Episode III.1

A short paraphrase and guide to the episode

Prepared by Danis Rose

2010 edition FW pages 313-332
1939 edition FW pages 403-428

Continicium: The First Watch of the Night

Da : Shawn

This chapter and the next (III.1 and III.2) began life as a single piece of writing. The (sub)sectioning that we find arose from two causes: the division of one chapter into two (in or around 1926) and the insertion into each chapter of new, separately drafted passages (March 1926 for III.2, March 1928 for III.1).

Book III evolved from a seed-piece Joyce had originally intended to include in Book I: ‘The Delivery of the Letter.’ This seed-text begins, ‘and congrously enough the confusion of its composition[266] was fitly capped by the zigzaggery of its delivery’. It runs on to describe the postman Shaun (‘Johannes Epistolophorus’), the ‘Lucalizod lettercarrier’, an official in a green jerkin known to visit both sides of the road in the discharge of his important duties, a man ‘seen, pitied, & respected.’ The most important of his duties, which is finally accomplished in Book IV, is to deliver ‘a woman's petition’, the letter jointly written by ALP (‘maid, wife & mother’) and Shem (‘Iacopus Pennifera’), to the King in exoneration of HCE.

III.1 is an interrogation of Shaun in fourteen parts (or stations) conducted by an unnamed dreamer (or dreamers).[268] As he was composing it, Joyce wrote to Harriet Weaver (Letters, I, 24 May 1924):

Shawn is a description of a postman travelling backwards in the night through the events already narrated. It is written in the form of a via crucis of 14 stations but in reality it is only a barrel rolling down the river Liffey.

Shaun's barrel bumps to a halt fourteen times in all. During each stop he is questioned. The identity of the interrogator is uncertain. The speakers who open III.1 are almost certainly the Four Evangelists. Yet at 314.30 (405.06) the dreamer declares itself to be ‘but as their fourpart tinckler's dunkey’, that is, their ass. The donkey acts as interpreter on behalf of his four masters. This explains its change of use from ‘I’ to ‘we’ in the main body of the text. The speaker's tone, on the other hand, its resonances, sounds more that of the daughter, Issy, Shaun's sister, and it is certainly Issy to whom Shaun addresses himself in the closely interconnected III.2. Tellingly, at one point the narrator refers to Shaun as ‘mine bruder.’ This is hardly the donkey speaking. To sum up, it seems that in this chapter the four annalists interrogate Shaun through the dragoman donkey in the voice of Issy. In III.2, Issy dominates as collocutor; and in III.3, the Four and their ass again predominate as questioners.

As deliverer of the missive (letter, logos), Shaun is a Holy Ghost avatar, but he is also intimately associated with Jesus Christ. His mailbag is his cross, hence the via crucis. His disappearance at the end of III.2 parodies Christ's crucifixion and his resurfacing in III.3 as ‘Yawn’ parallels Christ's resurrection. The barrel trebles as vessel, pulpit and portable altar. Shaun remains inside it for the duration of III.1-2 as it floats backwards down the Liffey.

III§1A: Shaun's Dream, Part 1, 313–321.37 (403–414.13)

The episode opens with the four old men trying to count the chimes of the midnight bells, as inefficaciously as they sought to count buttons in II.4.

Tolv [12] two [2] elf [11] kater [4] (it can't be) sax.
Pedwar [4] pemp [6] foify [5] tray [3] (it must be) twelve!

The dreamer (‘I’) listens, a muttering witness, to bells breaking the silence of the night and to the hypnotic, rhythmic heartbeats of sleep. I wander through a dream-like mist across a ‘fogbow’ of changes in perspective and through a rainbow of hues as I approach the state of neverending sleep. I gaze upon two portraits, one of HCE (I peer at his wrinkled nose) and one of ALP (I admire her full lips). Do I hover over a green bedroom? ‘Zeehere green eggbrooms.’ To approach closer is forbidden.

As I was dropping asleep I heard ‘at zero hour’ midnight's chimes sound from the belfry of the church tolling twelve o'clock. As I think of darkness spreading gloom upon the earth, the sound of the tolling bell reaches me as the voices of people crying out Shaun! Shaun! Shaun the Post! It seems I see through the murk and the misty rain slowly a glow approach. As it draws nigh, I recognise it as the glow of a lamp, Shaun's lamp, hanging from his belt. By its light I discerns that it is indeed Shaun. He sways ghost-like before me like a will o' the wisp, staff in hand, got up like an earl in a frieze coat with a fur collar of the best quality and a pair of thick sparable-studded, iron-heeled brogues on him, hammered to suit the Irish roads and rain. So there he was before me, resplendent in his scarlet jacket with great polished buttons on it and a waistcoat under it and under that a silk shirt with a motto embroidered on it in green, white, and gold thread: the letters R.M.D. (Royal Mail Deliverer). So there he was then and none other, the blessed man himself, Shaun the post!

As it plods along, this poor donkey, as it watches in its dream the movements in the murky light of the lamp, it thinks to itself that it is Shaun no less that stands there before it, Shaun in person, to its eyes at least looking the stuff, grand, in tiptop condition. That's one, for sure, the witness thinks, who wouldn't skip lunch!

There he is, Shaun the man, with his oval eyeglasses, the heart of the roll, looking and, as it happened, feeling ‘immense’ after a twenty-four-hour meal in a ‘porterhouse’, the Wheel of Fortune tavern (ketchup, pickles and chutney free gratis) where he had recovered his strength by shovelling down his gullet mounds of food, a tripartite dinner plus collation (in anticipation of Lent) along with a breakfast of blood oranges and a half of a pound of bacon and some new-laid eggs with a segment of raspberry pudding alongside a piece of cold steak left over from the night before, followed by a dinner of a pound of rare round steak, the butcher's best, served with a side order of rice and peas and some bacon and a pair of chops thrown in along with goulash and gravy and some pumpernickel to wipe up the jus, and on top of that a gorgeous onion bulb and some apples and more steak and a few sandwiches also and several glasses of Phoenix porter just to wet his whistle and after that potatoes and Irish stew washed down with gargle and extra slices of Boland's bread and a bowl of broth and after that again, to start to wind up, a supper of eggs with the rich of bacon with broad beans and yet more steak and a farced duckling and a cold loin of veal with cabbage and peas and a wee thimble of gin and some free bread and butter and jam and, of course, everything set off with the choicest wine. For Shaun's heart, God bless him, was as big as he was himself, if not bigger! Not that he was guilty of gluttony as regards edibles, but business is business and upon the whole when not actually off his chump Shaun liked his tuck all right, however you spelled the month it was.

Dream-like comes the sound of Shaun's booming voice. Bloated as he is, our hardworking man with the mounds of semi-digested food churning inside him yawns: Alo, alass, Aladdin, amobus![271] Poor old footsore Shaun! Isn't it true he is tired and weary and fagged out generally with all his endless supererogatory ambulatory efforts he has to make, carting letters all over the place in this hessian sack. And not only that, he complains, having first picked his teeth, he is unworthy in the first place for the eminence laid at his feet of bearing the famous posthumous letter on his majesty's service, poor he, a ‘mere mailman of peace’, a hater of haste since the day he was born, while the rest of the world besides himself in its simple wisdom turns over and snores in its eiderdown bed. The task, he feels, ought rightly to have been his ‘other's’, his brother's, wordy Shem, the thin man, for he cannot for the like of him remember himself (Shaun) ever having done anything to have deserved it.[272]

He yawns in a sonorous way and exhales a rich odour redolent of yesterday's pigeon-pie and the hash from the day before and Tuesday's champagne before addressing himself to complain of the combined weight being too much for him even at the best of times. In his exhaustion he sinks down, fatigued as he is, upon the native earth he loves so dearly.[273]

The narrator/donkey draws closer to Shaun as he lies there on the ground and puts the first question to him. Who was it gave him a permit to carry the letter?[274]

Shaun replies that it was everybody. Finding a receptive ear into which to pour his grievances, he seizes the opportunity to complain again about his letter-bag. A hundred men couldn't lift it. It is his ‘heaviest crux ever.’ He moans of the fatigue that's come over him, the aches in his knees, the pain in his spine, the hardness of the bed he has to sleep on,,the bareness of his board. But, these issues aside, what mostly annoys him, he has to say, is his personal self-dissatisfaction, since a couple of men he bumped into some fortnights earlier had made him acutely aware he ought to be dissatisfied.

He is next asked if he acted on orders in becoming a postman in the first place.

Shaun answers that — forgive him for being candid — he was merely observing His holy will. It was a matter of heredity really. Even so, he freely admits he is now fed up to the back teeth circulating aimlessly about the highroads like a nameless soul in the very worst kinds of bad weather. What on earth has he to look forward to, except to look at his watch? The way it is, he is seriously thinking of putting an end to himself, immersing himself in a bubbling volcano, drowning himself in the river or perhaps pitching himself from a high cliff somewhere and burying himself, clogs and all, deep in the bosom of the ocean. But, he ruefully adds, he is hopeless really and there is nothing he can do about anything since this unfortunate business of delivering the letter first came into his hands.

They (the witnesses, now plural) quite expect that he is. But what they want to know is, is it he, Shaun, who has to carry the darned letter.

Shaun replies curtly. As to that, it is he who has the power and that has a lot to do with everything.

Would he mind telling them when he is mostly able to work?

Shaun replies, cradling his heel, that he is mostly able to walk, sixty odd Irish miles a week, being too soft for work proper, and to fit in three masses in the morning and to squeeze in another two in the evening. It was foretold of him — it was His will — that he was not to undertake common-or-garden servile work. His true vocation in life is to preach. He is to be believed when he says that he is as good as gold and does his level best to recite the rosary regular. In fact he always has done.[275] They can look at his tongue to see if he's lying.

Admiring the honestly protruded plump clean tongue, the narrator asks if it was he who painted the letterboxes of the town green.

Smiling coyly, Shaun confesses to it. Yes, he did. He did indeed. He lays he did. Down with the Saxon red! Nor was it the first coat either. Some say he was wrong to do what he did, but not by his way of thinking, from the Prophecies. It was grandiose surely, new lamps for old. And he did it, he is proud to inform them, by the light of his lamp.

Shaun is undoubtedly a fine orator, but does he think the green will vanish?

He is incensed at the suggestion. He shakes his head in annoyance and declares that it is a confounded lie to say that it could. What the dickens would he do with varnish? They can take his word for it. But what he would like them to know is that in the maximally-staffed post-office much office administrative stationary was eaten by goats. It is his declared intention to write a report about it and bring it to the notice of someone in authority.

The seventh question queries the origin and history of Shaun's fancy uniform.

Shaun is quietly amused: none whatsoever! Though, if there was any, it would surely be romantic. And as regards the money, he never spent it. They can be certain of that. He wouldn't know how. No, he distributed it among all his nieces and nephews. And regarding his uniform: how could it have a biography? For as the eye can see and the nose tell, he is plainly and stoutly enveloped in one of Sir Arthur Guinness's redolent portable registered barrels![276]

III§1B-C: The Ondt and the Gracehoper, 321.38–325.24 (414.14–419.10)

III§1B-C (taken together) carry Shaun's rather longwinded response to the eighth question put to him. He answers it with a fable and what is essentially a restatement of the Shem-Shaun Time-Space Art-Science antipathy thesis earlier propounded by him in an earlier fable (The Mookse and the Gripes) in I.6.[277]

He is asked by his admiring inquisitors to sing, but he demurs, apologising. He would much rather spin them a yarn from the ‘grimmgests of Jacko and Esaup’, specifically the fable of the Ondt and the Gracehoper. And so, ceremoniously clearing his throat, he begins.[279]

The happy-go-lucky grasshopper, he explains, lived merrily in its simplicity in a sunny cottage called Tingsomingenting. He was always dancing about, ‘jigging a jog, hoppy on akkant of his joyicity’, for didn't he had a pretty pair of fiddlesticks to support him! Or, when not doing this, he was always making disgraceful overtures to his four favourite females — a flea, a louse, a wasp, and a bee — to come out and play among the everlastings behind the watering-pot and ‘commence insects’ with him, even if only in jest![280] When they turned chastely away, unwilling to play, he would hiss and curse maliciously until whatever young beauty he had accosted turned puce from shame and so, of course, to make amends he would then furnish her with Spanish hosiery! If not doing that, he would waste time in other ways, striking up ‘funny funereels with Besterfarther Zeuts, the Aged One’ and dancing back to back with him, attended to by ‘a myrmidins of pszozlers pszinging.’[281] A high old time for the berated public and the whole day free gratis! Everything and anything just to ‘kick time!’

Gracious me and bless my soul! What an impossible trifler it is! Libellous! Insanity! Puh! And pah! What a sight for the gods, exclaimed the Ondt who, not being a summer-fool, was thoughtfully making chilly faces at himself in front of his looking-glass in his cold anti-tropical wind-home called Nixnixundnix looking sheepish and solemn and sour and chairman-looking and as stern as he possibly could. Long, long he brooded on how he could best express his contempt for that idler of a grasshopper. Though only knee-high to a grasshopper himself, the Ondt knew that he could well afford and had well earned his smugness, for had he not laid in enough food to see him through the winter!

The silly-billy of a grasshopper, of course, carried on regardless as if summer would never end, but after he had ‘jingled through a jungle of love and debts and jangled through a jumble of life in doubts afterworse’, jigging his legs and betting and drinking and whoring, he fell just as sick as a dog and (unsurprisingly) found himself as poor as the proverbial church-mouse. And where the dickens to wend himself or where to search for grub to build up his miserable frame or where to find a hospital? Alas! He knew not. The useless spent drone had not as much cash to his name as would buy a crumb of bread! His cupboard was bare. There was no hope to be found by looking into the sky. O my, O my! What a plight! He wheezed and he wheezed; and at last he coughed out contritely, O my God, I am heartily hungry!

And why was he so miserable? He was miserable because he had gobbled up everything. He had chewed his way through all of the furniture. He had eaten the wallpaper. He had swallowed the very chandeliers, devoured all forty flights of staircases, and munched up all the wooden tables and settees. He had even eaten his way most voraciously through the very time-piece ticking in the corner: none too ‘dusty a cicada of neuteriment for a chittinous chip so mity.’

When Christmas time came round and the boughs were all bare and bowed with snow, out he had to go to search for a bite to eat. But where to look he knew not. He took a stroll round and a round stroll and he strolled round again till the bees in his bonnet and the live nits in his hair made him think he had the ‘Tossmania.’[282] Snow was ‘flocking in thuckflues on the hegelstones’ and tornadoes were blowing the house-tiles to tatters and lifting the roofs off the coffeehouses. It was atrocious! Weather at its worst! And the foolhardy grasshopper realised that fate had caught up with him this time. Even so, though blinder than a bat, he yet knew not a little bit of etiquette. He asked no-one leave or license but promptly tossed himself in the snow, there and then, on top of his head, dizzily wondering where on earth would his luck alight.

The ant meanwhile, a true and perfect host, was stretched out on his spacious throne in his Russian slippers and unshrinkable pyjamas, puffing away happily on a special brand of Havana cigar and warming his toes up in his sunny room, sated after a toothsome supper of monkey nuts washed down with an infusion of mint (for he was a confirmed ascetic and teetotaller), as happy as a bee in clover, and the four female insects were there beside him, biting and hugging his legs, kissing him all over. The whole happy scene was as intimate as intimate could possibly be!

When the pair next made each other's acquaintance didn't they behold a world of differences! Damn it and damn it and by Christ and by Jesus! The snivelling, shivering, skinny grasshopper sneezed out its curses when he saw the fine ant. He was agape with pure jealousy and at his wit's end. The spacious ant, for his part, made the greatest jokes anybody could make and he was itching all over and filled with bliss to see his friend so. There he was before him: the very pathetic figure of the impossible spendthrift of a grasshopper on its head in the mire, minus security, absent sweetheart, reduced to nothing (one really has to chuckle!) and signifying chronic despair. Ho, ho! It was simply too much for him. Let the grasshopper learn now from his wisdom. It was really so funny He was tickled pink. The thing pleased him and and and

He laughed and he laughed and he made such a noise the grasshopper feared he would misplace his jaws.

— I forgive you, great ant, said the grasshopper, weeping. Teach Floh and Luse polkas; show Bienie what's sweet; and be sure Vespatilla fines fat ones to heat. As I once played the piper I must now pay the count. So saida to Moyhammlet and marhaba to your Mount!

And so he went on in like vein, verse after verse, accepting the inevitable with good grace. Since time was and space began, things were ever the same. Gracehoper and Ondt form a pair, Waste-not and Want, pre-condemned ‘two and true.’ Yet the world will go on and old times come anew.

Ere those gidflirts now gadding you quit your mocks for my gropes, an extense must impull, an elapse must elopes.

Though the scatterbrained grasshopper is now on the losing end of time, he seems not a little unwilling to swap places with the pompous ant, for in the visible universe you'd hardly find such extra-beefiness with so much behind. His feats are enormous, his volumes immense, his genius worldwide but, Holy Saltmartin, why can't he beat time? Shaun concludes his fable, which points the same moral as his earlier one about the sombre Mookse and lightweight Gripes[283] by blessing himself ‘in the name of the former and of the latter and of their holocaust. Allmen.’

Despite his realisation of the necessity of contraries, he sees some special sense in the grasshopper's mad-cap insights: ‘For it sciencium (what's what) can mute uns nought, 'a thought, abought the Great Sommboddy within the Omniboss, perhops an artsaccord (hoot's hoot) might sing ums tumtim abutt the Little Newbuddies that ring his panch.’ If science and dialectic (what's what) can teach us nothing about God, perhaps art can show us how to lead a better life.

III§1D: Shaun's Dream, part 2, 325.25–332 (419.11–428)

Decent Shaun is next asked can he read the ‘strangewrote anaglyptics’’[284] (the language) of ALP's letter to ‘His Christian's Em.’ His Majesty, that is, or ‘Maggy’ or ‘M.

— Can he what! Read them? Ridiculous! Of course he can read them!

He points sagely to the quill tucked behind his ear. He can read as well as he can write. He's as educated as the next man. Look at it! How about that for a writing-pen! Why, he could type out that letter of Shem's, or any other one, in any tongue at all, in Oscan, Persian, Coptic, Greek or Hebrew, if need be, straight off the tips of his fingers. Any prose at all, on draught or in bottle. He could read the letter backwards with his eyes closed. But it is not a ‘nice production.’ It is not worth a ‘bottle of cabbage.’ It's offal, perfectly awful trash, a mere ‘pinch of scribble’, and as actionable as replete with clerical errors. To put it in one word, it's flummery, a box of trash that Shem and ALP threw together and stuck his (Shaun's) pseudonym on, all about her and some sack and a cad with a pipe and two maids and three troopers hiding behind some shrubs. Why, an infant sailing an eggshell in a puddle would have more savvy!

Picking up the letter to prove that he can read it, Shaun remembers that it is sealed and therefore cannot be opened. The best he can do in the case, to prove his literacy, is read out the various inscriptions, names and addresses, stamps and postmarks, on the envelope. It has been delivered to many persons, avatars of HCE, at divers addresses, HCE's hideyholes, but for the many reasons stated rejected: gone, try opposite house, name illegible, left no address, no such person, no such number, no such street, please forward, wrongly spelled, already shot, closed for repairs, kindly send on, already buried, overweight, under-stamped, too late, and so on. The addresses that Shaun reads out are all distorted versions of actual Dublin addresses at which the Joyce family resided at one time or another in their, usually successful, attempts to evade Joyce's father's creditors.

29 Hardwicke Street (1893)
13 [14] Fitzgibbon Street (1893-1894)
12 [13] North Richmond Street (1899-1900)
92 [29] Windsor Avenue (1896-1899)
8 Royal Terrace (1900)
3 [2] Castlewood Avenue (1884-1887)
2 Millbourne Avenue, Drumcondra (1894)
7 Saint Peter's Terrace (1902-1904)
60 Shelbourne Road (1904)

In the above list below, the Joyces' historic dates of occupancy have been appended and the correct house-number, where the Wake is ‘wrong’, is added in brackets.

The envelope is crisscrossed with names, stamps, notices, addresses, postmarks, advertisements, and so on, entered on it while it loitered as litter in the post. Shaun tells us that it originated in Boston (Mass.) and equates the letter with both Shem's begging telegraph to him and Issy's billet-doux to Shem.

Shaun is asked the tenth question. Has he not millions of times used worse language himself ‘as the penmarks used out in sinscript with such hesitancy by your cerebrated brother — excuse me not mentioningahem.’

Celebrated! Shaun replies, vigorously rubbing his magic lantern to a ‘glow of fullconsciousness.’ Hesitancy! The words grate on his ears. Notorious, perhaps, might hit the nail on the head. But as he has been asked for a diagnosis and is more or less compelled to deliver his honest opinion, though he would not care to swear to it he much doubts it. He just can't. He has no time for the fellow. Why, as he hourly learns by listening to the wireless, the ‘pixillated doodler’ is on his last legs with ‘illegible clergimanitis.’ So much for his boasts about his ruddy complexion!

As for ALP, she was put up to it by Shem, an iniquity for which he ought to be deprived of his liberty, silenced, dressed in sackcloth and ashes and placed in irons in some institution off in the antipodes for ‘wordsharping’, if only he were well enough to survive the punishment. It is a well-known fact that the bucko has worms and hallucinates snakes. And hasn't he a license for production of spirits for his own consumption so he can purge his contempt, degenerate into a skeleton and think himself to death! Rot him! Is he his brother's keeper? No, even if he is an obnoxious pessimist, with his prince's pride and pauper's purse, plundering all over the world. No, sir, he's no half-cousin of that lout. He would famish first before he lifted a finger to help.

Perhaps Shaun would explain in his own words how the illustrious letter originated in the first place?

Having first taken a goodish-sized bite out of his edible hat, Shaun answers that he was long under the impression that as to that it was well known he was himself partly to blame. HCE started it off with his larking about with those two girls and taunting the three soldiers. He is sorry to say it but ALP herself kept bawling out how ‘Ananymus’ (HCE) pinched her tights so she went looking to Shem for sympathy while he was lying in a doorway, hiccuping and muttering into his beard about something or other. So it was the latter that was entirely to blame for the letter. And not only that, but the penman plagiarised his (Shaun's) style, copying him. If he himself had assisted at all by carrying the damned thing in his mailbag, it was solely because he had a special license to do so. Why, as often as he thinks of that ‘unbloody housewarmer, Shem Skrivenitch, always cutting my prhose to please his phrase’, begorrah, he declares he gets a jaw-ache. Just to think of him rattles him, that ink-blooded vegetarian with his false teeth, bark complexion, forbidden tomatoes, and warned never to marry! He was pushed out of school, you know, for miching, and after that he tried to get into the Society of Jesus. Once when he failed to be killed, the freak put his head through the Irish Times and went off to join a Dominican order, throwing dust in the eyes of the Holy Father. The man should be shunned! And later on he went to Cecilia Street to study music, but he was an ink-pot man all along and had ink in his veins. Shaun has the utmost contempt for him. And he should know! Once bitten, twice shy. He knows him. He should be dragged off in chains to Siberia and leave his liver behind him in a jar in Trinity College. His goose is cooked. He's a spent salmon. Damn him!

The twelfth question put to Shaun queries his complicity in the delivery of the letter. Why did he do that and for what profit?

Shaun pauses to bless himself devoutly with a hot-cross bun. He told them. Shem did it for the sake of his root language and for his own gain. For thick 'uns. All Shem could do was pick words out from wherever he could and slip them into his all-too-Irish yarn.

Here Shaun's stomach rumbles and he has to vent an enormous fart, adding Thor's for you![285]

But could Shaun come near it? And if so, how would he?

Peace! Peace! Shaun replies, as he swigs a slug of whiskey from his ‘treestem sucker cane.’ Has he been talking all this time to the four winds? Did he not stress it sufficiently before? No one could come near him! Nobody! But, in case anyone thinks otherwise, every ‘dimmed letter in it’, in Shem's ‘lettruce invrention’ ‘is a copy.’ It's the last word in ‘stolentelling.’ Rightdown lowbrown schisthematic robblemint!

We imagine, the interrogators say, assuming that you can at all, you could ‘use worse of’ himself, if you took the time and trouble of so doing?

Shaun confirms it. Yes, he could and can, undoubtedly. It would be a sad day that he couldn't. He is more than capable of it and more, any old time the mood took him. He could do it easy as eat peas. It's no big secret he is more than a little gifted clerically speaking. Why, he could write the like with his left hand if it came to it. Indeed, he might well go out and get hold of a sharpened lead pencil some time and scribble off something of the same sort and append his name to it, something to knock spots off anything his shameful Bolshevik of a brother ever wrote. The thing is, though, neither as a babe nor as a lad, neither as a young man nor as an adult, could he be bothered.

He ends the Liffey-bank dialogue, swearing hotly by his briar pipe, declaring that he will commit to the flames any good-for-nothing incendiary who tries to get his mother into trouble. Rock me, Julie, but I will soho!

Poor Shaun! Thinking of his mother's silver hair and the shame Shem brought on her, the big, ingenuous, quick-tempered, pugilistic slob of the world all but broke down, overpowered as he was with grief and emotion. He gulps, he smiles, he wipes away his liberal tears. Now that he has reached his point of deepest sincerity, he finds that his jaw is too heavy for him to talk any more. The most that the soft, innocent, undesigning, easy-going, six-footed lamb of a brute can do is gaze up at the stars to judge the time, but as he does so he loses his balance and collapses in a heap backwards into the barrel. Propelled by the momentum of the fall, it rolls backwards out of the narrator's earshot with a highly curious mode of motion. Shaun is carried off by the flow, bubbles in his wake, as are the bobbing corks and oak staves, along the river and through an archipelago of leaves. He and his barrel, upright a moment, vanish without trace ‘in a dip of the downs.’ Behind him are left only the stillness and the starriness of the night. Through the thickening dusk the sweet reek of his briar wafts over the still water: his ‘pibrook creppt mong the donkness.’ A ‘reek was waft on the luftstream.’

The closing words in the episode capture Issy's lamentation for her lost brother. Gone, gone is Shaun! Gone from friends and familiar faces, gone to the west of India, perhaps, or to the east of America. He was too soft to be sure. But though gone he'll be coming back this way some day as sure as eggs are eggs. A second Saint Patrick, back he will foot it, a slave to virtue and a hero of the Gaels. He'll turn up some day in the thick of the rain, mail sack on back, or he'll reappear in winter's snows, pockets pulled inside out for fresh remittances.

At the close, the narrator speaks wistfully of the far-off wild grasses, daisies and buttercups that the down-treading clogs of Shaun's big feet will trample on. Even so, his passing hence and the extinction of his lamp, ‘yep, the lmp wnt out for it couldn't stay alight’, represent a kind of death.