Episode II.2

A short paraphrase and guide to the episode

Prepared by Danis Rose

2010 edition FW pages 205-237
1939 edition FW pages 260-308


II.2, the lessons or studies episode, is particularly difficult to read and, the evidence suggests, was equally hard to write. Joyce drafted and abandoned passages, interpolated one fragment into another, and finally put together no less than nine sections to comprise, somewhat chaotically, the chapter. There is only periodically a sense of narrative continuity and in some sections a bewildering lack of it, even from one sentence to the next. This effect is unlikely to have been entirely intentional. Joyce was simply finding it very, very difficult to write in the period, the mid 1930s, when he drafted it.

The form of the piece is straight (!) prose extended with marginalia and footnotes, as though it were a school textbook that was passed on from student to student and defaced by each one. In July 1939, less than three months after the publication of Finnegans Wake, Joyce wrote to Frank Budgen:

The part of F.W. accepted as easiest [to read] is section p l04 et seq (I.5) and the most difficult of all p 260 et seq (II.2) — yet the technique here is a reproduction of a schoolboy's (and schoolgirl's) old classbook complete with marginalia by the twins, who change sides at half time, footnotes by the girl (who doesn't), a Euclid diagram, funny drawings etc.[192] It was like that in Ur of the Chaldees too, I daresay. (Letters I, end July 1939).

The chapter centres on the exercises of the children before they are sent to bed for the night. They are studying upstairs, the boys ‘bent on their pensums’ while their sister sits on a sofa and sews. Downstairs, HCE serves drink to his twelve customers. Night is fast approaching. We, as readers or seekers, witness the events upstairs in the tavern, an activity that culminates in the joint authorship by the three children of a sinister ‘nightletter’ to their parents.

II.2§1. 205–207.20 (260–263.30): Approach to the Tavern

We follow the homeward route taken by the HCE family party at the end of II.1.[193] Taking our time we happily return, when all is said and done, before the tavern, the seventh wonder of the world: Humphrey's mausoleum.[194]

HCE is defined in various ways: as the chance result of a picnic; as a decomposing body (‘tumulous under his chthonic exterior’); as a plain and ordinary man; and as an extra-fictional superman (‘more mob than man’). At 206.04 (261.23) the watchers strive to fathom the unfathomable mystery of HCE and ALP: ‘Ain soph, this upright one’ and ‘that noughty besighedhim zeroine.’ They describe his pure alchemical nature. He is by day a sun, by night a fungus. He is greater than they can know, so little they know. Is he? Who, whose, why, how much, which, when, where, and how is he? And what is it about him, this decent man, more soul than matter?

To approach the now lighted tavern/mausoleum we watchers must first locate ourselves in space. We are, like the village of Chapelizod, partly in the parish of Palmerstown (Uppercross barony) and partly in the parish of Chapelizod (Castleknock barony). We approach the tavern. We could perhaps knock at the door. There are rings to tether one's horse to and a ‘steppingstone to mount by.’ It is a theatre (there are ‘wingsets’ leaning against the outer walls) as well as a place of entombment (the skins of beasts lie here). It abuts the Magazine Wall (‘Bacchus e'en call’). It is the inn where bibbers (drinkers) crowd into the bar and the publican rakes in the tin. For the seldom-sober customers, the ‘bellyhooting fishdrunks’ that frequent there it is ‘their favourite stamping ground.’

We shift on page 207 (263) to focus directly on the publican, HCE (the ‘same erst crafty hakemouth’), who appears here under the assumed name of ‘Ignotus Loquor.’ He was others with other names in the past, but the past can be forgotten. He has come down to us the self-same man, as pagan and as ugly as ever, and though his features have been altered by plastic surgeons his face is unmistakeable. So here we are and there he is and the world spins on its axis as it did in the beginning and as it always will. The inn with its laths and plaster is there in the same old solar system in the same cosmos in our continually expanding universe under the same one original sun.

II.2§2: 207.21–209.09 (264.01–266.19): Chapelizod

The general surroundings of the tavern are described.[195] Here we sojourn: where Dublin's river winds by fen and broad, by the riverside, on this sunny bank (how bonny the vista!), by hayfields in the vale of spring. Here are orchards and scented laurels, there bushes bedecked with berries bright. Here is a view of ash trees and of glens of thorns. Here is Glenaulin and Ardeevin of pleasing height, a Norman court at the boundary of the village. Yonder is the ivied tower of a church, meet for true believers in worshipful assemblage. Here King's House and Stone House and groves of mulberry. All is laid out for the spectator. Sweet as a flower cometh fresh from lush earth is the fragrance of the Strawberry Beds. In these places the great phoenix lies in its pyre and small wrens nest in their profusion. The housetops of Sabine terrace are visible. Over there is The Cottage and here The Bungalow, domiciles for cobbler and burgher. Yonder is a garden with climbing ivy, a hedge of holly and mistletoe for Isolde, blithe-haired daughter of King Aengus. Behold all this as in a vision or in a dream, on a canvas or in a theatre. We are in a phantom city faked by film folk, in a house of phantoms. Here is the inn kept by our two barren old perishers, Humphrey and his wife Ann. And all this is located only a few miles to the west of the General Post Office.[196] The river with its pools flows by. A bridge spans it, ‘its piers eerie, its span spooky, its toll but a till, its parapets all peripateting.’ That way leads to Dublin town. ‘Which we all pass. Pons. In our snoo. Znore.’

This is Chapelizod, loveliest village of the plain, where the thickets and hedgerows hearten the hedgehogs in their holes and commerce's energy aids the luckless poor.

We are in the tavern we have tracked, above the murk of smoky methylated-spirit lamps in the bar below. We pass a water closet on our way to climb the stairs to the clarity of the musing-room and its three nursery minds.

II.2§3: 209.10–214.11 (266.20–275.02): The Study

Here in the ‘studiorum’ are the Gemini twins, Shem and Shaun, ready to wrangle, vis-à-vis, two baronets-to-be, a Mutt and Jeff (‘meet’ and ‘chaff’) duo, Aetius versus Attilla, two chess players at strife. And here too in the room is she whom we have sought, their sister Issy, the jinny, another Genevieve (‘june of eves’), sitting on a sofa, sewing, ‘Storiella as she is syung’.

All is obscure. The watchers approach the light that beckons them into the studio. They are in quest of mystery. The children are in quest of knowledge. Each must contemplate the word and the flesh, the vowel and the colour.

We focus first on Issy before turning our gaze to the boys. She is described at length, this charmer who would rather wander by banks of rambler roses than waste time doing stuffy old lessons. She would rather skip along under the branches of the elms in her new shoes, her arms locked in those of her sisters, all thinking of ‘it’ (sex). Her subject is grammar, and her girlish thoughts are couched in grammatical terms. The text centring on her is replete with all sorts of technical terms: direct object, case, gender, accent, syntax, subjunctive, dative, ablative, imperative, reflexive, dual, aorist, tense, accusative, predicate, common noun, active, passive, participle, indicative, conditional, clause, quantity, oblique oration, and so on. She is thinking of the advice given to her by her grandmother: she should always accept what is offered to her and she should always be generous, for even the prettiest flower must wilt if left overlong in the dark. She should be as practical as she can and, prudently, speak with the proper sort of an accent so as to meet with a boy of an appropriate class. She realises that love is the mystery of pain, that grammar is really not much use to a girl, and she laments that a man (unlike a girl) can choose from so many, be he a solicitor's apprentice, a clerk, a flyswatter, or a perfect cad, from a languorous limber-limbed lass to a grown-up woman with head, back, and heart aches. She ends her reflections with the self-reminder that, though she can spin on a bike and tease the boys by putting her feet up immodestly on the handlebars, from virtue she must never stray.

At 211.27 (270.29) our attention is drawn back to the two boys. They have been reading in their history books about the past and the Punic wars and about the five bloods of Ireland[197] and about Julius Caesar and druidesses and the triumvirate. Issy fails to see the point in all this studying. The happy thought springs to her mind that so long as life and love last and so long as her image in the mirror stays the likeness of love itself, sombre autumn to her fresh spring, she couldn't give a fig for it!

Our guide, whom we can now make out to be one of the four old men steering the other three up the stairs, proceeds to advise his companions to tread carefully. He has been talking mainly about Issy and what she learned from her grandma but he reminds himself not to forget the other pair, the brothers ‘Hengeggst and Horsesauce’ (Hengist and Horsa). In the haunted bedchamber he addresses these two directly, ordering them to take their heads out of the tub. It is distinctly understood, he says, that since they put their timepiece into the lacus mortis of Lough Neagh there have been the usual developments in the political sphere. Maurice Brooks and Doctor Lyons have shunted Sterling and Sir Arthur Guinness, the bulls and the bears still speculate on the Stock Exchange and peace (hail, peace!) still reigns in our isle where the government is of the people by the people for the people. So we can wrap up all our worries and woes. There is hope yet for the downfallen. Anna Livia, shrewd shoplifter, has skedaddled with her spoils. Speech is still free and trees laugh as they always have at the old wind's jokes and Humphrey, that old windbag, has not stopped blowing about all he didn't do.

The boys study their history books, learning about the emperor Napoleon and his famous horse and about Dathi that was struck by lightning as he crossed the Alps and about Hannibal and the Hegira and how Dagobert went through his preparatory schooling in Slane, where he learned how to wear his breeches inside out from Brian O'Lynn, Ireland's chief ‘culoteer.’

II.2§4: Scribbledehobble

This section, which is not all that difficult to read in the original (see the II.2 prototexts) does not appear in the published Wake. Instead, it was was plundered by Joyce and bits and pieces of it were re-used in II.2§5.

II.2§5: 214.12–216.27 (275.03–279.09): Regicide

We leave the children's room with its cocoon of mysteries to relocate ourselves in time and space. It is the green and virgin land of Ireland, the world of HCE (‘Standfest’), a ‘topiocal sagoa hero’ with a big belly and a crooked back, and ALP, a lady-in-waiting whose bed is made of birch leaves. One is fat in the face and the other is thin, a ‘royal pair’ in a ‘palace of quicken boughs’, The Goat and Compasses, telephone number l769. They have been discussing the things of the past, their love and the family it brought them, and why he lied to her and why ‘hun tried to kill ham’ (cf. note N29 (VI.B.21).060(a)).

It is night-time. Upstairs in the inn, the scribblers are hard at work at their lessons: Shem, who listens to hear his own mistakes, and Shaun, his spitting likeness, a ‘dove without gall’ who lives more in the future than in the blood-ridden past. Last but not least is Issy, whose mind is a jackdaw's nest of disorder and who tears up letters to herself she never wrote. A couple and an odd one, these three strive in earnest to solve the dire dilemma that stumped Alexander and drove him to pulp turnips.

It is getting late. The frogs have finished their vespers. Goatherd and shepherd have left their flocks in the field. Through the dusk the birds of eveningare flying and bats flit, pipistrelle and noctule, in vesperal murk flooding. It is the start of night and it will be a long, long while yet before dawn comes with birdsong.

Evil is afoot. During this night there will be murder. HCE, Finn MacCool, the old king in his seven-coloured suit, will be immolated and killed off. He must be sacrificed and embalmed in honey for the sake of dynastic continuity. The hooded crows will croak as a hearse is driven up in the darkness and rivers will overflow their banks with joy at his funeral. Though he must die, his death may be but a passing before a return, likw Arthur's. In the country round Chapelizod the folk will look out for him for a long time to come. So now's the time for all of us to pay due tribute to ‘this massive mortiality, the pink of punk perfection as photography in mud.’

At 216.10 (278.07) the image changes. A new face appears in our mirror: the face of ‘Fanciulla’ (Issy), a young girl whose heart we must beware of. She has hazel-blue eyes and a line-free face. She may swoon over Percy Bysshe or get a crush on a coal-man but it is divinity that shapes our ends, or so the little grey nuns told her. Yet staying single is all their sex's bugbear, especially when old, which they all too, too soon come to look. Issy is so exquisitely delicate in her mind, so fine-bred, that even the mere recollection of leaves is a thought far too lovely for her to bear (small blame to her then if she shook her shoe off at geography class when doing rivers of Arabia).

The irascible watchers grumble about the rain and the unseasonable cold. They have tired themselves out wandering over the dreamscape of Chapelizod and they call for a halt: ‘a halt for hearsake.’

II.2§6: 216, footnote 10 (279, footnote 1): Issy Says

This odd section comprises Issy's musical letter to herself. It may originally have been intended for inclusion in the main body of the text. In a first draft it consisted of ten sentences numbered for reassembling. Issy says that with all the gelded youths knocking about she was fairly thinking of putting an end to herself. She should not write if she cannot write properly, lest she pass for underdeveloped. If it was her choice to swallow all you did not say you can eat her words, for it is as sure as there is a k in kiss that perhaps she will ‘conjugate’ tomorrow at the love hour, lying on her spine. She will get her degree and take silk, if she's not ploughed first by some Roland. Nature tells everybody else about it but she learnt the rules of the game from her old nurse. It was too divine that day in Stockholm when she sat on the altar as cool as a cucumber, slapping her thighs, though she was subject to a lot of abuse. Father, with a twinkle in his eye, will always have cakes in his pocket for Issy alone. Truth is ever stranger than fiction.

II.2§7: 216.27–218.26 (280.01–282.04): Issy Reads

Back in the study, the children try to commit to memory a passage read aloud by Issy for the analysing ear (Shem) as much as for the synthesising eye (Shaun). In the passage there is a clue to the Mystery: it is the very word of Nature, the wood-speech of a plantation where branches sing of yesterday gone and tomorrow to come and how Saturday next will smile on an anniversary. It has come to this. Issy shall read, she whose silence before now has shone as a sphere of silver. She will read words in which run the ripples and liquid music of the never-ending river and from which arises the odour of musk:

Aujourd'hui, comme aux temps de Pline et de Columelle, la jacinthe se pla ît dans les Gaules, la pervenche en Illyrie, la marguerite sur les ruines de Numance; et, pendant qu'autour d'elles les villes ont changé de ma îtres et de nom, que plusieurs sont entrées dans le néant, que les civilisations se sont choquées et brisées, leurs paisibles générations ont traversé les $.acges et se sont succédé jusqu'à nous, fra îches et riantes comme au jour des batailles.[199]

But it is to no avail; the fable falls on deaf ears. Poor Issy! As in the earlier Mookse fable, she fails to capture the twins' attention. Not as cloud and moisture, not as flower, can she convince them that love is all and hate is nothing, that peace is life and war is death, and that beauty hides among the cowslips, not in the ruins amid which they spring.

The warring boys ignore her. ‘But Bruto and Cassio are ware only of trifid tongues the whispered wilfulness, ('tis demonal!) and shadows shadows multiplicating.’ They prefer to ‘tackle their quarrel.’ They are so woefully silly!

II.2§8: 218.19–233.04 (282.05-304.04): The Triangle[200]

Ad Majorem Dei gloriam!

Franky first learned to count with the aid of his ten fingers. He knew from his cradle, no boy better, why he had them. From the start, he counted his fingers from first to last so as to get it right: one, two, three, four and five, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, six, seven, eight, nine, and ten. He was also terribly fond of cardinal numbers. Always, as true as you're there, would he multiply them and increase them in numerous ways, counting away in this or in that scale, and he soon learned about division and traduction, common denominators and lowest terms, aliquant parts and remainders and equalities of relations. With a little help from his tables he could switch from system to system of weights and measures, links or chains or weys or tods, ounces, pounds or hundredweights, gallons or gills, or stones or nails.

But what did it all signify?

By all the powers of ten, it is strange to relate that he, nonpareil to read, write or reckon, got null marks for his Euclid and algebra! All those a's and b's and c's and y's and z's! It beat him up terribly! Gave him the fantods! The bisection of arcs! How ghastly! Intersections, good grief! And right angles! And chords! And families of curves! And telegraph poles with certain inclinations! And graphs and plots and functions! And highest common factors and lowest common multiples! Not to mention literal coefficients! And let us not forget the heroic couplet! And division by nought![201] And involution, solution to solution.

Poor Shem, having to cope with antecedents and consequents and violated cyclic orders and ratios. Dear me! And now he has to find (if he is able) how many combinations and permutations can be made on the letters of the thunderclap word, pthwndxrclzp, taking some or all at a time.

He tries to compute the answer. Twelve by eleven by ten by nine by eight by seven by six by five by four by three by two by one. In other words: one from five, one from twice five, two plus five ones — oops! — a million and a thousand, with half a thousand, and twice two by five fives: 497,001,000![202] Factorial twelve!

And he must study his binomials. These are by no means comprehensible; they are as inaccessible to him as God or thou! And axioms and postulates. God, this algebra! Chaos! To him it was all equal to ‘aosch’: (x. The two boys try to solve a problem in geometry, the very first problem in Euclid's Elements: describe an equilateral triangle on a given finite straight line.

At a more sinister level, presaged by the Regicide passage, Shem is endeavouring to implicate Shaun and sister Issy in the composition of a grim letter, a ‘tri-letter’, to the parents.

Can you not do it, then, asks Dolph (Shem), expecting the answer ‘no.’ I can't, can you, asks Kev (Shaun), expecting the answer, ‘yes.’ Nor was the no-er long disappointed, for he was shortly to be shown, easy as kiss hands. O, tell it to me, do, Shem! implores Shaun, taking his thumb out of his mouth. ‘Well’, Shem says, ‘'tis all thusly.’

Shem demonstrates the solution to Shaun, telling him first to fill a mug with mud (what the devil for, thinks Shaun, is it for a kind of paper?) and to un-box his compass. So they set about it between them, circumscribing one O and then a second O.[203] But before we can follow Shem's lesson, we are interrupted by an extended parenthetical pseudo-history of the instructor.

Come, ye dead, without delay. While an image about the as yet unborn is offered, in Latin as befits, let us as we sit joyfully above the meat pots, behold Paris whence in accordance with the auspices so many human lineages shall arise and consider the ancient wisdom of Giordano Bruno and Giambattista Vico: safely all rivers flow now into the world: those which had been about to be out of the embankment again will be about to be among the riverbed. All things see themselves in their contraries, even the water-sharing banks of the river.[204]

Dolph (Shem), a mere boy, often coached rebellious boys of the same age or over at Backlane University[205], changing letters for them and blending themes for them and devising witty tail-words whilst confident that others would finish his sentences for him. He would smile and trim his ten nails, telling himself a reel of funny stories on the sly, how first and all and on second thoughts and the third is the charm and fourthly and fifthly and sixthly and seventhly. In point of fact, after he had landed in Ireland's Leinster of saints and scholars for the second time, disembarking from the Lady Eva, he converted its natives, young and old, through the medium of signs with satiric zeal to put off their hats from their sinful heads whenever they came in sight of a temple and showed them the path to heaven by his instruction and with his sample shamrock and by the prayers that he had learnt in Timbuktu. That same rite is very prevalent up to this windiest of nights all over what was before a Land of Nod, in spite of all the blood, all the brains, all the brawn, all the bile, that was shed, that was shot, that was shook all the while. Our people still hold fast to their faith and belief in the old ways innovated by him. It is believed that not all the liquor that's in the queen's cellar and not all the gold that the Indus contains would ever induce them to change back from their Orphic worship to their ancient habits of the old times which, having listened carefully to his curses, they let drop without another word.[206]

Talking of missions in general, this has damn all to do with his private tuitions! To return for a moment to his first landing, if the pretty lass who offered her love to him then and gave him the advantage of a good bath at her own hands, if she then — but she could never have foreseen his return under another name to buy her and the others back — it was a terrible grief — no wonder the men rushed to console her — and to think of her little hand trying to get all of that bearded virility into her lap — dear me, it begins to resemble — and no use in trying to put a stop to it either or to tell people to take warning from the past. If you could peer inside the grey matter of our good-for-nobody, you would see in his house of thought a wreck of flotsam and jetsam and derelict and lagan of memories of times lost or strayed and of tongues too. Not only that, looking far into futurity your own masses of ganglions would just reel to fancy the taking of what stale words were originally found for. The best of it is that whereas the pioneer side of the new pupil-teacher type will soon begin to tell you that no man has the right to set a boundary to the march of a language, common sense, the beast of burden, on the other side is going to tell you how you must (haw!) draw the line somewhere.

The critical figure (Fig. I. Bass.), or simply fig,[207] which is the subject of the boys' attention, is illustrated on page 226 (293):


Shem now explains to Shaun, step by step, exactly how accurately to describe an equilateral triangle, starting by drawing with his pencil and ruler a straight line one inch long delimited by the points A and L.

Allow him! A is for Anna as L is for Livia. Take this in! With α as centre and αλ as radius, Shem describes a circle with his compass. Oops! As round as an egg! O dear me, look at that! He's actually made one. Fantastic! Early clever, surely doomed. But it's not all over yet. The mystery must repeat itself. Now draw another circle, Shaun, Shem says, with L at its centre and a radius AL. Watch! O, O! Hoops! O dear me, says Shem, that was very nice, very nice indeed! Now that makes them an identical pair of accomplices. Bene! As can be seen, there are now two points where the twain of doubling circles loop into each other.

Shem makes a capital P (for pride) down at the bottom; and Shaun is told to go and make his humble π up his end. And just to complete angles, Shem joins αP and Pλ by dotted lines, and, to be perfectly logical, Lπ and πA by straight lines, thereby enclosing a space.

He is now in a position to make Shaun see figuratively (or ‘figleafly’) the ‘whome of your eternal geomater.’ There it is, plain as a pikestaff, other circumstances being equal.[208] Here is the mystery within the mystery! Shaun must approach carefully for it is dark. Must come very near and light his match. And this is what he'll see. Watch! There! Distinct and equal in its six parts is ALP's merry old triangle or delta: the ‘no niggard spot of her safety vulve.’ That is her it. So he can put that in his pipe and smoke it.

Shem digresses into new mathematical topics, the first of which involves the equation x0= 1 (any number raised to the power of nought equals one. The second deals with the radii of ‘circumflicksrent’ circles. The third treats of logarithms. The fourth touches a point in differential calculus.

The logarithm of a number to a given base, Shem explains, is the index of the power to which the base must be raised in order to equal the given number. Thus if ax = n, x is the logarithm of n to the base a. Shem points out that the logarithm of 1 to any base is equal to nought, so x0 = 1, q.e.d., adding that the integral part of a log is called the characteristic and the fractional part, when expressed as a decimal, the mantissa. Shem's other hypothesis is that the log of a number greater than unity is less by one than the number of digits in its integral part and is positive; whereas the characteristic of the log of a number less than one is negative and one more than the number of ciphers immediately after the decimal point.

Continuing his lesson, Shem shows Shaun (who must be quite out of it by now) how to derive the length of the perimeter of a circle by calculating the limit to which the perimeter of an inscribed regular polygon tends when the number of its sides is infinitely large, or, alternatively, when the measure of each of its sides is infinitesimally small, when it shrinks from shortness to shorter.

Shem next considers the three sides of a triangle and x to the power of three and, for good measure, to the power of four (x3 and x4). He then reverts to the equilateral triangle/pudenda problem and informs simple-minded Shaun that he is gaping up at the wrong place, at ALP's navel (π), rather than at her cunt (P), the blessed simpleton! He must look below. See her good. Well, well, well, well, well!

This is the point of corruption, of loss. Shaun is no longer innocent. He is rendered speechless. He busies himself scrawling circles and triangles all over a sheet of Browne and Nolan paper till the jugular veins in his neck stand out as tight as rope. He is now a sad fellow and, growing progressively more despondent, he has to lie on the floor, utterly dismal.

Having demonstrated to Shaun how to form a letter (D or Δ) coach Shem continues on to show him next how to write. But, first and foremost, Shaun must learn how to hold the pen. Shaun however is incensed and thinks of striking Shem — wouldn't one able rap of his ruler hit him where he lived! He seems actually to hit Shem at this point, fighting him and giving him a bloody face, after which Shem becomes ‘misocain.’

II.2§9: 233.05–end (304.05–end, plus footnotes): The Signature

Shaun's attitude changes. He thanks Shem for the lesson, saying that he is uncertain whether it is the way Shem strikes him or the ‘red mass’ (pubic hair) he was gaping at, but he is seeing rainbows round him. Even so, his words of praise notwithstanding, he would like to send Shem some poison in the post. At any rate, he is satisfied with Shem's execution of the Δ symbol and he asks Issy, who is sitting nearby quietly, dreaming of the end of the world and of going to heaven, to join him in his relief. Shem's symbol now transpires to be a counter signature, the construction of which has dispelled all of Shaun's hesitancy. Shaun is now fully implicated and instructs Issy to help them shape their grim night-letter. All three unite in a conspiracy against Earwicker: ‘let us be singulfied.’

We have had our lessons and watched the children study for their intermediate examinations: art, literature, politics, economy, chemistry, humanity, etc. Their last task is to select from a long list of titles — The uses and abuses of insects, On thrift, Our allies the hills, What is to be found in a dust heap, and so on — a subject for a final essay. But, rejecting all those listed, each one with its historical connotation indicated marginally, the children pen instead a simple Christmastide letter to the parents.

Bedtime is nigh. But, before bedtime, they mustdrink the tea that their mother has set out for them.

It is night: ‘Mox soonly will be in a split second.’ The moments are heard ticking away. They are enumerated in Irish from one to ten: aon, do, tri, cheithre, cuig, se, seacht, ocht, naoi, deich. Like a Sinn Fein bomb. The chapter ends as the schoolbook closes on a scrawled-on back page bearing the doodles of idle pupils.[209]

The children go in for their tea. In their wake, they leave the night-letter that they jointly composed:

With our best yuletide greetings to Pop and Mammy and the old folk below and beyond, wishing them all very merry incarnations in the land of the Liffey and plenty of prosperousness in the coming new year.

Sinister sentiments can be read into the letter; for it wishes Pep and Mem dead — you will die and be in the underworld. It is signed jake (Shem), jack (Shaun) and little sousoucie (Issy). The chapter ends as the schoolbook closes on a scrawled-on back page bearing the doodles of idle pupils.1