Sunday, 21 December 2014

A CURSE UPON YOU CENSORS OF THE REPUBLIC




Flann O’Brien:
Supposing, said Trellis with a long chuckle, that a streetwalker makes £20,000 from her trade, saves it up over a period of 50 years, repents in her old age and builds a church with the money? Is it a church within the meaning of the act or what is it? Is it a brothel? Tainted money, I mean. Is it tainted subjectively or is it only unclean to those who know the commodity that was traded for it?
 Who but Finn could burst God with the power of a breath whistled from his tooth-gap without a ceasing or a stop from the low murmuring of melodious poetry at the same time? Who but Finn?
 - Where is the man, said Trellis horizontally, that is going to tell me that good can exist side by side with good? Good and evil are complementary terms. You cannot have one without the other. Each gets its force by reason of the other and would be meaningless without the other. There was no good in the Garden till the serpent came, only negation and bathos. Therefore the devil created good.
[...]
Where is the man, said Trellis horizontally, that is goig to tell me that good can exist side by side with good? Good and eveil are complementary terms. You cannot have one without the other. Each gets its force by reason of the other and would be meaningless without the other. There was no good in the Garden till the serpent came, only negation and bathos. Therefore the devil created good.
Ringsend cowboys
‘At night we would gather in the bunkhouse with our porter and all our orders, cigarettes and plenty there on the cheffonier to be taken and no questions asked, schoolmarms and saloongirls and little orange maids skivvying there in the galley and as geney as you like for the first man that takes it into his head to play ball know what I mean? That was the place to be now.’
[...]
‘I’m no nance and I’m not fussy when it comes to the hard stuff, but damn it all, I draw the line when it comes to carrying off a batch of orange women and a couple of thousand steers, by God’
[...]
‘[…] night, our bullet-pierced hats on our bowed heads and our empty six-guns dangling at our hips. If it wasn’t that our orange skivvies were waiting for us as plump and as gamey as be damned when we got the length, we might have shot up Ringsend Saloon or lynched a spook offa the arm of a tree or something.’
Classical music
‘Some of the stuff I've heard in my time, said Shanahan, is no joke to play for the man that has two hands. It was stuff of the best make I don’t doubt, classical tack and all the rest of it, but by God it gave me a pain in my bandbox. It hurt my head far worse than a pint of whiskey.’
‘But there’s good craic in that when you get in on it, explained Lamont, understand it once and you’ll never have anything else. You have to get used to it, you know, take it easy. You can’t swallow it like a drink. It has to be chewed by the teeth. Look at it like this crust, say.’

The Poor Mouth (1964) [Bonapart’s hangover:] If the bare truth be told, I did not prosper very well. My senses went astray, evidently. Misadventure fell on my misfortune, a further misadventure fell on that misadventure and before long the misadventures were falling thickly on the first misfortune and on myself. Then a shower of misfortunes fell on the misadventures, heavy misadventures fell on the misfortunes after that and finally one great brown misadventure came upon everything, quenching the light and stopping the course of life. I did not feel anything for a long while; I did not see anything, neither did I hear a sound. Unknown to me, the earth was revolving on its course through the firmament. It was a week before I felt that a stir of life was still within me and a fortnight before I was completely certain that I was alive. A half-year went by before I had recovered fully from the ill-health which that night’s business had bestowed on me, God give us all grace! I did not notice the second day of the feis. (60-61; Kennelly, op. cit., 1996, p.185.)

The Poor Mouth [An Beal Bocht] (Irish orig. 1941; trans. 1964): ‘In my youth we always had a bad smell in our house. Sometimes it was so bad that I asked my mother to send me to school, even though I could not walk correctly. Passers-by neither stopped nor even walked when in the vicinity of our house but raced past the door and never ceased until they were half a mile from the bad smell. There was another house two hundred yards down the road from us and one day when our smell was extremely bad the folks there cleared out, went to America and never returned. It was stated that they told people in that place that Ireland was a fine country but that the air was too strong there. Alas! there was never any air in our house.’ (p.22.) ‘Ambrose was an odd pig and I do not think that his like will be there again. Good luck to him if he be alive in another world today!’ (Ibid., p.28.)


At Swim-Two-Birds (1939)
[OPENING:] ‘Having placed in my mouth sufficient bread for three minutes’ chewing, I withdrew my powers of sensual perception and retired into the privacy of my mind, my eyes and face assuming a vacant and preoccupied expression. I reflected on the subject of my spare-time literary activities. One beginning and one ending for a book was a thing I did not agree with. A good book may have three openings entirely dissimilar and inter-related only in the prescience of the author, or for that matter one hundred times as many endings.’ (1967 Penguin edn. p.9).
The Third Opening: Finn MacCool was a legendary hero of old Ireland. Though not mentally robust, he was a man of superb physique and development. Each of his thighs was as thick as a horse’s belly, narrowing to a calf as thick as the belly of a foal. Three fifties of fosterlings could engage with handball against the wideness of his backside, which was wide enough to halt the march of warriors through a mountain pass. (p.9; &c.)
The Pooka Fergus MacPhellimey, a species of human Irish devil endowed with magical power.John Furriskey, A depraved character, whose task is to attack women and behave at all times in an indecent manner. By magic he is instructed by Trellis to go one night to Donnybrook where he will by arrangement meet and betray PEGGY, a domestic servant. He meets her and is much surprised when she confides to him that Trellis has fallen asleep and that her virtue had already been assailed by an elderly man subsequently to be identified as Finn MacCool, a legendary character hired by Trellis on account of the former’s venerable appearance and experience, to act as the girl’s father and chastise her for her transgressions against the moral law, and that her virtue has also been assailed by Paul Shanahan, another man hired by Trellis for performing various small and unimportant parts in the story
[…]
After a short time they discover that they have fallen in love with each other at first sight. They arrange to lead virtuous lives, to simulate the immoral actions, thoughts and words which Trellis demands of them on pain of the severest penalties
[…]
Meanwhile Trellis […] creates a very beautiful and refined girl called Sheila Lamont, whose brother, Anthony Lamont he has already hired so there will be someone to demand satisfaction of John Furriskey for betraying her […] . Trellis creates Miss Lamont in his bedroom [and] so far forgets himself as to assault her himself.’ (p.61; see longer extracts in RICORSO Library, “Irish Literary Classics”, via index, or direct.)
 
[The poetry:] FINN [reciting verses of St. Moling]: My curse on Sweeney! / His guilt against me is immense, / he pierced with his long swift javelin / My holy bell. / ... / Just as it went prestissimo / the spear-shaft skyward, / you, too, Sweeny, go madly mad-gone / skyward. / .. / ... My curse on you Sweeny. (p.65.) […] Bereft of fine women-folk, / the brooklime for a brother - / our choice for a fresh meal / is watercress always. // Without accomplished musicians / without generous women, / no jewel-gift for bards - / respected Christ, it has perished me. (p.67). Watercress from the well at Cirb / is my lot at terce, / its colour is my mouth. / green on the mouth of Sweeney. // Chill chill is my body / when away from ivy, / the rain torrents it / and the thunder. (p.69.) […] Glen Bolcain my home ever, / it was my haven, / many a night have I tried / a race against the peak. (p.72.) SHANAHAN, [reciting verses of Jem Casey]: When things go wrong and will not come right, / Though you do the best you can, / When life looks black as the hour of night / A PINT OF PLAIN IS YOUR ONLY MAN. (p.77; see longer extracts in RICORSO Library, “Irish Literary Classics”, infra.)
 
Cf. Joyce’s similar ‘curse’ in the “Cyclops” episode of Ulysses: &‘;The curse of my curses / Seven days every day / And seven dry Thursdays / On you, Barney Kiernan, / Has no sup of water / To cool my courage, / And my guts red roaring / After Lowry’s lights.’ (U12.737.) Note: Joyce naturally owes his poetic form to translation examples of middle Irish poetry in the Irish literary revival - similarly to J. M. Synge, whose “Curse” is based on the same, but which Joyce certainly did not know.
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