In his remarkable article, “Traditional Irish Music in Contemporary Irish Literature” (Mosaic XII.3, 1979, 1-29) Sean Golden has shown us Joyce’s long term concern with genuine Irish culture which underlies the various distortions that have resulted from colonial domination; the tradition of genuine Irish music which Moore distorted to please an English audience, or an anglicized Irish taste. Discussing A Portrait, he says:
“Stephen’s appropriate tradition is the one hidden behind Moore’s Melodies in the Irish airs which structure them and in the culture which produced those airs . . . in the world of the old man from the west he imagines he must wrestle with all night long”
This “old man from the west” is still with us in Finnegans Wake. But his world, his west, has expanded. He is identified with oppressed and colonized people everywhere. And Ireland, the island in the west (Finisterre, ‘Finn’s land’), and the west of Ireland – both asleep and a-wake – along with Hy Breasail, the ancient Irish isles of the blest, are identified, not by Joyce alone obviously, with Brazil (488.24, 316.28, 549.26). And with those other islands in the west, the West Indies, home of African slaves and European colonists.
Joyce has tapped into the utopian tradition that had More base his Utopia on Amerigo Vespucci’s description of the Cape Verde islands (green islands). Utopia becomes “topaia” – ‘to Baia’ – in “the mudden research in the topaia that was Mankaylands”(595.26, also Ital. ‘rats’ nest’). The utopian vision of the “New Man” in the west (the true “Creole”) came to be realized in a world of masters and slaves. And the masters somehow imagined themselves as man alone, whether in The Tempest or in Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe:
“Il vero simbulo della conquista brittanica . . . naufragato sur un’isola solitaria . . . il vero prototypo del colonizzatore brittanico” as Joyce said in his Trieste lecture ( Scritti Italiani, ed. Louis Berrone 158).
To understand more about the old man in the west and his presence in Finnegans Wake, as well as some of its ramifications for other passages – including the “elephant in the belly” – we need to understand something about the line:
“In that earopean end meets Ind” (598.15)
The old man from the west when he appears in the diary at the end of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is already a heightened mythic-
journalistic figure – “European and Asiatic papers please copy.”
From Mullingar – scene of his first appearance in Stephen Hero – he has been moved to the West, his cabin set in a mountain. His red eyes stare at us. He speaks Irish. The one line of dialogue left to him emphasizes distance:
‘Mulrennan spoke to him about universe and stars. Old man sat, listened, smoked, spat. Then said: — Ah, there must be terrible queer creatures at the latter end of the world.—`
In Stephen Hero the “end” appears in dialect as “ind”.
And the ‘queer creatures` turn out to be provoked by a discussion of elephants and the animals of prehistoric times.
— I’ve heerd tell them elephants is most natural things, that they has the notions of a Christian . . . I wanse seen meself a picture of niggers riding on wan of ’em – aye and beating blazes out of ‘im with a stick. . . .
The young lady who was much amused began to tell the peasant about the animals of prehistoric times. The old man heard her out in silence and then said slowly:
— Aw, there must be terrible quare craythurs at the latther ind of the world.— ( Stephen Hero , New Directions, New Ed. 1963, p. 243)
The picture the old man saw where elephants were being beaten with sticks must have come from India. He has merged ALL the dark peoples in “niggers” – who are also “quare craythurs” – and merged both space and time at the “ind” of the world.
Writing in Finnegans Wake “In that earopean end meets Ind” (598.15), Joyce has not forgotten his shift from “ind” to “end” in representing the old man’s dialect, and by marking the word with a capital ‘I`, “Ind”, has pointed up not only this relation but also that of India and the Indies to “ind”. On the page opposite (599.06) we can hear the elephants still being beaten in a Swahili reading of “liofant”.
Elephants, as the discussion of “The Elephant in the Belly” has made plain, have a special relation to Swahili
Hart, Clive, “The Elephant inthe Belly: Exegesis of Finnegans Wake”, in A Wake Digest , ed.Hart,C + Fritz Senn. Sidney, University Press, Australia 1968.
Halper Nathan “The Elephant in the Belly” (II). in
A Wake Newslitter 13:5, 100 1976
(see 209.11 “tembo in her tumbo” and 244.35 “Elenfant”).
And as the vehicular language of East Africa, Swahili is spoken both by Africans and by Indians – thus navigating the merger made by the old man so many years before.
Lio in Swahili means ‘to cry out in pain’. “Liofant” occurs as part of a list of animals from the east – tiger, lion, etc. – and has been recognized as “elephant” in the literature. So that ‘lio` lets us hear the results of the beating.
Swahili lio is not in Wolff’s or Dalton’s lists. Neither is it in Joyce’s ‘Kisuaheli` notes. So we appear to have found a new Swahili item, albeit a buried or “deep talk” one (in the West Indian sense, also see see “signifying” 3 lines later 599.09 ??).
The f in “liofant” creates a tie with 244.35 “Elenfant”. There really is an infant – child or elephant – in this belly.
This reading of “lio” is confirmed by its further use.
It appears again in:
How he went to his swiltersland after his lungs, my sad late brother, before his coglionial expancian? (488.31)
If you “swelter” in East Africa, rather than curing your lungs in Switzerland, you may, appropriately enough, suffer the ‘pains’ (“lio”) of England’s ‘colonial expansion’.
The “expancian” suggests also the pain of a colonic of some kind.
The validity of such an extension of the reading became perfectly clear from an observation by Louis Berrone
– that Romans are always talking about pains in their coglioni (“testicles”). Joyce knew this, as appears in a letter to Stanislaus in 1907 where he says that in going to Rome he had made a “coglioneria” (a ‘ball-up’) (Feb.16,1907;SL150).
Reference to “coglionial expancian” is accompanied by other references to the nature of the colonial experience.
“My . . .late brother” is replaced on the opposite page by a
“halfbrother”: “but I loved that man who has africot lupps with the moonshane in his profile, my shemblabble! My freer! I call you my halfbrother because. . .” (489.26).
Actually the ‘late brother` is introduced by black allusions: ‘my allaboy brother, Negoist Cabler`(488.21), one of a series of allusions to the lecture tour of Mark Twain and George Washington Cable, author of Old
Creole Days (also 25.35 “If you was hogglebully itself… taken waters still what all where was your like to lay the cable”); followed shortly by “High Brazil Brandan’s Deferred, midden Erse clare language”(488.25).
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