you. But to think of your mother begging you with her last breath to kneel down and pray for her. And you refused. There is something sinister in you … He broke off and lathered again lightly his farther cheek. A tolerant smile curled his lips. —But a lovely mummer, he murmured to himself. Kinch, the loveliest mummer of them all. He shaved evenly and with care, in silence, seriously. Stephen, an elbow rested on the jagged granite, leaned his palm against his brow and gazed at the fraying edge of his shiny black coat-sleeve. Pain, that was not yet the pain of love, fretted his heart. Silently, in a dream she had come to him after her death, her wasted body within its loose brown graveclothes giving off an odour of wax and rosewood, her breath, that had bent upon him, mute, reproachful, a faint odour of wetted ashes. Across the threadbare cuffedge he saw the sea hailed as a great sweet mother by the wellfed voice beside him. The ring of bay and skyline held a dull green mass of liquid. A bowl of white china had stood beside her deathbed holding the green sluggish bile which she had torn up from her rotting liver by fits of loud groaning vomiting. Buck Mulligan wiped again his razorblade. —Ah, poor dogsbody, he said in a kind voice. I must give you a shirt and a few noserags. How are the secondhand breeks? —They fit well enough, Stephen answered. Buck Mulligan attacked the hollow beneath his underlip. —The mockery of it, he said contentedly, secondleg they should be. God knows what poxy bowsy left them off. I have a lovely pair with a hair stripe, grey. You’ll look spiffing in them. I’m not joking, Kinch. You look damn well when you’re dressed. —Thanks, Stephen said. I can’t wear them if they are grey. —He can’t wear them, Buck Mulligan told his face in the mirror. Etiquette is etiquette. He kills his mother but he can’t wear grey trousers. He folded his razor neatly and with stroking palps of fingers felt the smooth skin.
Stephen turned his gaze from the sea and to the plump face with its smokeblue mobile eyes. —That fellow I was with in the Ship last night, said Buck Mulligan, says you have g.p.i. He’s up in Dottyville with Conolly Norman. General paralysis of the insane. He swept the mirror a half circle in the air to flash the tidings abroad in sunlight now radiant on the sea. His curling shaven lips laughed and the edges of his white glittering teeth. Laughter seized all his strong wellknit trunk. —Look at yourself, he said, you dreadful bard. Stephen bent forward and peered at the mirror held out to him, cleft by a crooked crack, hair on end. As he and others see me. Who chose this face for me? This dogsbody to rid of vermin. It asks me too. —I pinched it out of the skivvy’s room, Buck Mulligan said. It does her all right. The aunt always keeps plain-looking servants for Malachi. Lead him not into temptation. And her name is Ursula. Laughing again, he brought the mirror away from Stephen’s peering eyes. —The rage of Caliban at not seeing his face in a mirror, he said. If Wilde were only alive to see you. Drawing back and pointing, Stephen said with bitterness: —It is a symbol of Irish art. The cracked looking-glass of a servant. Buck Mulligan suddenly linked his arm in Stephen’s and walked with him round the tower, his razor and mirror clacking in the pocket where he had thrust them. —It’s not fair to tease you like that, Kinch, is it? he said kindly. God knows you have more spirit than any of them. Parried again. He fears the lancet of my art as I fear that of his. The cold steelpen. —Cracked lookingglass of a servant. Tell that to the oxy chap downstairs and touch him for a guinea. He’s stinking with money and thinks you’re not a gentleman. His old fellow made his tin by selling jalap to Zulus or some bloody swindle or other. God, Kinch, if you and I could only work together we might do something for the island. Hellenise it. Cranly’s arm. His arm. —And to think of your having to beg from these swine. I’m the only one that knows what you are. Why don’t you trust me more? What have you up your nose against me? Is it Haines? If he makes any noise here I’ll bring down Seymour and we’ll give him a ragging worse than they gave dive Kempthorpe. Young shouts of moneyed voices in Clive Kempthorpe’s rooms. Palefaces: they hold their ribs with laughter, one clasping another, 0, I shall expire! Break the news to her gently, Aubrey! I shall die! With slit ribbons of his shirt
He flung up his hands and tramped down the stone stairs, singing out of tune with a Cockney accent:
0, won’t we have a merry time Drinking whisky, beer and wine, On coronation, Coronation day? 0, won’t we have a merry time On coronation day? Warm sunshine merrying over the sea. The nickel shaving-bowl shone, forgotten, on the parapet. Why should I bring it down? Or leave it there all day, forgotten friendship? He went over to it, held it in his hands awhile, feeling its coolness, smelling the clammy slaver of the lather in which the brush was stuck. So I carried the boat of incense then at Clongowes. I am another now and yet the same. A servant too. A server of a servant. In the gloomy domed livingroom of the tower Buck Mulligan’s gowned form moved briskly about the hearth to and fro, hiding and revealing its yellow glow. Two shafts of soft daylight fell across the nagged floor from the high barbicans: and at the meeting of their rays a cloud of coalsmoke and fumes of fried grease floated, turning. —We’ll be choked, Buck Mulligan said. Haines, open that door, will you?
Stephen laid the shavingbowl on the locker. A tall figure rose from the hammock where it had been sitting, went to the doorway and pulled open the inner doors. —Have you the key? a voice asked. —Dedalus has it, Buck Mulligan said. Janey Mack, I’m choked. He howled without looking up from the fire: —Kinch! —It’s in the lock, Stephen said, coming forward. The key scraped round harshly twice and, when the heavy door had been set ajar, welcome light and bright air entered. Haines stood at the doorway, looking out. Stephen haled his upended valise to the table and sat down to wait. Buck Mulligan tossed the fry on to the dish beside him. Then he carries the dish and a large teapot over to the table, set them down heavily and signed with relief —I’m melting, he said, as the candle remarked when … But hush. Not a word more on that subject. Kinch, wake up. Bread, butter, honey. Haines, come in. The grub is ready. Bless us, 0 Lord, and these thy gifts. Where’s the sugar? 0, jay, there’s no milk. Stephen fetched the loaf and the pot of honey and the buttercooler from the locker. Buck Mulligan sat down in a sudden pet. —What sort of a kip is this? he said. I told her to come after eight.
—Italian? Haines said again. What do you mean? —The imperial British state, Stephen answered, his colour rising, and the holy Roman catholic and apostolic church. Haines detached from his underlip some fibres of tobacco before he spoke. —I can quite understand that, he said calmly. An Irishman must think like that, I daresay. We feel in England that we have treated you rather unfairly. It seems history is to blame. The proud potent titles clanged over Stephen’s memory the triumph of their brazen bells: et unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam: the slow growth and change of rite and dogma like his own rare thoughts, a chemistry of stars. Symbol of the apostles in the mass for pope Marcellus, the voices blended, singing alone loud in affirmation: and behind their chant the vigilant angel of the church militant disarmed and menaced her heresiarchs. A horde of heresies fleeing with mitres awry: Photius and the brood of mockers of whom Mulligan was one, and Arius, warring his life long upon the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father, and Valentine, spurning Christ’s terrene body, and the subtle African heresiarch Sabellius who held that the Father was Himself His own Son. Words Mulligan had spoken a moment since in mockery to the stranger. Idle mockery. The void awaits surely all them that weave the wind: a menace, a disarming and a worsting from those embattled angels of the church, Michael’s host, who defend her
ever in the hour of conflict with their lances and their shields. Hear, hear. Prolonged applause. Zut !Nom de Dieu ! —Of course I’m a Britisher, Haines’ voice said, and I feel as one. I don’t want to see my country fall into the hands of German Jews either. That’s our national problem, I’m afraid, just now. Two men stood at the verge of the cliff, watching: businessman, boatman. —She’s making for Bullock harbour. The boatman nodded towards the north of the bay with some disdain. —There’s five fathoms out there, he said. It’ll be swept up that way when the tide comes in about one. It’s nine days today. The man that was drowned. A sail veering about the blank bay waiting for a swollen bundle to bob up, roll over to the sun a puffy face, salt white. Here I am. They followed the winding path down to the creek. Buck Mulligan stood on a stone, in shirtsleeves, his unclipped tie rippling over his shoulder. A young man clinging to a spur of rock near him moved slowly frog-wise his green legs in the deep jelly of the water. —Is the brother with you, Malachi? —Down in Westmeath. With the Bannons. —Still there? I got a card from Bannon. Says he found a sweet young thing down there. Photo girl he calls her. —Snapshot, eh? Brief exposure. Buck Mulligan sat down to unlace his boots. An elderly man shot up near the spur of rock a blowing red face. He scrambled up by the stones, water glistening on his pate and on its garland of grey hair, water rilling over his chest and paunch and spilling jets out of his black sagging loincloth. Buck Mulligan made way for him to scramble past and, glancing at Haines and Stephen, crossed himself piously with his thumbnail at brow and lips and breastbone. —Seymour’s back in town, the young man said, grasping again his spur of rock. Chucked medicine and going in for the army. —Ah, go to God, Buck Mulligan said. —Going over next week to stew. You know that red Carlisle girl, Lily? —Yes. —Spooning with him last night on the pier. The father is rotto with money. —Is she up the pole? —Better ask Seymour that. —Seymour a bleeding officer, Buck Mulligan said. He nodded to himself as he drew off his trousers and stood up, saying tritely: —Redheaded women buck like goats. He broke off in alarm, feeling his side under his flapping shirt. —My twelfth rib is gone, he cried. I’m the Uebermensch. Toothless Kinch and I, the supermen. He struggled out of his shirt and flung it behind him to where his clothes lay. —Are you going in here, Malachi? —Yes. Make room in the bed. The young man shoved himself backward through the water and reached the middle of the creek in two long clean strokes. Haines sat down on a stone, smoking. —Are you not coming in? Buck Mulligan asked. —Later on, Haines said. Not on my breakfast. Stephen turned away. —I’m going, Mulligan, he said. —Give us that key, Kinch, Buck Mulligan said, to keep my chemise flat. Stephen handed him the key. Buck Mulligan laid it across his heaped clothes. —And twopence, he said, for a pint. Throw it there. Stephen threw two pennies on the soft heap. Dressing, undressing. Buck Mulligan erect, with joined hands before him, said solemnly: —He who stealeth from the poor lendeth to the Lord. Thus spake Zarathustra.
His plump body plunged. —Very good. Where? —We’ll see you again, Haines said, turning as Stephen walked up the path The boy’s blank face asked the blank window. and smiling at wild Irish. Fabled by the daughters of memory. And yet it was in some way if not as Horn of a bull, hoof of a horse, smile of a Saxon. memory fabled it. A phrase, then, of impatience, thud of Blake’s wings of —The Ship, Buck Mulligan cried. Half twelve. excess. I hear the ruin of all space, shattered glass and toppling masonry, and —Good, Stephen said. time one livid final flame. What’s left us then? He walked along the upwardcurving path. —I forget the place, sir. 279 B.c. Liliata rutilantium. —Asculum, Stephen said, glancing at the name and date in the gorescarred Turma circumdet. book. lubilantium to virgmum. —Yes, sir. And he said: Another victory like that and we are done for. The priest’s grey nimbus in a niche where he dressed discreedy. I will not That phrase the world had remembered. A dull ease of the mind. From a sleep here tonight. Home also I cannot go. hill above a corpsestrewn plain a general speaking to his officers, leaned upon A voice, sweettoned and sustained, called to him from the sea. Turning the his spear. Any general to any officers. They lend ear. curve he waved his hand. It called again. A sleek brown head, a seal’s, far out —You, Armstrong, Stephen said. What was the end of Pyrrhus? on the water, round. —End of Pyrrhus, sir? —I know, sir. Ask me, sir, Comyn said. Usurper. —Wait. You, Armstrong. Do you know anything about Pyrrhus? You, Cochrane, what city sent for him? A bag of figrolls lay snugly in Armstrong’s satchel. He curled them between —Tarentum, sir. his palms at whiles and swallowed them softly. Crumbs adhered to the —Very good. Well? tissues of his lips. A sweetened boy’s breath. Welloff people, proud that their —There was a battle, sir. eldest son was in the navy. Vico Road, Dalkey.