A little dark humor from the Master of the Macabre . . .
James Joyce: Finnegans Wake (Jarl van Hoother and the Prankquean)
’Tis St. Patrick’s Day, and time for my third annual assault on Finnegans Wake.
This year, I open the Wake to page 21, and the tale of Jarl van Hoother and the Prankquean.
As with the 2015 and 2016 challenges, bluffing is permitted, encouraged . . . and mandatory.
Don't worry if much of this is incomprehensible. Because if it did make perfect sense, it would mean one of two things:
a.) You’ve had a wee bit too much Guinness and need to slow down, or . . .
b.) You are James Joyce, and have been dead for the past 76 years.
A selection from Dickens' classic . . .
Charles Dickens: Marley’s Ghost, from “A Christmas Carol”
For Halloween: Robert Burns’ classic story of witches and warlocks . . . and a mare’s tail.
Note: While this poem is technically in English, a short summary with a few “translations” may be in order. (A quick Google search should supply further details.)
Here goes . . .
One dark and stormy night, following an evening’s revelry with his pal “Souter (cobbler) Johnie” by the fireside (“ingle”) of the Lord’s House Inn at Ayr, and fortified by the landlady (“Kirkton Jean”) with many draughts of ale (“nappy” or “reaming swats”), our hero Tam, with his faithful mare Maggie, ventures forth on his long road home (“hame”).
As he nears the end of his journey, and approaches the bridge over the River Doon (“brig o’ Doon”), his path takes him by the ruins of the old haunted church (“kirk”) at Alloway, where Tom observes a gathering of warlocks and witches (“carlins”) dancing about in their nightshirts (“sarks”) to the tune of the piper - none other than “Auld Nick” himself, in the shape of a large shaggy dog (“towzie tyke”) at the window seat (“winnock bunker”).
Tam’s attention is riveted by the dancing and capering - and rather short nightshirt (“cutty sark”) - of Nannie, a particularly “winsome wench”. As the festivities reach their peak, Tam can no longer contain his admiration as he roars out his approval: “Weel done, cutty-sark!”
Mayhem ensues. Nannie and the “hellish legion” give chase, while Tam and Maggie make a mad dash for the keystone (“key-stain”) of the bridge, hoping to reach the safety of the other side. (“A running stream they dare na cross.”)
. . . and thereby hangs a tail.
400 years ago today: April 23, 1616, William Shakespeare died . . . for the first time.
He has endured many subsequent “deaths” over the past four centuries (I may have been an accomplice in one or two of them myself), including this classic atrocity depicted by Mark Twain in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, wherein The Duke - an itinerant Actor and Con Man (the two professions are not mutually exclusive) - recites the famous Soliloquy from Hamlet . . . as he remembers it.
Stand back Ladies and Gentlemen, whilst I hammer yet another nail into the coffin . . .
James Joyce: Finnegans Wake (The Ondt and the Gracehoper)
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”