Episode 16

A brief guide to “Eumeus”

Prepared by Danis Rose

2021 edition Ulysses pages 677-735
2017 edition Ulysses pages 563-608
1922 edition Ulysses pages [569]-618

Friday 17 June, 1904: 1.00 to 2.00 a.m., The Cabman's Shelter, Butt bridge.

It relieves us to hear or see our own distress expressed by another personr1

Jan Pieters Sweelink. The quaint name of the old Dutch musician makes all beauty seem quaint and far. I hear his variations for the clavichord on the old air: Youth has an end. In the vague mist of old sounds a faint point of light appears: the speech of the soul is about to be heard. Youth has an end: the end is here. It will never be. You know that well. What then? Write it, damn you, write it! What else are you good for?r2


TITLE and SENSE: Eumeus. The Ambush at Home.
SCENE: The Shelter
HOUR: 1 a.m.
ORGAN: Nerves
ART: Navigation
SYMBOL: Sailors
TECHNIC: Narrative (old)

Having picked Stephen up from the street and dusted him off, Bloom and he head off for the unpretentious wooden structure of the cabman's shelter, where the agnostic Bloom treats the Catholic Stephen to a rather tired-looking bun and a cup of what passes for coffee. En route, under the Loop Line Bridge, Stephen encounters an acquaintance, “Lord” John Corley, who cadges from him some coins. (Those are halfcrowns, man!)

While in the shelter, they listen to the rather dubious history of a tattooed seafarer. After their visit, on Bloom's impromptu suggestion that Stephen come home with him for a cup of cocoa – the genuine article – and perhaps a bed for the night, the now-fused pair set off for 7 Eccles Street, a distance of about one mile.

The route Stephen and Leopold take is circuitous. Walking along Beaver (Railway) Street past Kavanagh's the farriers (at Nos. 14 & 15), they approach the Livery stables (at No. 42 Montgomery [Foley] Street) at the corner; then, at the end of the street they turn left into Amiens Street. They pass Daniel Bergin's pub (No. 46) on the corner, at which point Bloom spots but fails to secure a cab outside Malone's North Star Hotel across the street at Nos. 26-30.

Ambling along Amiens Street, they pass John Mullett's public house at No. 45, next door to Bergin's, and pass The Signal house at No. 36. They next pass the entrance to the Great Northern Railway terminus and, further on, the (back) entrance to the City Morgue at Nos. 2, 3, and 4 and, at the intersection with Store Street, the Dock Tavern at No. 1 Store Street. Lastly, turning west, they go by the front of the City Morgue and the Dublin Metropolitan Police Barrack (both at No. 3 Store Street), and, at Nos. 5 and 6, James Rourke's City Bakery, before reaching, under the Loop Line bridge, the now long-gone and forgotten, cramped, makeshift shelter for drivers near Butt Bridge, just west of the Customs House.

With ‘Eumeus’ (the first episode of the Nostos or Homecoming section), Joyce's chronicle of exhaustion — an exhaustion of sustained pretence — and confusion, the theme of adultery is almost wholly supplanted by that of parenthood. Bloom has found a surrogate son in Stephen, whom he helps both into and out of the episode, while in between acting as (an unappreciated) general all-round mentor.

Very little happens in the cramped room of Eumeus and many readers have found the episode's style (and content) tedious and exiguous. This, however, can be accounted for when one remembers that the episode centers on imposture, and the episode itself is cast as the work of an inept pseudo-narrator. Despite this, there are moments of outstanding linguistic achievement, such as the delineation of the sailor whom our heroes bump up against in the shelter and the wonderfully-composed conclusion by way of the nag's peristaltic, fume-laden defecation.


Melanthius = Corly
Bloom = Odysseus
Stephen = Telemachus
Eumeus = Skin-the-Goat
D. B. Murphy, seaman = Orsilochus (Ulysses Pseudangelos)
Setting: The cabman's shelter = The pig-keeper's hut

The hut where Eumaeus lives while he tends the herds and flocks is reimagined by Joyce as an unpretentious shelter, where cabmen and drivers of various carriages and coaches can find a bite to eat, or a moment's respite from the rain with a roof over their heads.

The reunion of father and son (and equally father and grandfather) after a generation is not re-enacted in Joyce's episode, as they have already met in his Oxen, parted, met again in his Circe, and enter this episode walking across the town together to the shelter. Stephen purchases and pays for two buns and two cups of coffee. This episode, like its prototype, is one of dialogue, or rather dissembling dialogue, with the redoubtable specimen in the hut, the seafarer late of the Rosevean (sighted earlier by Stephen in Proteus), presenting his credentials somewhat dubiously. This particular old salt is a form of Orsilochus, or pseudo-Odysseus.

Able-bodied seaman D.B. Murphy, as he is named, a man of dubious sexuality, relates his own spurious history while in the shelter, and in many ways his story is a replica of Odysseus' own. He has been away at sea, by his account, for seven years, seeing all manner of queer sights, and has a wife stowed away in Carrighaloe in Queenstown (Cobh), who by now may or may not have another man in her bed. He has a son also, who has run away to sea.

Bloom takes what he has to say with a pinch of salt, and thinks that he might more probably be an ex-convict (not far from the case of Orsilochus).

Eumaeus, in Homer, is of a quasi-royal lineage and undergoes his own history prior to his debasement in Ithaca as a slave. He is cast by Joyce as the historical Skin-the-Goat, a man called Fitzharris who drove the car on which the 1882 Phoenix Park assassins fled the scene of their crime. (They used knives.) He was caught, convicted of complicity, imprisoned and, after serving a long sentence, ultimately released. While Bloom suspects the keeper is indeed Fitzharris in person, this identification also is uncertain. When (in Ulysses) the keeper joins in the conversation, he prophesises the downfall of England, much as Theoclymenus presages the death of the suitors. Joyce seems to be spreading out the different aliases across his whole cast of characters, even resurrecting Parnell as an Odysseus-like absent king.

The “bad shepherd,” Melantheus, re-appears in the guise of Corley, another fallen man reduced to beggary, and he touches Stephen for a few coppers. Stephen generously gives him (by mistake, not being too clear-headed) a half-crown. Homer in contrast has Odysseus kill Melantheus when the moment is opportune. Bloom, admittedly, distrusts Corley's ostensible excuse for begging.

The issue of money, beginning with the Corley incident, extends to the purchase of the coffee and buns. Bloom pays. Stephen has no money on him, having earlier (in Circe) given it to Bloom to safeguard. Odysseus, of course, has money (the Phaeacian treasure) and it is very much on his mind on his re-arrival in Ithaca. He assures himself that it is well hidden, first and foremost.

The visit to the shelter is interrupted (to Bloom's embarrassment as he has already seen her, earlier in the day) by the entrance of a street-walker. We must see this as an Athena-like apparition, though heavily veiled. The bawd is run off by the keeper, but the sailor follows her out for undisclosed purposes, if ostensibly (and actually) to take a slug of rum from a bottle stowed in his pocket.

In privately making his identity known to Menelaus, Odysseus is mirrored in Bloom's telling Stephen with a chuckle of his encounter with the irate Citizen (a tale told in the Cyclops episode) and, a sheep with a mighty bite, of his standing up to the bully to affirm his own inner identity as a true Christian (Jewish as he is, or is not, as the case is), having been baptised a Protestant.

In Homer's tale, the ambush at Asteris, planned by the usurpers, is never carried out. Telemachus approaches Ithaca in a direction that avoids the danger. In Joyce, the ambush is carried out, but off-stage in an unwritten event that takes place when Stephen is ditched (betrayed) by his companions, especially Mulligan. Only one remains with him (and that one is Judas): Lynch. Bloom refers to the incident here in Eumaeus.

By the episode's end, Bloom and Stephen are as good as arm-in-arm and walk on into the Dublin night together, headed for home (Bloom's) and whatever might fall from the sky.

THE ODYSSEY, 13-15 (Eumaios)

Eumaios (a loyal swineherd)
Setting: Ithaca, The Swineherd's Hut, Lacedaemon

When Odysseus reaches the end of his account of his adventures, he receives from the Phaeacians a treasure of bronze and gold articles, and fine-spun clothes. Weary after feasting and eager to leave for Ithaca, he is taken on board one of their ships. Wrapped in linen on a thick rug, he is left to sleep in the stern. Swifter than the swift flight of the gyrfalcon the ship crosses the sea to Ithaca. There, the mariners take him, still sleeping, and lay him with his treasure in a mid-part of the island, close to the deep sacred cave of the Naiads.

At the head of the harbour there is an olive tree with acuminate leaves,
and near it, a lovely and dark cave, consecrated to the nymphs called Naiads.
In the cave are mixing bowls and amphorae,
made of stone. There, bees store up honey.
In the cave, there are very high stone looms, where the nymphs weave garments of sea-purple, a wonder to be seen,
and in it there are ever-flowing waters.

It has two entrances: one is northerly for humans to descend,
the other, southerly, is more divine; through that entrance
men do not enter: it is the way of the immortals.

Poseidon, his rage implacable, seeks permission of Zeus to punish the Phaeacians for their safe delivery of Odysseus, and this is granted. On returning, as their sails within sight of port, the sea god turns it into a ship-shaped rock and rings the entrance to the harbour there with a reef of rocks. Antinoos, the chief noble, and others see this transformation, and discern Poseidon's hand in it. Forswearing future kindness to strangers, the noble quickly propitiates the gods, before worse befall the kingdom.

On waking in Ithaka, Odysseus is characteristically wary. He cannot recognize where he is, as the place is enveloped in a thick fog. Rather absurdly, he suspects the Phaeacians to be rogues and thieves and to have stolen back what they gave him. With this fear in mind, he greedily counts his coin. Satisfied he has not actually been robbed of a coin, but lamenting nonetheless what he takes to be his unspeakable abandonment, the Greek hero is approached by the goddess Athene disguised as a young shepherd, radiant of appearance. Asking as to his whereabouts, of which he has no notion, he is told that he is on the island of Ithaca. When asked what he is doing in this particular remote spot, surrounded with bronze and gold, Odysseus concocts a complex history, calling himself Orsilochos. He tells the goddess he is being pursued for a murder he committed in defense of his gold, and that he arrived where he is through the agency of some Phoenicians. Athene, turning into the form of a beautiful young woman, then reveals her true name to him and admonishes him for his deceitful and dissembling ways, well practiced of old; even so, she aids him in artfully secreting his treasure in a recess in the naiads' cave. The pale-eyed goddess then tells him to go cautiously to the hut that stands by the fountain of Arsthusa, where Eumaios the swineherd tends the pigs, and to remain with him secretly for a time. Lest any recognize in him the form and nature of a king, she transforms his princely appearance to that of an old bent man, his visage a maze of wrinkles: a beggar doubled over, with dull eyes and grey hair. His royal cloak she transforms into a coat of bedraggled rags. Satisfied with his disguise, she leaves to warn Telemachos of the peril he faces in coming home.

Tottering on with the aid of a staff, his tattered tunic begrimed with smoke, in an old overcoat of undressed deerskin, on his shoulders a wallet full of holes hung from a twisted thong, our hero makes his way through the bee-loud land to the ramshackle hut where the faithful shepherd dwells.

[Odyssey 14]

The faithful swineherd sits by the door of his shed and shapes sandals out of hide. Penned close to the hut are twelve sties with fifty sows in each, and outside these, guarded by four hounds, grunt the boar-pigs, fewer in number now due to the depredations of the suitors: three hundred and sixty beasts in total.

Odysseus approaches the herdsman and is attacked by the guard dogs, but the shepherd soon chases these away. The stranger then explains to the herdsman that he is none other than the son of Castor Hylacides, son to Hylax, a well-to-do Cretan, and that he was abducted while yet a child; but through cunning and inclinations he married well in later years and he delighted in the arts of war, in the use of the javelin and the acuminate sword, and in seamanship. He fought, he tells Eumaios, beneath the walls of illustrious Ilion, ten years in all, and on its ruin he went on to Egypt with his fleet and family, and lived there for one year, secretly and seditiously. And after that time he sought the king's lenience. A rogue Phoenician then took him with him to his own home and, later, brought him on a merchant journey to Libya. On board the same man of deceit sought to kill him, but a storm rose and the ship sunk. He himself escaped by clinging to a raft he hastily made from the ship's debris and he drifted on the sea-currents and the eddies of tides and wound up in Thesprotia.r3

There he was tricked again and enslaved and put into the rags he is now wearing, and by the designs of the gods he was abandoned here by his captors, penniless and ruined. One thing, he adds, especially concerns the swineherd: he heard on his journey that Odysseus of Ithaca was hale and was returning to his island. Indeed, he himself had seen his black, blue-prowed ship moored in port, though not the man himself.

The swineherd hears these things and is convinced of Odysseus' lies. And with other tall tales the two speak each to each of their lives and eat crisp pork lifted from the spit; and, after much talking, they take to rough beds, Eumaios joining the sleeping silver-tusked pigs quartered beneath a rocky outcrop.

And night comes and with it incessant rain.

In the morning, wily Odysseus invents yet another tale, hoping to be given a decent coat by his host, but Eumaios is not a fool, and the coat he offers him is to be returned.

[Odyssey 15]

While all this tall-tale-telling is going on, and the pigs in the sties roll over in their slush and snore, Athene visits Telemachos still in low-lying Lacedaemon, the land of Menelaos, where the young man is walking about, being unable to sleep. And she warns him of the planned ambush and indicates the safe course he must steer and where he must go directly on re-arrival: the shelter of old Eumaios.

Waking his sleeping companion, Pisistratus, Telemachos asks him to accompany him to Pylos; and they go up on the golden chariot and re-traverse the plains, resting by night at Phera, and by morning reach the sea-port, and to avoid distraction they skip past the house of Nestor.

At this time there appears on the scene a seer, one Theoclymenus, and he pleads with Telemachos to take him with him on board, as he says he has murdered a man and is fleeing his avengers. Telemachos finds the man agreeable and he extends his hospitality to him, permitting him to sail with him.

Meanwhile back in Ithaca, in the remote hut Odysseus debates with Eumaios the wisdom of going to the palace to beg bread and to offer his services to one of the suitors. Eumaios points out to him that no-one would employ a beggar as pitiable as him. They fall again to talking and Eumaios tells his guest his own history, how he too was born into a wealthy household and by a succession of mishaps was reduced to slavery, was sold to Laertes and set to mind his master's pigs.

Telemachos, heeding the goddess's warning, arrives without incident in Ithaca and, on landing, he sees an omen: an eagle flying by with a farmyard goose in its talons. Theoclymenos, the seer, interprets this to portend the home-coming of Odysseus. Those fat geese that eat the king's stubble, he predicts, the suitors, will soon be feathers fluttering in the air. Telemachos then sends the seer to his friend Piraeus, who had sailed and returned with him, and makes his own way, alone, to the place of the swineherd's hut.

Soon father and son are re-united. Telemachos does not know his own father, yet he promises the old man before him his future benefaction. Eumaios is then sent off to let Penelope know of her son's safe return. While he is away on this errant, Odysseus discloses his true identity to his son. Together, they now decide the safest course of action to take: Telemachos should go on ahead to the palace and remove the suitors' weapons out of reach. Odysseus, still disguised as a beggar, will follow on with the swineherd once he has returned.

And so it is done, and, as he crosses over the rocky slopes on his way to the palace, Odysseus comes upon the goatherd Melanthios. The latter is insolent and abusive, and little knows who it is he is pushing around.