The Books: “Ulysses” – the Circe episode (James Joyce)

Daily Book Excerpt: Adult fiction:

ulysses67.bmpUlysses- by James Joyce.

So here’s where we are at so far:

1. (TELEMACHIA)
Episode 1: The Telemachus Episode
Episode 2: The Nestor Episode
Episode 3: The Proteus episode

2. (THE ODYSSEY)
Episode 4: The Calypso Episode
Episode 5: The Lotus Eaters Episode
Episode 6: The Hades Episode
Episode 7: The Aeolus Episode
Episode 8: The Lestrygonians Episode
Episode 9: The Scylla and Charybdis Episode
Episode 10: The Wandering Rocks Episode
Episode 11: The Sirens Episode
Episode 12: The Cyclops Episode
Episode 13: The Nausicaa Episode
Episode 14: The Oxen of the Sun Episode

Circe casts a spell over Odyseeus’ crew and turns them all into pigs (Odysseus is not there – the crew have been invited to her home for dinner, and she poisons their meal and then waves her magic wand: Oink Oink). Circe’s dad is Helios, the son god (which is obviously connected to the Oxen of the Sun episode) … she lives on the island of Aeaea. Her home is surrounded by lions and other fierce animals, and she has the ability to turn her enemies into something else. She’s also an expert on herbs, drugs of every kind (which could possibly explain the acid-trip energy of the Circe chapter!) One of the men had escaped, because he suspected all was not right in the state of Denmark – and ran off to tell Odysseus what had happened. Hermes gives Odysseus some advice before he tries to charge the castle to rescue his men: he gave him an herb to help him resist the potion Circe had given all the other men. He also told him to draw his sword as though he wanted to fight Circe. Circe would then want to sleep with him – because she was just that kinda gal. Hermes told Odysseus to always be wary of her, even if they did become lovers (which they did) – and to always be on his guard – because she could take his manhood away, she was that potentially awful. But Circe ends up, after a year of them living together as lovers, helping him on his journey home.

You can KIND of see the connection with the Circe episode – there’s one point (if I recall correctly) that Bloom is tranformed into a pig, and I am sure there are many others. The episode begins after the men’s time at the maternity hospital – and they all head over to “Nighttown”, the red-light district. They go to Bella’s brothel, on Tyrone Street, en masse. Dedalus, at this point, is not strictly aware of the fact that Bloom is now following him, to keep an eye on him.

But before I go further, I have to just mention the style of this particular episode, because it can’t be denied – and it’s hard to talk about the writing without acknowledging the extraordinary crazy style it’s written in. It’s written like a play. We get stage directions in italics (sometimes the stage directions go on for over a page) – and we get dialogue. Nothing internal. Because the form is in a play, a performance of some kind – all kinds of supposedly unreal things can (and do) happen. Kisses take the form of birds. Clocks actually talk and have lines. People from the past appear as literal apparitions. Paddy Dignam (dead, as we know) has a role. The climax of the episode is when Stephen’s dead mother appears to him in the ceiling – and he goes batshit crazy, swinging his walking stick at the chandelier, trying to banish the image. It is not clear what is real, what is unreal. It’s all one. It’s like a drug trip. If you do hallucinogenic drugs, it’s not LIKE the walls are breathing in and out. The walls are ACTUALLY breathing in and out. That’s the world we are in here. Bloom is on a mission to save Stephen. He can sense Stephen’s pain – and he also knows Stephen is wasted, so therefore he is vulnerable to the treachery of the whores, who could steal his money, etc. Bloom tries to make it clear that he is not there for himself. But it ends up not mattering. Bella (or Bello – as she is also called) is the mistress of the house, the main whore. It’s her joint. So she emerges … and hones in on Bloom (when you read the book, look for all the references to pigs and hogs. They’re everywhere). She begins to break Bloom down – psychologically, bringing forth all of his sexual fantasies. They become real. It is all about debasement, Bloom groveling on the floor before the female, licking her boots, etc. It’s shocking, all of it. Bloom has been so (pun intended) buttoned up for the whole book – except for his confrontation with the Citizen … so to see him completely undone and transformed into a sniveling masochistic slave-boy – is totally disorienting, and it’s meant to be so.

The connection with the Circe episode in The Odyssey seems clear – although perhaps once removed. There is a fear that un-leashed sexuality will turn us into animals. Literally. Not metaphorically. And so the human race has a great investment in limiting the expression of sex, so that it never goes as far as that. Keep it domesticated, keep it in marriage, keep it safe. We are NOT animals. We are above them. Joyce, in the Circe episode, shows the foolishness of such thinking, however understandable. Sex is, by definition, animalistic. And fantasies shows us who we are. Dreams show us who we are. Joyce needed to show Bloom’s inner life – in a way that Bloom could never do himself. So he placed Bloom in this phantasmagorical brothel, where he’s under a spell, where inanimate objects have voices, where nymphs sing in a chorus, etc. – so that we can see his inner life, his deepest desires. Masochistic, he yearns for a sadist. He has a vague sense of guilt about everything (perhaps dating back to the death of his son) – and so sexually, he wants to grovel, and beg and plead for forgiveness. Bella, like all good whores, knows how to bring it out of him. She sees it, senses it, and goes for it. There is a catharsis in being debased – and again, if you don’t have that sexual proclivity you might find this utterly baffling. And maybe even threatening or gross. Perhaps in Bloom’s conscious mind, he is grossed out by himself, that he wants these things, that debasement brings sexual satisfaction. That is certainly not a socially acceptable position to take, and the powers-that-be who want to domesticate sex – will never ever go for such a thing. So the Circe episode (which, I think, might be the longest in the entire book) – brings that which is socially feared – out into the open. It’s almost scary, because nothing here is really real. For example, at one point – one of the whores refers to Mr. Bloom as “ma’amsir”. A blend of the two sexes. I don’t even have to tell you the response many have to such “blending”. (I’m sure Alex could fill you in! Ironically, and perfectly – Alex played Bella in a production of Ulysses in Chicago – and our very first conversation – outside of our blogs, I mean – was a phone converstaion where she grilled me about Ulysses, in preparation for playing her role. It’s one of my sadnesses that I did not get to see that production!! I’m sure she was brilliant!) But Joyce, in his imagination, and his heart – feels that we are all a bit of both sexes. The fear of merging is intense with some people … they assert “this is what woman is”, “this is what man is” … and sadly (for them, I mean – since they;’re the ones who seem tormented by the thought that people are having sex in ways which they do not approve) many of us do not live by those rules.

And so we think we know Bloom. But then we realize: Wow. We don’t know him at all. (This is a great point to make, though. The judgmental attitude towards other people’s sex lives and what form it takes- needs to always be confronted, and at least questioned. Because we all do it – judge, I mean. Much of it comes from fear. Some of it comes from blatant incomprehension, like: ‘Wow. You’re into that?? That doesn’t appeal to me at ALL.’ And that’s cool – as long as you have the humility to realize that your way is not the only way … But at some point, on our journey thru life – as we grow older, and gain experience – we realize that you just never know what goes on behind closed doors …you realize that those two 50 year old prim and proper American Gothic-looking people may have the hottest most subversive sex behind closed doors … and you just never know. So lose the superior attitude. Lose the judgment. Lose all of it.)

We know Bloom’s thoughts, his dietary likes and dislikes, the way he kisses, the way he walks, we know his speech patterns now, we know he’s a bit clumsy … we know he has hidden depths of strength and anger … but we don’t know everything. We realize in this chapter how important fantasy is … and how human beings are made of their fantasies, wishes, desires, unfulfilled longings, haunting memories … all of those ephemeral things that can take on a reality even more solid than that which is actually real. The last moment of the Circe episode is horrifying, since we have already been prepared for it. Bloom, after his catharsis of sexual debasement with Bella, gets a vision of his dead son Rudy. Is that a dagger I see before me. It is a hallucination, but it is, at the same time, completely real.

It’s devastating. It echoes Stephen’s devastation at seeing his mother’s face in the ceiling of the brothel. That which remains unresolved in our psyches, will come back to haunt us, in greater and more hallucinatory forms. Man, I’ve experienced that in my own life, with various things. Things I have not dealt with, or healed (however uncompletely) will morph into … almost a movie-monster in my head, something to be battled, or just flat out feared. Run!! Run!!

The Circe episode – which is a romp and a half, I tell you … ends with a fight out on the sidewalk. Bloom has rescued Stephen from the clutches of the whores, and has also rescued him from the damage he did to the chandelier. Bloom has also exorcised a couple of demons – which is not a pleasant experience, all in all … but groveling around in front of Bella for nigh on 15 pages. You feel like you need to take a break after the Circe episode, with its acid-trip images, its fantastical settings, its insistence that nothing is real. You yearn for something solid, something known and set in stone … it’s disorienting. Sex, I suppose, is also disorienting. Or has the potential to be so. Especially if, like Bloom, the main fantasies are never expressed. I’m not just talking about sexual fantasies – although Joyce was big on that … but the grief over his son’s death, the horror of guilt he feels … all of that has been pushed so far down that when it emerges, here, it takes on dreadful proportions.

Circe is also a very funny chapter, even with its dark underbelly. The language reminds me a bit of Jean Genet’s plays – with their violent imagery, the precise articulation of horrors and desire, the feeling of explosiveness running thru everything … and also just a general subversive milieu. People in Genet’s plays are the so-called freaks of the world: the sadists, the masochists, the sex slaves, the dominatrix-es, the whipping boys, the drug addicts and street urchins. There is a level of society where fantasies are meant to be acted out. There are a bazillion websites devoted to such things. But then when you read, oh, Glamour magazine, or some un-subversive magazine – the emotionally tortured questions like, “My husband wants me to dress up as a French maid … Is that okay? Or is it weird that he would want that? What’s the matter with me as myself?” Now, I am NOT making fun of people who find fantasies threatening or scary. They ARE threatening and scary. Because they require of us a dissolution of our everyday and well-known public personality. And that is, in general, terrifying. A common question in women’s magazines is: “I have a fantasy of being raped. I’m really disturbed by that … does it mean I want to be raped?” There is a discomfort with blending the fantasy world with the real world. And rightly so – because those who cannot disconnect the fantasy from the real are called mentally ill. HOWEVER. “Acting out” fantasies can be quite cathartic and awesome. And yes, scary, at the same time. So – there are those who want to delve into that stuff, and act stuff out, and dress up, and whatever … this kind of lifestyle will probably never be socially acceptable to what is known as the “vanilla” crowd (and that’s okay by me. What’s the fun of being subversive if the mainstream gives its stamp of approval?) … So Bloom, who is full of sexual anxiety about his wife – can he satisfy her, can he live up to Blazes Boylan … wants to give up all of that power, wants to surrender completely to the female … that is his how his sexuality truly expresses itself (but it can only come out under the influence of the whorehouse. What Bloom goes through in the Circe episode is probably 100% new to him. Which is why it’s so disorienting and potentially terrifying.)

Joyce was not at all a libertine. He was a one-woman man, and stayed with the same woman for, what, 40 years or something like that. He was quite conservative in many ways, and was a family man. Granted, an insane-genius family man perpetually in mounds of debt … but you know, there are stories of all the ex-pats in Paris, whooping it up at some table – drinking, going nuts, having affairs, etc. … and over in the corner sat the Joyce family – mom, dad, 2 little kids – having dinner (that they couldn’t afford), and drinking white wine. In a funny way, Joyce – who was the biggest rebel of them all, to the point that he couldn’t even live in Ireland – was more conventional than all the other writers living in Europe at that time. BUT. And this is important. Because we know of James’ and Nora’s “dirty letters” (as they are referred to) – we know the vibrancy and activity of their sex life – as well as Joyce’s fantasies, and what was desirable to him, etc. I’m not saying this to gross out the TMI set (although, Jesus, anyone who chirps “TMI” at the least provocation is going to have a helluva time with Joyce, who didn’t have a TMI bone in his body) … But anyway, I’m only referring to the “dirty letters” to point out that James and Nora were quite domesticated (in their ex-pat living-on-nothing way) – they were a pair, they traveled together, they had 2 kids, they were messy housekeepers. All relatively normal compared to the experiences of other writers living abroad at that time. James and Nora weren’t rolling around in a garret, having 20 lovers and menage a trois experiences every other weekend. But behind closed doors? James and Nora were filthy!! They were open, sexy, dirty, sharing fantasies, Nora sent him her underwear thru the mail – you know, your basic stuff. But to look at them? You’d never guess. Joyce could never have been a husband to a woman who judged that side of him, the dirty-minded side. And who knows, maybe Nora did find him nuts on some level … and found his fantasies boring or tiresome. But she played along. She did not get snippety, prissy, or judge-y about what he wanted in the sack. I can’t imagine Joyce being able to deal with a neat ladylike little lady, domesticated in her DNA. Nope. Nora was a bit wild. And really, you never can guess about another human being. You would probably be wrong. In the same way we have been wrong about Bloom.

Joyce is the ultimate humanist.

Here’s an excerpt. This is from the beginning of the incredibly long encounter between Bloom and Bella (or Bello – she is known as both). Bella sets out to dominate him, break him down. He transforms from male to female, from human to animal … Under her spell. Bloom – Leopold Bloom – the man we feel we know – is suddenly female, and submissive – like he’s the narrator in Story of O or something. Or he’s Sleeping Beauty in Anne Rice’s erotic trilogy – a slave on display, sexually, in the middle of the market square. It’s wild! Also: there’s the sense that he – Bloom – is on trial (Bello says to him, at one point, referencing Blazes Boylan: “He’s no eunuch.” Ouch!). This is an ongoing theme through the chapter: Bloom’s guilt and shame about all kinds of things – coming to the surface – and being put before the world in a court of law. So human, I have felt that way myself. Oh, and look for the pig references.

Oh and notice the random reference to the “secondbest bed” – a wonderful looping back to the theme of Shakespeare, Hamlet, and fatherlessness – which is, in reality, the TRUE driving force of this scene. Bloom has come to the brothel to save Stephen from being taken advantage of. And Bloom gets caught in Circe’s (Bella’s) spell … and his catharsis is enormous, the debasement and humiliation he has felt all day pouring forth in a sexual fantasy which is really quite gross … but it’s his … and it serves his purpose … And Stephen, drunk, is confronted by the ghost of his mother … and goes so apeshit that he is thrown out of the brothel. Bloom follows. He is a guardian angel. He is the father to the son. He assumes that role – as he becomes fully Man again.

Wild stuff.

Ack, sorry – one last thing: The Circe episode – which is almost 200 pages long – is the last episode in the Odyssey section of the book (see breakdown above). After this, we are in the Nostos (“return”) section – the mirror-image of the Telemachia at the beginning … The Nostos is also 3 episodes long, and involves Bloom’s return home. Finally.

But it isn’t until Bloom has turned himself inside out in the hallucinatory world of the brothel … that he is ready to head home to his wife, to his life, to himself. He must “go there” first, before he can return.


EXCERPT FROM <Ulysses – by James Joyce – the Circe episode

(Bella raises her gown slightly and, steadying her pose, lifts to the edge of a chair a plump buskined hoof and a full pastern, silksocked. Bloom, stifflegged ageing, bends over her hoof and with gentle fingers draws out and in her laces.)

BLOOM

(Murmurs lovingly.) To be a shoefitter in Mansfield’s was my love’s young dream, the darling joys of sweet buttonhooking, to lace up crisscrossed to kneelength the dressy kid footwear satinlined, so incredibly small, of Clyde Road ladies. Even their wax model Raymonde I visited daily to admire her cobweb hose and stick of rhubarb toe, as worn in Paris.

THE HOOF

Smell my hot goathide. Feel my royal weight.

BLOOM

(Crosslacing.) Too tight?

THE HOOF

If you bungle, Handy Andy, I’ll kick your football for you.

BLOOM

Not to lace the wrong eyelet as I did the night of the bazaar dance. Bad luck. Nook in wrong tache of her… person you mentioned. That night she met… Now!

(He knots the lace. Bella places her foot on the floor. Bloom raises his head. Her heavy face, her eyes strike him in mid-brow. His eyes grow dull, darker and pouched, his nose thickens.)

BLOOM

(Mumbles.) Awaiting your further orders, we remain, gentlemen.

BELLO

(With a hard basilisk stare, in a baritone voice.) Hound of dishonour!

BLOOM

(Infatuated.) Empress!

BELLO

(His heavy cheekchops sagging.) Adorer of the adulterous rump!

BLOOM

(Plaintively.) Hugeness!

BELLO

Dungdevourer!

BLOOM

(With sinews semiflexed.) Magnificence.

BELLO

Down! (He taps her on the shoulder with his fan.) Incline feet forward! Slide left foot one pace back. You will fall. You are falling. On the hands down!

BLOOM

(Her eyes upturned in the sign of admiration, closing.) Truffles!

(With a piercing epileptic cry she sinks on all fours, grunting, snuffling, rooting at his feet, then lies, shamming dead with eyes shut tight, trembling eyelids, bowed upon the ground in the attitude of most excellent master.)

BELLO

(With bobbed hair purple gills, fat moustache rings round his shaven mouth, in mountaineer’s puttees, green silverbuttoned coat, sport skirt and alpine hat with moor cock’s feather, his hands stuck deep in his breeches pockets, places his heel on her neck and grinds it in.) Feel my entire weight. Bow, bondslave, before the throne of your despot’s glorious heels, so glistening in their proud erectness.

BLOOM

(Enthralled, bleats.) I promise never to disobey.

BELLO

(Laughs loudly.) Holy smoke! You little know what’s in store for you. I’m the tartar to settle your little lot and break you in! I’ll bet Kentucky cocktails all round I shame it out of you, old son. Cheek me, I dare you. If you do tremble in anticipation of heel discipline to be inflicted in gym costume.

(Bloom creeps under the sofa and peers out through the fringe.)

ZOE

(Widening her slip to screen her.) She’s not here.

BLOOM

(Closing her eyes.) She’s not here.

FLORRY

(Hiding her with her gown.) She didn’t mean it, Mr Bello. She’ll be good, sir.

KITTY

Don’t be too hard on her, Mr Bello. Sure you won’t, ma’amsir.

BELLO

(Coaxingly.) Come, ducky dear. I want a word with you, darling, just to administer correction. Just a little heart to heart talk, sweety. (Bloom puts out her timid head.) There’s a good girly now. (Bello grabs her hair violently and drags her forward.) I only want to correct you for your own good on a soft safe spot. How’s that tender behind? O, ever so gently, pet. Begin to get ready.

BLOOM

(Fainting.) Don’t tear my.

BELLO

(Savagely.) The nosering, the pliers, the bastinado, the hanging hook, the knout I’ll make you kiss while the flutes play like the Nubian slave of old. You’re in for it this time. I’ll make you remember me for the balance of your natural life. (His forehead veins swollen, his face congested.) I shall sit on your ottoman saddleback every morning after my thumping good breakfast of Matterson’s fat ham rashers and a bottle of Guinness’s porter. (He belches.) And suck my thumping good Stock Exchange cigar while I read the Licensed Victualler’s Gazette. Very possibly I shall have you slaughtered and skewered in my stables and enjoy a slice Of you with crisp crackling from the baking tin basted and baked like sucking pig with rice and lemon or currant sauce. It will hurt you.

(He twists her arm. Bloom squeaks, turning turtle.)

BLOOM

Don’t be cruel, nurse! Don’t!

BELLO

(Twisting.) Another!

BLOOM

(Screams.) O, it’s hell itself! Every nerve in my body aches like mad!

BELLO

(Shouts.) Good, by the rumping jumping general! That’s the best bit of news I heard these six weeks. Here, don’t keep me waiting, damn you. (He slaps her face.)

BLOOM

(Whimpers.) You’re after hitting me. I’ll tell…

BELLO

Hold him down, girls, till I squat on him.

ZOE

Yes. Walk on him! I will.

FLORRY

I will. Don’t be greedy.

KITTY

No, me. Lend him to me.

(The brothel cook, Mrs Keogh, wrinkled, greybearded, in a greasy bib, men’s grey and green socks and brogues, flour-smeared, a rollingpin stuck with raw pastry in her bare red arm and hand, appears at the door.)

MRS KEOGH

(Ferociously.) Can I help? (They hold and pinion Bloom.)

BELLO

(Squats, with a grunt, on Bloom’s upturned face, puffing cigar-smoke, nursing a fat leg.) I see Keating Clay is elected chairman of the Richmond Asylum and bytheby Guinness’s preference shares are at sixteen three quarters. Curse me for a fool that I didn’t buy that lot Craig and Gardner told me about. Just my infernal luck, curse it. And that Goddamned outsider Throwaway at twenty to one. (He quenches his cigar angrily on Bloom’s ear.) Where’s that Goddamned cursed ashtray?

BLOOM

(Goaded, buttocksmothered.) O! O! Monsters! Cruel one!

BELLO

Ask for that every ten minutes. Beg, pray for it as you never prayed before. (He thrusts out a figged fist and foul cigar.) Here, kiss that. Both. Kiss. (He throws a leg astride and, pressing with horseman’s knees, calls in a hard voice.) Gee up! A cockhorse to Banbury cross. I’ll ride him for the Eclipse stakes. (He bends sideways and squeezes his mount’s testicles roughly, shouting.) Ho! off we pop! I’ll nurse you in proper fashion. (He horserides cockhorse, leaping in the saddle.) The lady goes a pace a pace and the coachman goes a trot a trot and the gentleman goes a gallop a gallop a gallop a gallop.

FLORRY

(Pulls at Bello.) Let me on him now. You had enough. I asked before you.

ZOE

(Pulling at Florry.) Me. Me. Are you not finished with him yet, suckeress?

BLOOM

(Stifling.) Can’t.

BELLO

Well, I’m not. Wait. (He holds in his breath.) Curse it. Here. This bung’s about burst. (He uncorks himself behind: then, contorting his features, farts loudly.) Take that! (He recorks himself) Yes, by Jingo, sixteen three quarters.

BLOOM

(A sweat breaking out over him.) Not man. (He sniffs.) Woman.

BELLO

(Stands up.) No more blow hot and cold. What you longed for has come to pass. Henceforth you are unmanned and mine in earnest, a thing under the yoke. Now for your punishment frock. You will shed your male garments, you understand, Ruby Cohen? and don the shot silk luxuriously rustling over head and shoulders and quickly too.

BLOOM

(Shrinks.) Silk, mistress said! O crinkly! scrapy! Must I tip-touch it with my nails?

BELLO

(Points to his whores.) As they are now, so will you be, wigged, singed, perfumesprayed, ricepowdered, with smoothshaven armpits. Tape measurements will be taken next your skin. You will be laced with cruel force into vicelike corsets of soft dove coutille, with whalebone busk, to the diamond trimmed pelvis, the absolute outside edge, while your figure, plumper than when at large, will be restrained in nettight frocks, pretty two ounce petticoats and fringes and things stamped, of course, with my houseflag, creations of lovely lingerie for Alice and nice scent for Alice. Alice will feel the pullpull. Martha and Mary will be a little chilly at first in such delicate thighcasing but the frilly flimsiness of lace round your bare knees will remind you…

BLOOM

(A chafing soubrette with dauby cheeks, mustard hair and lace male hands and nose, leering mouth.) I tried her things on only once, a small prank, in Holles street. When we were hardup I washed them to save the laundry bill. My own shirts I turned. It was the purest thrift.

BELLO

(Jeers.) Little jobs that make mother pleased, eh! and showed off coquettishly in your domino at the mirror behind close-drawn blinds your unskirted thighs and hegoat’s udders, in various poses of surrender, eh? Ho! Ho! I have to laugh! That secondhand black operatop shift and short trunk leg naughties all split up the stitches at her last rape that Mrs Miriam Dandrade sold you from the Shelbourne Hotel, eh?

BLOOM

Miriam, Black. Demimondaine.

BELLO

(Guffaws.) Christ Almighty, it’s too tickling, this! You were a nicelooking Miriam when you clipped off your backgate hairs and lay swooning in the thing across the bed as Mrs Dandrade, about to be violated by Lieutenant Smythe Smythe, Mr Philip Augustus Blockwell, M.P., Signor Laci Daremo, the robust tenor, blueeyed Bert, the liftboy, Henry Fleury of Gordon Bennett fame, Sheridan, the quadroon Cr&Aelig;sus, the varsity wetbob eight from old Trinity, Ponto, her splendid Newfoundland and Bobs, dowager duchess of Manorhamilton. (He guffaws again.) Christ, wouldn’t it make a Siamese cat laugh?

BLOOM

(Her hands and features working.) It was Gerald converted me to be a true corsetlover when I was female impersonator in the High School play Vice Versa. It was dear Gerald. He got that kink, fascinated by sister’s stays. Now dearest Gerald uses pinky greasepaint and gilds his eyelids. Cult of the beautiful.

BELLO

(With wicked glee.) Beautiful! Give us a breather! When you took your seat with womanish care, lifting your billowy flounces, on the smoothworn throne.

BLOOM

Science. To compare the various joys we each enjoy. (Earnestly.) And really it’s better the position… because often I used to wet.

BELLO

(Sternly.) No insubordination. The sawdust is there in the corner for you. I gave you strict instructions, didn’t I? Do it standing, sir! I’ll teach you to behave like a jinkleman! If I catch a trace on your swaddles. Aha! By the ass of the Dorans you’ll find I’m a martinet. The sins of your past are rising against you. Many. Hundreds.

THE SINS OF THE PAST

(In a medley of voices.) He went through a form of clandestine marriage with at least one woman in the shadow of the Black Church. Unspeakable messages he telephoned mentally to Miss Dunn at an address in d’Olier Street while he presented himself indecently to the instrument in the callbox. By word and deed he encouraged a nocturnal strumpet to deposit fecal and other matter in an unsanitary outhouse attached to empty premises. In five public conveniences he wrote pencilled messages offering his nuptial partner to all strongmembered males. And by the offensively smelling vitriol works did he not pass night after night by loving courting couples to see if and what and how much he could see? Did he not lie in bed, the gross boar, gloating over a nauseous fragment of wellused toilet paper presented to him by a nasty harlot, stimulated by gingerbread and a postal order?

BELLO

(Whistles loudly.) Say! What was the most revolting piece of obscenity in all your career of crime? Go the whole hog. Puke it out. Be candid for once.

(Mute inhuman faces throng forward, leering, vanishing, gibbering, Eooloohoom. Poldy Hock, Bootlaces a penny, cassidy’s hag, blind stripling, Larry Rhinoceros, the girl, the woman, the whore, the other the… )

BLOOM

Don’t ask me. Our mutual faith. Pleasants street. I only thought the half of the… I swear on my sacred oath…

BELLO

(Peremptorily.) Answer. Repugnant wretch! I insist on knowing. Tell me something to amuse me, smut or a bloody good-ghoststory or a line of poetry, quick, quick, quick! Where? How? What time? With how many? I give you just three seconds. One! Two! Thr… !

BLOOM

(Docile, gurgles.) I rererepugnosed in rerererepugnant…

BELLO

(Imperiously.) O get out, you skunk! Hold your tongue! Speak when you’re spoken to.

BLOOM

(Bows.) Master! Mistress! Mantamer!

(He lifts his arms. His bangle bracelets fall.)

BELLO

(Satirically.) By day you will souse and bat our smelling underclothes, also when we ladies are unwell, and swab out our latrines with dress pinned up and a dishclout tied to your tail. Won’t that be nice? (He places a ruby ring on her finger.) And there now! With this ring I thee own. Say, thank you, mistress.

BLOOM

Thank you, mistress.

BELLO

You will make the beds, get my tub ready, empty the pisspots in the different rooms, including old Mrs Keogh’s the cook’s, a sandy one. Ay, and rinse the seven of them well, mind, or lap it up like champagne. Drink me piping hot. Hop! you will dance attendance or I’ll lecture you on your misdeeds, Miss Ruby, and spank your bare bot right well, miss, with the hairbrush. You’ll be taught the error of your ways. At night your wellcreamed braceleted hands will wear fortythreebutton gloves newpowdered with talc and having delicately scented fingertips. For such favours knights of old laid down their lives. (He chuckles.) My boys will be no end charmed to see you so ladylike, the colonel, above all. When they come here the night before the wedding to fondle my new attraction in gilded heels. First, I’ll have a go at you myself. A man I know on the turf named Charles Alberta Marsh (I was in bed with him just now and another gentleman out of the Hanaper and Petty Bag office) is on the lookout for a maid of all work at a short knock. Swell the bust. Smile. Droop shoulders. What offers? (He points.) For that lot trained by owner to fetch and carry, basket in mouth. (He bares his arm and plunges it elbowdeep in Bloom’s vulva.) There’s fine depth for you! What, boys? That give you a hardon? (He shoves his arm in a bidder’s face.) Here, wet the deck and wipe it round!

A BIDDER

A florin!

(Dillon’s lacquey rings his handbell.)

A VOICE

One and eightpence too much.

THE LACQUEY

Barang!

CHARLES ALBERTA MARSH

Must be virgin. Good breath. Clean.

BELLO

(Gives a rap with his gavel.) Two bar. Rockbottom figure and cheap at the price. Fourteen hands high. Touch and examine his points. Handle him. This downy skin, these soft muscles, this tender flesh. If I had only my gold piercer here! And quite easy to milk. Three newlaid gallons a day. A pure stock getter, due to lay within the hour. His sire’s milk record was a thousand gallons of whole milk in forty weeks. Whoa, my jewel! Beg up! Whoa! (He brands his initial Con Bloom’s croup.) So! Warranted Cohen! What advance on two bob, gentlemen?

A DARKVISAGED MAN

(In disguised accent.) Hoondert punt sterlink.

VOICES

(Subdued.) For the Caliph Haroun Al Raschid.

BELLO

(Gaily.) Right. Let them all come. The scanty, daringly short skirt, riding up at the knee to show a peep of white pantalette, is a potent weapon and transparent stockings, emeraldgartered, with the long straight seam trailing up beyond the knee, appeal to the better instincts of the blasé man about town. Learn the smooth mincing walk on four inch Louis XV heels, the Grecian bend with provoking croup, the thighs fluescent, knees modestly kissing. Bring all your power of fascination to bear on them. Pander to their Gomorrahan vices.

BLOOM

(Bends his blushing face into his armpit and simpers with forefinger in mouth.) O, I know what you’re hinting at now.

BELLO

What else are you good for, an impotent thing like you? (He stoops and, peering, pokes with his fan rudely under the fat suetfolds of Bloom’s haunches.) Up! Up! Manx cat! What have we here? Where’s your curly teapot gone to or who docked it on you, cockyolly? Sing, birdy, sing. It’s as limp as a boy of six’s doing his pooly behind a cart. Buy a bucket or sell your pump. (Loudly.) Can you do a man’s job?

BLOOM

Eccles Street.

BELLO

(Sarcastically.) I wouldn’t hurt your feelings for the world but there’s a man of brawn in possession there. The tables are turned, my gay young fellow! He is something like a fullgrown outdoor man. Well for you, you muff, if you had that weapon with knobs and lumps and warts all over it. He shot his bolt, I can tell you! Foot to foot, knee to knee, belly to belly, bubs to breast! He’s no eunuch. A shock of red hair he has sticking out of him behind like a furzebush! Wait for nine months, my lad! Holy ginger, it’s kicking and coughing up and down in her guts already! That makes you wild, don’t it? Touches the spot? (He spits in contempt.) Spittoon!

BLOOM

I was indecently treated, I… inform the police. Hundred pounds. Unmentionable. I.

BELLO

Would if you could, lame duck. A downpour we want, not your drizzle.

BLOOM

To drive me mad! Moll! I forgot! Forgive! Moll!… We… Still…

BELLO

(Ruthlessly.) No, Leopold Bloom, all is changed by woman’s will since you slept horizontal in Sleepy Hollow your night of twenty years. Return and see.

(Old Sleepy Hollow calls over the wold.)

SLEEPY HOLLOW

Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van Winkle!

BLOOM

(In tattered moccasins with a rusty fowlingpiece, tip toeing, fingertipping, his haggard bony bearded face peering through the diamond panes, cries out.) I see her! It’s she! The first night at Mat Dillon’s! But that dress, the green! And her hair is dyed gold and he.

BELLO

(Laughs mockingly.) That’s your daughter, you owl, with a Mullingar student.

(Milly Bloom, fairhaired, greenvested, slimsandalled, her bluescab in the seawind simply swirling, breaks from the arms of her lover and calls, her young eyes wonderwide.)

MILLY

My! It’s Papli! But. O Papli, how old you’ve grown!

BELLO

Changed, eh? Our whatnot, our writing table where we never wrote, Aunt Hegarty’s armchair, our classic reprints of old masters. A man and his men friends are living there in clover. The Cuckoos’ Rest! Why not? How many women had you, say? Following them up dark streets, flatfoot, exciting them by your smothered grunts. What, you male prostitute? Blameless dames with parcels of groceries. Turn about. Sauce for the goose, my gander, O.

BLOOM

They… I…

BELLO

(Cuttingly.) Their heelmarks will stamp the Brusselette carpet you bought at Wren’s auction. In their horseplay with Moll the romp to find the buck flea in her breeches they will deface the little statue you carried home in the rain for art for art’s sake. They will violate the secrets of your bottom drawer. Pages will be torn from your handbook of astronomy to make them pipespills. And they will spit in your ten shilling brass fender from Hampton Leedom’s.

BLOOM

Ten and six. The act of low scoundrels. Let me go. I will return. I will prove…

A VOICE

Swear!

(Bloom clenches his fists and crawls forward, a bowie knife between his teeth.)

BELLO

As a paying guest or a kept man? Too late. You have made your secondbest bed and others must lie in it. Your epitaph is written. You are down and out and don’t you forget it, old bean.

BLOOM

Justice! All Ireland versus one! Has nobody… ?

(He bites his thumb.)

BELLO

Die and be damned to you if you have any sense of decency or grace about you. I can give you a rare old wine that’ll send you skipping to hell and back. Sign a will and leave us any coin you have. If you have none see you damn well get it, steal it, rob it! We’ll bury you in our shrubbery jakes where you’ll be dead and dirty with old Cuck Cohen, my stepnephew I married, the bloody old gouty procurator and sodomite with a crick in his neck, and my other ten or eleven husbands, what ever the buggers’ names were, suffocated in the one cess pool. (He explodes in a loud phlegmy laugh.) We’ll manure you, Mr Flower! (He pipes scoffingly.) Byby, Poldy! Byby, Papli!

BLOOM

(Clasps his head.) My will power! Memory! I have sinned! I have suff…

(He weeps tearlessly.)

BELLO

(Sneers.) Crybabby! Crocodile tears!

(Bloom, broken, closely veiled for the sacrifice, sobs, his face to the earth. The passing bell is heard. Darkshawled figures of the circumcised, in sackcloth and ashes, stand by the wailing wall. M. Shulomowitz, Joseph Goldwater Moses Herzog, Harris Rosenberg, M. Moisel, J. Citron, Minnie Watchman, 0. Mastiansky, the Reverend Leopold Abramovitz, Chazen. With swaying arms they wail in pneuma over the recreant Bloom.)

THE CIRCUMCISED

(In a dark guttural chant as they cast dead sea fruit upon him, no flowers.) Shema Israel Adonai Elohenu Adonai Echad.

VOICES

(Sighing.) So he’s gone. Ah, yes. Yes, indeed. Bloom? Never heard of him. No? Queer kind of chap. There’s the widow. That so? Ah, yes.

(From the suttee pyre the flame of gum camphire ascends. The pall of incense smoke screens and disperses. Out of her oak frame a nymph with hair unbound, lightly clad in teabrown art colours, descends from her grotto and passing under interlacing yews, stands over Bloom.)

THE YEWS

(Their leaves whispering.) Sister. Our sister. Ssh.

THE NYMPH

(Softly.) Mortal! (Kindly.) Nay, dost not weepest!

BLOOM

(Crawls jellily forward under the boughs, streaked by sunlight, with dignity.) This position. I felt it was expected of me. Force of habit.

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One Response to The Books: “Ulysses” – the Circe episode (James Joyce)

  1. James T Andrews says:

    Thank you for the blog and posts, I’ve been well helped by them reading the book in the past week. I started on Monday and’ve been reading it through the week in different locations, inbetween work. Second time around is a little familar though still baffling. The jargon full stretches in oxen of the sun were the most furstrating, though i thought the medieval and saxon prose parts very enjoyable – reading them more than the restoration onward styled sections. Had the Gifford annotations http://www.amazon.com/Ulysses-Annotated-Joyces-Revised-Expanded/dp/0520067452 which were useless and i gave up on after Scylla and Charybdis (Interested in any i can copy them out in email). I noticed on another hand how reading the book had my week feel more cohesive than usual; waking everyday to new episodes and remembering back them- Found working at liquor store quite interesting thinking my thoughts; like the interior monologue often. I don’t know what to read after this though. Might do Woolf or Madame ‘ovary. You could suggest something i bet. Much respect for the help in clearing up the experience. Really enjoyed it c.f. other blogs.

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