Saturday, July 2, 2011

Finnegan's Wake 2

The second sentence, or not quite a sentence, the first of three, clauses shall we call them, each separated by a colon. (Grammatical structures are a bit fluid in the Wake.)

Sir Tristram, violer d’amores, fr’over the short sea, had passen-core rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war:

"Sir Tristam" is both Tristam Shandy--the 18th century novel that most resembles Joyce in its scope and it's stylistic and linguistic playfulness--and Tristam (Tristan) of the medieval romance Tristan and Isolde. (Isolde will maker her appearence in a few paragraphs.) The "violer d' amores" is a stringed instrument, the tenor of the violin family, having six or seven stopped strings and an equal number of sympathetic strings, according to the dictionary. More literally it is the viol of love, and seems to stand in apposition to Tristam. "The short sea," the north sea? The British Channel? "Passen-core" recalls "passenger" but also passage, pass--I am sure I am missing some pun on another language. "Core," of course, means that it is central, this passage, re-arriving, having arrived and left and arrived again from "North Armorica."

"Armorica:" armor, amore, America, at least a three part pun. But what does it all mean? It supplies Tristam with his armor and his love, it may also express a complex attitude toward America, the home of so many Irish expatriots.

"Just as the Isthmus of Sutton separates Howth from the rest of Ireland, so the Bosphorus separates Europe and Asia..." (

"wielder fight:" wield, fight, also, perhaps, welter weight as in a boxer. "penisoltate:" penis o late, pen isolate, peninsula.

The gist: Tristam is back to fight his war.