FINNEGANS WAKE: PAGE 004
– ¶0 numbers the carry-over paragraph
– solid-line boxed text marks my running outline
– rolling over critical sources give more specific citations as available
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01 What clashes here of wills gen wonts, oystrygods gaggin fishy-
01 gods! Brékkek Kékkek Kékkek Kékkek! Kóax Kóax Kóax! Ualu Ualu Ualu!
¶1 The narrative begins in fundamental cosmogeny. BenstockJoyce-again's Wake 169:
|Although the Wake contains aspects of all three types of epic, it is essentially concerned with the creation myth. Joyce recognizes contemporary society as verging on chaos, a chaos from which, like Milton, he re-creates the world.|
Three interrelated themes here; perhaps all the same theme from three different viewpoints. First you have the primary agonism of creations: "wills gen wonts," will versus habit; "Phall if you will, rise you must" (4.15-16), will versus necessity. Second, you have the cycles fall and rise. Third, you have, within that context of mythical cosmogeny, echoed also in culture, the wars between the gods: "oystrygods gaggin fishygods," pagan gods fighting Christian gods (Benstock). This war in heaven is a (if not the) central theme through the opening pages and, in its performance on earth, especially through the Shem (Lucifer)/Shaun (Michael), throughout the book. BenstockJoyce-again's Wake, 168:
|This struggle in Finnegans Wake is primarily the same as that which concerns Milton in Paradise Lost; the difference between the two works is that Joyce has tampered with the dramatis personae of the events to arrive at a new central figure, the Adam whose fall creates Man, "Père Adam" (124.34). Man, however, is the synthesis of this war in heaven, the synthesis of Shem and Shaun, who represent Lucifer and the Archangel Micharl respectively – "mikealls or nicholists" (113.27) and "Mitchells v. Nicholls" (147.6). That union of the two sons happens both before and after the battle, of course: Earwicker is their father and combines the antithetical elements of both; the sons eventually are fused into the Earsicker figure, and that fusion may well suggest that the antithetical elements have finally been assimilated by the individual. The epic battle in heaven, however, concerns us throughout the book [. . .].|
Notice the phallus reference in "Phall if you will" (as well as "father of fornicators" (4.12)). While the Phoenix Park association is unavoidable, sex is central to the Wake irrespective, both as a point of humor and as a subject. You need only look into paragraph 2 for an excellent example:
|He addle liddle phifie Annie ugged the little craythur. Wither hayre in honds tuck up your part inher. (4.28-29)|
and nearly all that follows to the end of the paragraph. (See also note on the line below.) Here, across these opening pages, I see not merely earthly sex, but the hierophanic union of male and female principles that begins mythic cosmogeny. (For example, linking two of the three, in Orphic Greek mythology, the world egg is created between Khronos, Time, and Ananke, Necessity, Inevitability.)
15 [. . .] Phall if
16 you but will, rise you must: and none so soon either shall the
17 pharce for the nunce come to a setdown secular phoenish.
18 Bygmester Finnegan, of the Stuttering Hand, freemen's mau-
19 rer, lived in the broadest way immarginable in his rushlit toofar-
20 back for messuages before joshuan judges had given us numbers [. . .]
¶2 The close of paragraph 1 brings the mythic from the realm of gods to the realm of earth, though still mythic earth. And paragraph 2 opens on Bygmester Finnegan, not a human but, "in the broadest way imarginable" a giant of mythic or legendary times. The paragraph sets up the general situation as well, in that he "addle liddle phifie" (wife), and loved the drink, "ugged the little craythur," following here story of the song "Finnegan's Wake."
• Bygmester is Danish for a builder, or master builder. In Ibsen's play, Bygmester Solness (known in English as The Master Builder), the main character, Halvard Solness, quoting GlasheenThird Census, "Masterbuilder", "rises from 'death' by climbing (at the bidding of a girl) a tower he has erected. He falls from the tower, blasted by the god he has rivaled and defied."
• Throughout this paragraph you'll catch moments from the opening stanza of "Finnegan's Wake."
• "He addle liddle phifie Annie ugged the little craythur" (4.28-29): a wonderful example of the wordplay Joyce uses that occasional trips up both readers and critics. The sentence is readable both straight across and folded over on itself. Straight across: "He had a little wife (or whifey) and he hugged the little craythur"; folded over on itself, "He had a little wife, Annie, and he hugged the little creature." There phrase "Annie ugged the little craythur" has two meanings, depending on the pun "craythur" or "creature," and the change in meaning changes the sentence. It is not merely a pun that dies in the humor of the punning; there is a duality that doubles up the reading of the sentence. (Notice that "Annie" is unnecessary to identifying the wife: "addle liddle phifie" = ALP.)
Which is the "primary" reading. The reading within the narrative flow is "craythur": the basic scene is being set, and the three basic facts about Finnegan is (1) he had a wife, (2) he drank a lot, and (3) he was a hod carrier (and all that follows that). Reading the rest of the paragraph out of that basic, narrative meaning and you have a paragraph about a hod carrier who is also a builder, here building "a waalworth of a skyerscrape," the building that will be the death of Finnegan.
However, stick with the "creature reading, and the paragraph continues to be wholly about sex:
|He addle liddle phifie Annie ugged the little craythur. &ndsah; He had a little wife, Annie, and he hugged the little creature. – Wither hayre in honds tuck up your part inher. – With your hand in hands take up your partner. / With her hair in her hands [sexual flirting] tuck up your part in her. – Oftwhile balbulous, – often drunk – mithre ahead, with goodly trowel in grasp – godly head [Mithra] and goodly/godly penis in grasp – [. . .] he would caligulate – Caligula – by multiplicables the alltitude and malltitude – he would calculate the means and manner of playing the little wife – until he seesaw by neatlight of the liquor wheretwin 'twas born, – until he saw by the light of the liquor her sex [where twins are born] – his roundhead staple of other days to rise in undress maisonry upstanded – his uncovered erection rising – (joygrantit!), – (praise for the godly) – a waalworth of a skyerscape of most eyeful hoyth entowerly, erigenating from next to nothing and celescalating the himals and all, hierarchitectitiptitoploftical, – from next-to-nothing to himilayan heights – with a burning bush abob off its baubletop – with a godly read hed [a joke in that HCE is a ginger] and with larrons o'toolers clittering up and tombles a'buckets clottering down. – a tool clit-tering up and buckets of semen clottering down|
Or maybe I'm just reading into it.
My point is two fold. First, the trickyness of the syntactic/semantic play of Joyce's language. Sentences can fold over on themselves, and one word should never act to 'collapse' a sentence into a particular form. But also, to show the multiple levels of meaning. There are, as I see it, six themes running through the latter half of the paragraph:
How to read each theme in context depends on the theme. The narrative theme is narrative. The sex themes point to the general context of the opening pages of mythic cosmogeny: it creates the mythic context, moving the story of Finnegan from the mundane world of "Finnegan's Wake" to the mythical world of Finn MacCool. The Noah theme puts the cosmogeny theme into a greater context of cycles – this is not creation ex nihilo. And so on. The error is to read any one as primary, as defining all other contexts; which never happens in the Wake, even with the narrative level.
• A quick note: I find it interesting, again, that Anna is linked with Phoenix park. ("he addle liddle phifie Annie").