After the diversionary tale of Jarl van Hoother and the Prankquean, which culminates in a second and flatulently thunderous fall and the apparent restoration of peace in the city, there follows a ‘prayer’ that fallen Finnegan might rest in peace (FW 23.16 – 24.15). This is to no avail however, because, true to the famous 19th century street ballad, Finnegan’s body is splashed with whiskey by boisterous mourners, waking him at his own wake. According to Hugh Kenner the ballad is a “psuedo-Irish song” not Irish but American-Irish, published in New York in 1864.1
Then Mickey Maloney ducked his head,
When a noggin of whiskey flew at him,
It missed, and falling on the bed,
The liquor scattered over Tim!
The corpse revives! See how he raises!
Timothy rising from the bed,
Says,”Whirl your whiskey around like blazes,
Thanum an Dhoul! Do you think I’m dead?”
Thanum an Dhoul – “Your soul to the devil”
‘Have you whines for my wedding, did you bring bride and bedding, will you whoop for my deading is a? Wake? Usqeadbaugham!
Anam muck an dhoul! Did ye drink me doornail?’ (FW 24.12 – 15)
The mourners at the wake are subsequently obliged to spend the several pages towards the end of the ‘chapter’ reassuring Finnegan back to oblivious ‘sleep’. The ‘chapter’ concludes with the foretelling of HCE, Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, the coming man and central protagonist of what Finn Fordham has called ‘The Humphriad I’.
These pages of the Wake, as densely layered and unstable as any in the book, are thick with allusions to themes established earlier on. The topography of the Dublin dreamscape, generatively inter-relate with that of the body and is overlaid with suggested intimate detail from the stage or film set-like bedroom. A murky dynamic takes us between macro to micro scales, distant to intimate, moving our consciousness around the scene dissolving or confusing distinctions between inside, outside, body, environment, sound and vision. Almost every other word fissions into multiple yet equally valid associations, which continuously switch the networks of allusion, re-determining our reading in progress.
The word ‘evesdrip’ (23.22) suggests the descent of night, drizzle, a dripping gutter, but also draws our attention to the act of listening itself. Where external vision fails it is through the auditory experiences of the sleeper that the permeability of interior and exterior conditions becomes evident – the influence of external sounds on the dreamer’s consciousness and the interpretation of those sounds which the imagination of the dreamer ‘abhears’. In the ‘dinn of bottles in the far ear’ (23.22-23), distant or remembered noises from the pub downstairs can be immediately sensed (inn), then notions of djinn released from bottles (Tales from A Thousand and One Nights) arise. There is conflation of sound waves from the world and sounds generated by the blood of the listening body itself, stimulating sounds imagined in sleep and pictured in dream. (23.26 – 28).
Apprehending the constantly changing visual impressions provoked by the text requires rapid notation while reading is in progress. This necessitates a degree of flow to be maintained between visual ‘intake’ of the printed word, internal perception of the metal image and its ‘output’ as pictorial notation in order to document the effect of the text as a visual translation i.e. the imagining and imaging of what is written. Some passages evoke clearer mental impressions than others and some, through the recording gesture, become more graphically anchored, more pictorial.
And so the first ‘chapter’ of the first ‘part’ or ‘book’ of Finnegans Wake ends in anticipation of a man the reputation and physical attributes of whom have already been elaborated into outlandish, mythical proportions and who is implicated, somehow, in all the upset befallen the urban paradise, Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, a figure ‘…ultimendly repunchable for the hubbub caused in edenborough.’
1. Kenner, Hugh (1989) A Colder Eye: The Modern Irish Writers, The Johns Hopkins University Press (p. 221).