- The Ballad of Persse O'Reilly
The Ballad of Persse O'Reilly is a poem in book one of
James Joyce's novel " Finnegans Wake" (pages 44.24 to 47.32), where the protagonist H.C.E. has been brought low by a rumor which begins to spread across Dublin, apparently concerning a sexual trespass involving two girls in Phoenix Park; however details of HCE's transgression change with each retelling of events. Most of chapters 1.2 through 1.4 follow the progress of this rumor, starting with HCE's encounter with "a cad with a pipe." The cad asks the time, but HCE misunderstands it as either an accusation or a proposition, and incriminates himself by denying rumors the cad has not yet heard. [Joyce expresses HCE's confusion by spelling the cad's Gaelic phonetically, making it look like a suggestive English phrase. ]
These rumors spread across Dublin, increasing as they go, until they finally become a song - penned by the shady character Hosty - called "The Ballad of Persse O'Reilly", described as a "scurrilous rann against H. C. Earwicker, which recounts the All-Father's fall from grace." cite web | url= http://www.james-joyce-music.com/finnegans_wake.html | title= Music in Finnegans Wake | publisher= james-joyce-music.com]
Eventually, HCE becomes so paranoid he goes into hiding, where he is besieged and reviled by a visiting American at the closed gate of HCE's pub, who is looking for drink
Text and style
The poem is written in the language of "Finnegans Wake", which can be considered a 'Babylonish Dialect' in terms used by Dr Johnson in describing Milton's language in "
Paradise Lost". The title is in the guise of an Irish name but "perce d'oreille" is French for " earwig", the earwig being a theme in the text.
The earwig reference does invite another pun which is that of insect/incest, which links to other themes in "Finnegans Wake". [http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=LoKjFMAhNI0C A. Nicholas Fargnoli, "James Joyce A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Writings"]
'Mr Eliot has pointed out the parallel between the blind and musically gifted Milton and the blind and musically gifted Joyce. Joyce's blindness or near-blindness forced him away from the visual to the musical and emotional associations of words, and his linguistic erudition supplied another element for the construction of the language of Finnegan's Wake.' [ [http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/389.html [minstrels The Ballad of Persse O'Reilly - James Joyce ] ]
Have you heard of one
How he fell with a roll and a rumble
And curled up like Lord Olofa Crumple
[Olofa Crumble refers to two of the most infamous invaders of Ireland; the viking Olaf and the English Oliver Cromwell, their names having the same root. The theme of invasion is continued in the poem with reference to the black and tans and others.] By the butt of the Magazine Wall,
(Chorus) Of the Magazine Wall,
Hump, helmet and all?
He was one time our King of the Castle
Now he's kicked about like a rotten old parsnip.
And from Green street he'll be sent by order of His Worship
To the penal jail of Mountjoy
(Chorus) To the jail of Mountjoy!
Jail him and joy.
He was fafafather [This is the first reference to HCE's vocal stammer] of all schemes for to bother us
Slow coaches and immaculate contraceptives for the populace,
Mare's milk for the sick, seven dry Sundays a week,
Openair love and religion's reform,
(Chorus) And religious reform,
Hideous in form.
Arrah, why, says you, couldn't he manage it?
I'll go bail, my fine dairyman darling,
Like the bumping bull of the Cassidys
All your butter is in your horns.
(Chorus) His butter is in his horns.
Butter his horns!
(Repeat) Hurrah there, Hosty, frosty Hosty, change that shirt on ye,
Rhyme the rann, the king of all ranns! [The Rann (wren), the king of all birds is a lyric in a song tradtionally sung on
Saint Stephen's Dayin rural Ireland as part of a ceremony in which a wren is hunted and killed. The wren is considered a scapegoat, which connects to the theme of HCE as a scapegoat in Finnegans Wake.]
We had chaw chaw chops, chairs, chewing gum, the chicken-pox and china chambers
Universally provided by this soffsoaping salesman.
Small wonder He'll Cheat E'erawan [Everyone] our local lads nicknamed him.
When Chimpden first took the floor
(Chorus) With his bucketshop store
Down Bargainweg, Lower.
So snug he was in his hotel premises sumptuous
But soon we'll bonfire all his trash, tricks and trumpery
And 'tis short till sheriff Clancy'll be winding up his unlimited company
With the bailiff's bom at the door,
(Chorus) Bimbam at the door.
Then he'll bum no more.
Sweet bad luck on the waves washed to our island
The hooker of that hammerfast viking
And Gall's curse on the day when Eblana bay
Saw his black and tan man-o'-war.
(Chorus) Saw his man-o'-war
On the harbour bar.
Where from? roars
Poolbeg. Cookingha'pence, he bawls
Donnez-moi scampitle, wick an wipin'fampiny
Fingal Mac Oscar Onesine Bargearse Boniface
Thok's min gammelhole Norveegickers moniker
Og as ay are at gammelhore Norveegickers cod.
(Chorus) A Norwegian camel old cod.
He is, begod.
Lift it, Hosty, lift it, ye devil, ye! up with the rann, the rhyming rann!
It was during some fresh water garden pumping
Or, according to the Nursing Mirror, while admiring the monkeys [The incident took place in Phoenix Park, where one can also find Dublin Zoo and hence a reference to monkeys.]
That our heavyweight heathen Humpharey
Made bold a maid to woo
(Chorus) Woohoo, what'll she doo!
The general lost her maidenloo! [Maidenhead is an archaic term for virginity in reference to the hymen.]
He ought to blush for himself, the old hayheaded philosopher,
For to go and shove himself that way on top of her.
Begob, he's the crux of the catalogue
Of our antediluvial zoo,
(Chorus) Messrs Billing and Coo.
Noah's larks, good as noo.
He was joulting by Wellinton's monument
Our rotorious hippopopotamuns [This is the second allusion to HCEs stammer in the poem]
When some bugger let down the backtrap of the omnibus
And he caught his death of fusiliers,
(Chorus) With his rent in his rears.
Give him six years.
'Tis sore pity for his innocent poor children
But look out for his missus legitimate!
When that frew gets a grip of old Earwicker
Won't there be earwigs on the green?
(Chorus) Big earwigs on the green,
The largest ever you seen.
Suffoclose! Shikespower! Seudodanto! Anonymoses!
Then we'll have a free trade Gael's band and mass meeting
For to sod him the brave son of Scandiknavery [A portmanteu of "Scandinavia" and "knavery".] .
And we'll bury him down in Oxmanstown
Along with the devil and the Danes,
(Chorus) With the deaf and dumb Danes,
And all their remains.
And not all the king's men nor his horses
Will resurrect his corpus
For there's no true spell in Connacht or hell [This refers to Oliver Cromwell's oft quoted damning of the Catholic Irish subclass during his Irish Campaign; 'to hell or to Connacht', Connacht being a province of stoney, inarrable land in mid-western Ireland.]
That's able to raise a Cain.
[James Joyce, Finnegans Wake; Faber & Faber, London; ISBN 0571108075]
References and footnotes
The Dubliners, sung by Ronnie Drew.
* [http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/389.html Lyrics and some notes]
* [http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=CTrT6wh172AC&pg=PA48&lpg=PA48&dq=The+Ballad+of+Persse+O'Reilly+james+joyce&source=web&ots=e2vOvEdNiD&sig=uFfP2i2upg7MgiZJJOqxT-zZlUc&hl=en#PPA48,M1 Original Text in GoogleBooks]
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