In my previous post I discussed the visualization of various personages interviewed about Earwicker’s character, reputation and deeds. The images in this post are of a section of the text over pages 61 – 64. The section starts with the casting of doubt on the reliability memory, of historical witnesses and records. Even if they involve the fact and true incident, these can be used unscrupulously to give a distorted version of events. Then there is a mythical or fabulous account of HCE flight to the ‘seventh city, Urovivla’, his citadear of refuge’, followed by a report of a dramatic encounter between a tall man a mysterious masked aggressor. The victim here is presumably HCE, although I think it’s possible to view the incident as a fictional interlude, perhaps a film scene viewed by Earwicker. This was certainly the case in my own initial response. Despite his apparent sanctuary HCE is subject to further hounding through what he takes to be hostile battering at his gate, although a more innocent albeit bizarre, explanation is offered by the perpetrator.
‘Be these meer marchant taylor’s fablings of a race referend with oddman rex?’, p.61.28 -29, charcoal (detail)
Woven through these incidents are concerns about choice and error, fundamental uncertainties about perception, particularly the difficulty of believing our own eyes and ears; the problem of ambiguity when things should be definitively black or white, and the anxiety of potentially making the wrong choice, by lapse of memory or by not being able to distinguish.
Hobson’s choice, indirectly invoked in p. 63.2 – 3, is often mistakenly thought of as a false or illusive choice or one between equally undesirable options. It is more accurately described as a free choice, but of only one option i.e. between something or nothing, taking the choice or not.
‘changing clues with a beggermalster’, FW p.62.2 – 3, charcoal (detail)
FW p. 62, sketchbook SPS
It’s interesting to experience the distinct shifts in tone between passages in the section (pp.61.28 – 64.21) and how these provoke differing styles of visual impression. These differentiations, though not really captured in my pictorial notations made whilst reading, have great potential for the development of more fully realised visual interpretations.
P.61.28 – 62.25 cautions against too easily accepting the historical record or the word of witnesses. This doubt about the record hints at the possibility of conspiracy, bias and betrayal. It develops into the tale of HCE’s epic escape from his critics into what seems to be another realm, removed from the prosaic troubled world. This other place can be variously taken as a city, a hidden land – perhaps an exotic wilderness, or a pharaonic underworld. All three might fall within the concept of the oft-depicted ‘Flight into Egypt’, although ‘movietone’ (p.62.9) may introduce another possibility, that of a virtual theatrical/cinematic space as refuge, anticipating the style of the encounter with the masked assailant further down the page.
FW p.62 sketchbook detail
HCE disguises himself before fleeing. Although the exchange of clothes is with a beggar one can’t help thinking of escape stories such as that of Bonnie Prince Charlie. If we believe the tale, for this is an embellished historical, Biblical/mythical journey into refuge and exile, Earwicker escapes by sea under the cover of night. His flight is a rich and layered conflation threaded with references to the arc of the covenant, the odyssey, Nordic Mythology and the Egyptian book of the Dead. So the boat may be sea faring or it might be a symbolic object – a coffin boat for transport to the afterlife. As such it would be intended to navigate the tribulations of a journey into outer darkness or inner wastes of sleep, the (t)errors and errors of the night, ‘going forth by black’ inverting the ‘Coming Forth By Day’ of the Egyptian death narrative.
I get a strong sense of the Middle English throughout the report of the flight, its Chaucerian flavour accentuated by words such as ‘trow’, ‘denayed’, ‘qvinne’ etc. and its visual qualities stamped with a medieval faculty for symbolism.
Though it hasn’t fully emerged in my pictorial notation, I can’t help visualising this section with a noir storyboard feel, or like one of those early Edward Hopper etchings looking down onto strangers on lamp-lit street corner, more because of its content than language.
‘if you are looking for the bilder deep your ear on the movieton!’, FW p. 62 sketchbook detail
FW p. 62, charcoal
After the show late one foggy night one tall man returning home carrying (humping) a suspicious parcel (which parcel could be the hump itself) had a revolver placed to his face by a masked assailant. His motive is uncertain but possibly involves sexual jealousy. The aggressor, apparently not a local but perhaps he is from Brittany and a ‘crawsopper’ (grasshopper – gracehoper) which, according to McHugh is ‘crawthumper’, an ostentatiously devotional Roman Catholic. ‘Aunt’ here inevitably then evokes ‘ant’ prophetically pre-echoing the tale of the Ondt and the Gracehoper. The threat of physical and implied sexual violence permeates this brief encounter and its Hobson’s choice.
‘shipalone, a raven of the wave’ FW p. 62.4, charcoal (detail)
‘that one tall man, humping a suspicious parcel’, FW p. 62, charcoal (detail)
We then have a change of tack with a questioning of the accuracy of previous account. Apparently the assaulted man with the parcel was not tall, perhaps he wasn’t even a man – there was no such person, no offender, of no such race. It seems that the truthfulness of the account is called into question because of the involvement of drink. With the usual degree of unreliability we have by now become accustomed to in the ‘Wake’ many things intersect here offering both complementary and contradictory choices to the reader. Black may become white with the slightest shift of perspective, the difficulty of seeing clearly and correctly, error and consequences – dove or raven, black sail, white sail?
An awful din has awakened HCE from his refuge/exile in the wastes of sleep. He thought it was the sound of guns, or the end of the world (ragnorok). Following this terrible disturbance there appears to be some kind of enquiry in which the perpetrator, a drunkard, claims that he was merely leaning against the gatepost, having mistaken it for a cattle pillar (caterpillar) in order to open his bottle of stout by hammering at its top. Despite the apparent innocence of this account the language in which it is couched is laced with invocations of savage violence.
Refuting this in line with his sense of persecution, Earwicker protests that the noise was nothing like someone trying to open a bottle but more like marshal music or the last days of Pompei (the hidden parcel of Humphrey’s hump reaching it’s full manifestation as the volcanic mound symbolically associated with HCE).
‘rebirthing in remarriment out of dead seekness to devine previdence’, FW p. 62, charcoal (detail)
‘you’re shot, major’, p.62.32, charcoal (detail)
FW p.64 sketchbook SPS
Throughout PP. 63.20 – 64.21 the language surface continues with as much florid density and layering as any Wake reader could wish for. The commotion at the gate (a banging on the doors of the Porter family home – the pub in Chapelizod) has also awakened the females of the house ALP, Issy (and Kate?) creating a chaotic sense of exposure and mess, a breach through which of Earwickers abject secrets are in danger of seeping. Just as Earwicker’s hump has gradually grown to volcanic proportions so the hints of moister, sultry weather and falling rain have now become washing, weltering waters in anticipation of the full force of the river, ALP and the washerwomen’s gossip of chapter VIII.