Telemachus 0009

[singlepic id=159 w=320 h=240 float=left]

[cf. 1922; 4: 23-35; Gabler 1:50-66]

Stephen and Mulligan are discussing their English visitor, Haines, who woke in the middle of the night, apparently screaming about a black panther. Presumably not this kind of black panther.

Why does Mulligan think that kinch, “the knife blade,” is such a good nickname for Stephen?  Perhaps because Stephen is prone to cutting people down?  Or that he’s sharp-witted?  I think it’s also because he’s unstoppably analytical.  The word “analysis” means to break (or cut) apart, and Stephen is an admirer of Aristotle, the grandaddy of analysis, the breaking into parts.  To be a knife-edge means  that you would rather make distinctions than take sides.  Mulligan is also saying that Stephen is hard to read, it’s hard for Haines to “make him out.”  Haines says he’s not a gentleman, but Mulligan says he has the “real” Oxford manner.

Stephen is clearly not happy with the living arrangements, and feels unsafe.   He’s ready to quit.  In real life, Oliver St. John Gogarty, the prototype of Mulligan, thought that the Martello Tower could become a kind of bohemian hangout or colony,  but Joyce didn’t last a week there.

Haines is generally believed (following Richard Ellmann’s biography of Joyce) , to be modeled after Samuel Chenevix Trench, an Anglo-Irish friend of Gogarty’s who was fascinated with Celtic culture.  He also had bad dreams, and in September of 1904, Trench had a nightmare about a black panther while staying in the tower with Joyce and Gogarty.  He shot a revolver at the wall (no minor thing, given that this is a small,  round, stone room we’re talking about). Gogarty confiscated the gun, but not before shooting off a few rounds himself. Joyce left the tower immediately. Smart move.

Many years ago at a Joyce conference in Rome I heard a scholar give a paper that argued that Haines is also, at least in part, based upon William Bulfin, an Irishman who wrote a book about his bicycle tours in Ireland at the turn of the century. The book, Rambles in Eirinn, was very popular & reprinted many times. In a passage about Dalkey & Sandycove, Bulfin describes a visit to an old military tower where some young men were staying. I’ll steal the excerpted passage from a great RTE website about Ulysses:

On a lovely Sunday morning in the early autumn two of us pulled out along the road to Bray for a day’s cycling in Dublin and Wicklow. We intended riding to Glendalough and back, but we were obliged to modify this programme before we reached Dalkey, owing to a certain pleasant circumstance which may be termed a morning call. As we were leaving the suburbs behind us my comrade, who knows many different types of Irish people, said casually that there were two men living in a tower down somewhere to the left who were creating a sensation in the neighbourhood. They had, he said, assumed a hostile attitude towards the conventions of denationalisation, and were, thereby, outraging the feeling of the seoinini.One of them had lately returned from a canoeing tour of hundreds of miles through the lakes, rivers, and canals of Ireland, another was reading for a Trinity degree, and assiduously wooing the muses, and another was a singer of songs which spring from the deepest currents of life. The returned marine of the canoe was an Oxford student, whose button-hole was adorned with the badge of the Gaelic League-a most strenuous Nationalist he was, with a patriotism, stronger than circumstances, which moved him to pour forth fluent Irish upon every Gael he encountered, in accents blent from the characteristic speech of his alma mater and the rolling blas of Connacht. The poet was a wayward kind of genius, who talked with a captivating manner, with a keen, grim humour, which cut and pierced through a topic in bright, strong flashes worthy of the rapier of Swift. The other poet listened in silence, and when we went on the roof he disposed himself restlessly to drink in the glory of the morning. It was very pleasant up there in the glad sunshine and the sweet breath of the sea. We looked out across to Ben Edair of the heroic legends, now called Howth, and wondered how many of the dwellers in the “Sunnyville Lodges” and “Elmgrove Villas” and other respectable homes along the hillside knew aught of Finn and Oisín and Oscar. We looked northwards to where the lazy smoke lay on the Liffey’s bank, and southwards, over the roofs and gardens and parks to the grey peak of Killiney, and then westwards and inland to the blue mountains.

That was longer than it needed to be, but you get the point. Throughout the book, Bulfin approaches Irish people with the same mystification about how he knows more about the history and the language than they, the natives, do.

The black panther is still a mystery to me. I don’t know if there is a particular symbolic referent here, or if it’s one of the red herrings Joyce throws into this book. It’s certainly odd that Stephen says “black panther” two times in close proximity. Even without a clear allusion, (and I’m looking to you all, helpful readers, to tell me what you know about black panthers), the panther dream suggests that there is something a little unhinged about Haines. Maybe he, with Bulfin as his prototype, is to be seen as approaching his travels in Ireland as a kind of exotic safari (I picture him with his guncase and a pith helmet), and the black panther is the symbol of the exotic otherness of the Irish. You tell me.


View this Page of the Comic

Reader’s Guide for I: Telemachus

Dramatis Personae for I: Telemachus

16 thoughts on “Telemachus 0009

  1. Yeah, its a bit puzzling why this image from Haines’ dream should seem to have so much weight in the chapter. Haines is not the kind of character whom readers would see as an oracle of any kind, certainly not in the same way we’re to look at the milkwoman who visits the tower a few pages later.

    But there does seem to be a significance to the panther imagery of Haines’ dream in the way Joyce delivers it and it will keep cropping up throughout the book.

    I think that this sort of jibes with a notion I mentioned earlier about the significance of “noises off” in the novel; the idea that important messages are trying to intrude into the life or story of any individual and we seldom listen to them.

    Thomas Hardy published his poem “Panthera” in 1909, about the time Joyce was writing this, and while it’s more obscure now, the poem made quite a sensation in its time. It deals with a gnostic accusation that Mary had conceived Jesus not of the Holy Ghost, but by a traveling Roman officer named Panthera. The poem can be found here;

    Joseph Campbell makes something of this in his work on ULYSSES, claiming that it causes us to see Haines as a kind of false Holy Ghost in the same way we are to see Mulligan as a false Father. I think that’s a bit much given how little use Joyce makes of Haines later in the chapter, but it does seem that the panther imagery is to be seen in terms of pre-figuring Bloom dressed all in black who’s feeding his cat in chapter four at this moment.

  2. I’m inclined to go with the “red herring” assessment, but I think it’s possible that it’s as much a red herring to Stephen as it is to the reader. This may be off base, but I think it could be good fuel for discussion.

    Stephen lives almost entirely inside his own head for most of the novel, and I think this may be the first of a number of examples of Stephen incorrectly assuming that all attention in the Universe is focused on him. Given his black mourning dress and generally black mood, it’s not a tremendous stretch to consider it a possibility that Haines is referring to him, but I don’t think Stephen can just jump to that conclusion. His readiness to make that jump may come from a feeling that Haines is aligned with Buck, the usurper, and that he, Stephen, is odd man out. I’ve had that experience with roommates, so I can understand that.

    The second mention of the black panther comes in “Oxen of the Sun”, in Mulligan’s frightening tale, just as the Haines character in his story is drinking poison. This is shortly after Buck has seen Stephen recoil in fear at a thunderclap that he believes to be directed at him by God, himself. It’s possible that Mulligan sees Stephen’s self-centered fear as his most glaring weakness, and preys upon it by bringing up the black panther again. Following that line of thinking, it’s also possible that Buck may have put Haines up to deliberately trying to scare Stephen by pretending to talk in his sleep.

    As for why specifically a black panther, I’ve seen it written that Stephen feels that he has killed his mother in his refusal to pray at her bedside, and I’ve seen it written that he perhaps feels that he has, on some level, a predatory nature. So a black, predatory animal would be a good choice for anyone trying to play upon his fears – or for any writer creating a metaphor for those fears and the way that they prey upon Stephen.

  3. References to the black panther are striking to me both in “Telemachus” and “Oxen of the Sun” (1025-1034) where “The black panther was himself the ghost of his own father” appears. Dr. Weldon Thornton wrote the following in a note in “Allusions in Ulysses: An Annotated List (page 12). “As A.M. Klein points out in his article on this chapter of Ulysses (The Black Panther, A Study in Technique,” Accent, X, 139-155), the panther was long used as a symbol of Christ.” In a separate note on page 342, Dr. Thornton wrote “In early tradition and in the medieval bestiary, the panther was thought to be friendly and was often used as an emblem of Christ, though this tradition died when the true nature of the animal was learned.”

  4. “-though this tradition died when the true nature of the animal was learned.”

    See, now that’s pretty damn funny. I wonder how many martyrs it took for the church to finally change their minds about this particular symbol!

    The passage in “Oxen of the Sun’ you mention does seem to cement the idea that Haines’ dream was oddly prescient. Its just another of the ways in which Joyce has this loop of “synchronicity” in his character’s lives that day. God, as “a shout in the street”, seems to be worming his way into the days events from various angles.

  5. Syncronicity is the right word, but I think Joyce actually pushes these kinds of coincidences and serendipities beyond the realm of Kosmic Konneckshun to the point where the whole notion of discrete characters disintegrates, and the book becomes its own grandfather.. ro rather the central consciousness of the novel. By which I mean… we get to the point later in the book where Bloom is recalling things we know Stephen, not he, experienced… Stephen has memories of things that happened to Mulligan, etc. The whole Circe episode is a fantasy of the collective consciousness of the book, or perhaps of the city. Also– Joyce was deeply skeptical of the Blavatskyites and Yeats’s incursions into the spirit world. I wonder if Haines’ black panther is also meant to invoke that world (cf: )

  6. black panther – panther monster – pater noster – Holy Father- he follows the line in Telamachus with “you have saved men from drowning.” He’s phonetically letting panther stand for the latin “father” or heavenly father.

  7. “The black panther was himself the ghost of his own father” – my head’s a little muddled right now, but it seems to me this must also connect to Will Shakespeare playing the ghost of Hamlet…

  8. “The black panther was himself the ghost of his own father” – my head’s a little muddled right now, but it seems to me this must also connect to Will Shakespeare playing the ghost of Hamlet’ father…

  9. Please add this to the pot for seasoning: (
    “Ulysses” Black Panther Vampire
    Michael Seidel
    James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 4 (Summer, 1976), pp. 415-427
    (article consists of 13 pages)
    Published by: University of Tulsa

    Here, for whetting-of-the-appetite purposes, is a truncated transcript of the only page shown in the referenced, uncopiable scanned image:

    Michael Seidel
    _Ulysses’_ Black Panther Vampire

    A semi-conscious, recumbent Stephen murmurs to Bloom, who is bending over him, gently calling his name (Gabler p. 496.4930): “Who? Black Panther Vampire.”

    Who, indeed? The black panther vampire is a typically egregious Circean hybrid, but what do these creatures mean, and what do they mean juxtaposed? We have seen something of each separately. Very early in _Ulysses_ we learned that the Englishman, Haines, had raved about a nightmarish black panther stalking the sleeping quarters of the Martello Tower, and had vowed, in his sleep, to shoo the beast. The incident frightened and infuriated Stephen Dedalus. But the panther’s appearance in “Telemachus” works by contraries. We are told by A.M. Klein that in medieval bestiaries the panther was thought, primarily by those unaware of its habits, to be a sweet and serving beast, hence its traditional iconographic association with the gentle Christ. Mr. Klein sees the first chapter of _Ulysses as a re-enactment of the temptation of Christ (Stephen-panther) by Satan (the imperial Haines): “The black panther, as the old bestiaries have it, is a symbol of Christ. In his dream to Satan, Christ comes as nightmare.”
    Matters, however, are rarely so simple in _Ulysses_, or so serious. Joyce had a secondary source for the panther in mind, this one more ambiguous, secularly tainted, and certainly funnier. Talmudic tradition calls Jesus “Ben-Panthera,” son of panther, an epithet later transferred, for various reasons, to the entire force of Roman centurions in Palestine. “Son of panther” and “son of virgin” (_parthenos_ in Greek) are phrases that naturally invite the punsters. Joyce knows a version of this verbal gambit because he has Bloom’s quirky grandfather, Virag, allude to the story of the Virgin Mary in “Circe”: “Panther, the Roman centurion, polluted her with his genitories.”

    There is much more, but the single complimentary page shown in this uncopiable, scanned image ends here.

  10. Sorry, in my previous post I misspelled (at least) one word, which changes the meaning of its sentence somewhat. The phrase “had vowed, in his sleep, to shoo the beast” should read “had vowed, in his sleep, to *shoot* the beast.”

  11. Any other theories out there on “the enigma of the black panther”?

    We’ll be riffing on it a bit in the “Calypso” chapter that I’m drawing now and, frankly, I still don’t think we’ve plumbed the depth of possibilities on this one.

    Just another one of the many mysteries in Joyceland…

  12. One of the best old books on Joyce and his works is A Reader’s Guide to James Joyce, by William York Tindall. About the panther, on page 138 Tindall writes: “Haines’ anti-Semitism and his nightmare of the ‘black panther’ predicts Bloom. Dressed in black, Leo Bloom moves with the step of a ‘pard’ or, since panther and leopard are identical, with the step of Leo-pard. That devilish Haines had reason for his nightmare is proved by the Bestiary, where panther is Christ.”. There you go. Hard to argue with that. For me, Tindall’s book has solved a lot of Joyce’s riddles.

  13. In the Bloomsday Book: A Guide through Joyce’s Ulysses (1966), Harry Blamires writes rather matter of factly: “Last night Haines raved terrifyingly after dreaming of a black panther. (Later passages establish the black panther as a symbol of Bloom, whose Christian name is Leopold [emphasis on the Leo]. It is a symbol, too, which carries overtones of divinity. Bloom becomes the lost ‘father’ whom Stephen discovers.)”

  14. French translation :

    Stephen et Mulligan discutent de leur visiteur anglais, Haines, qui s’est réveillé au beau milieu de la nuit précédente, en hurlant apparemment à cause d’une panthère noire. Mais probablement pas une de ce genre-là.

    Pourquoi Mulligan pense-t-il que le sobriquet “Kinch la fine lame” va si bien à Stephen ? Peut-être parce que Stephen est enclin à “tailler” les gens en pièces ? Ou bien pour son esprit aiguisé ? Je pense que c’est aussi à cause de son irrépressible côté analytique. Le terme “analyse” renvoit à l’idée de décortiquer ou de découper en mille morceaux, et Stephen est un admirateur d’Aristote, l’ancêtre de l’analyse, l’art de tout démonter jusqu’à la dernière pièce. Dans cette acception, être une fine lame signifierait avoir tendance à faire de subtiles distinctions sur une question, plutôt que de prendre parti (NDT : allusion à la casuistique jésuite). Mulligan veut dire aussi que Stephen est peu accessible, et que Haines n’arrive pas à le “cerner”. Haines dit que Stephen n’est pas un gentleman, mais Mulligan objecte que Stephen, au contraire, a le “vrai ton” d’Oxford.

    Stephen ne cache pas son mécontentement de vivre ainsi, et il se sent en insécurité. Il est prêt à partir. Dans la réalité, Oliver St. John Gogarty, qui a inspiré le personnage de Mulligan, pensait que la tour Martello pourrait devenir un camp de Bohémiens, voire une colonie, et Joyce n’y resta pas une semaine entière.

    On pense généralement (d’après la biographie de Joyce par Richard Ellmann) que Haines est calqué sur Samuel Chenevix Trench, un ami anglo-irlandais de Gogarty fasciné par la culture celtique. Trench était sujet aux cauchemars et, en septembre 1904, il rêva d’une panthère noire, dans la tour où il logeait avec Joyce et Gogarty. Il tira un coup de pistolet dans le mur (ce qui n’était pas sans risque, dans une petite pièce ronde aux murs de pierre). Gogarty lui confisca l’arme, non sans s’amuser lui aussi à tirer quelques cartouches. Joyce quitta immédiatement la tour. Judicieux départ.

    Voici plusieurs années, dans une conférence sur Joyce, à Rome, j’ai entendu  un érudit avancer que Haines tient aussi, du moins en partie, de William Bulfin, un Anglais qui écrivit un livre sur ses voyages en bicyclette à travers l’Irlande, à l’orée du XXème siècle. Ce livre, “Randonnées en Erin”, fut très populaire et réimprimé plusieurs fois. Dans un passage évoquant Dalkey et Sandycove, Bulfin décrit sa visite d’une vieille tour militaire, où vivaient quelques jeunes gens. Je vais piquer un extrait d’une excellente page du site de RTE (NDT : Raidió Teilifís Éireann) consacrée à “Ulysse”:

    “Par un beau matin ensoleillé d’automne, nous partîmes à deux sur la route de Bray à Dublin, et atteignîmes Wicklow. Nous voulions pédaler jusqu’à Glendalough puis revenir, mais nous fûmes contraints de changer de programme avant d’avoir gagné Dalkey, du fait de quelque circonstance agréable, une sorte d’appel matinal. Tandis que nous laissions la banlieue derrière nous, mon camarade, qui connaît plusieurs genres d’Irlandais, lança en l’air que des hommes vivant dans une tour, située quelque part sur notre gauche, faisaient sensation dans le voisinage. Ils affichaient, dit-il, de l’hostilité à l’égard des conventions de dénationalisation, et scandalisaient les indépendantistes. L’un d’eux était récemment revenu d’un voyage en canoë de plusieurs centaines de kilomètres, à travers lacs, rivières et canaux d’Irlande ; un autre était lecteur à Trinity College et taquinait la muse poétique ; et un troisième chantait des chansons sur les choses de la vie. Le canoyeur était un étudiant d’Oxford, dont la boutonnière était ornée d’un badge de la Ligue gaélique – un
    nationaliste des plus énergiques, doté d’un patriotisme faisant fi des limites de la réalité et qui le poussait à déverser un discours dans un irlandais impeccable sur tout Gael qu’il pouvait rencontrer, avec un accent mélangeant celui de sa langue natale avec les roulements du Connacht. Le poète était une sorte de génie capricieux, qui s’exprimait de manière captivante, avec un humour acéré et sinistre, qui piquait brillamment au vif, de taille et d’estoc, à la façon d’un Swift armé d’une rapière. L’autre poète écoutait en silence, et lorsque nous montâmes au sommet de la tour, il leva fébrilement un verre à la gloire du jour naissant. C’était très agréable d’être là, dans la réjouissante lumière du soleil et la douce brise marine. Nous tournâmes notre regard vers le Ben Edair des légendes héroïques, désormais appelé Howth, et nous nous demandâmes combien parmi les habitants de “Sunnyville Lodges”, de “Elmgrove Villas” et autres maisons respectables bâties à flanc de colline, savaient quoi que ce soit de Finn, Oisín et Oscar. Nos yeux se dirigèrent vers le nord, où la brume s’étend paresseusement sur les berges de la Liffey, vers le sud, par-dessus les toits, les jardins et les parcs, jusqu’au pic grisâtre de Killiney, puis vers l’ouest et l’arrière-pays, en direction des montagnes bleues.”

    C’était plus long que nécessaire, mais vous voilà édifiés. A travers son livre, Bulfin s’intéresse aux Irlandais avec ceci de bluffant qu’il en sait plus sur leur histoire et leur langue que les autochtones eux-mêmes.

    La panthère noire reste un mystère pour moi. J’ignore s’il faut y voir un symbole particulier, ou bien si Joyce cherche à brouiller les pistes, comme à d’autres endroits de son livre. Il est tout de même étrange que Stephen parle deux fois de “panthère noire”, de manière très rapprochée. Même si l’allusion n’est pas évidente (et j’en appelle à vous, aimables lecteurs, pour me dire tout ce que vous savez sur les panthères noires), ce rêve suggère que quelque chose ne va pas très bien chez Haines. Peut-être qu’avec Bulfin comme modèle, Haines doit être vu comme quelqu’un faisant du tourisme en Irlande comme si c’était un safari (je l’imagine bien avec une malle à fusil et un casque colonial), et la panthère noire est le symbole de l’altérité exotique des Irlandais. Dites-moi ce que vous en pensez.

Comments are closed.