Have you heard of one Humpty Dumpty
How he fell with a roll and a rumble
And curled up like Lord Olofa Crumple
By the butt of the Magazine Wall,
(Chorus) Of the Magazine Wall,
Hump, helmet and all? FW: 45. 1-5
In this watercolour the protagonist is in the guise of James Joyce jousting on his horse, just before his fall. The image is inspired by early stone sculpture and in the background Belinda of the Dorans can be seen scratching for the letter that contains some of the rumours about him.
This watercolour, inspired by page six shows the protagonist in his Bronze Age cist grave. Finnegan is both Finn McCool and the character from the famous ballad of the same name, Finnegans Wake. In the song and Joyce’s masterwork, Finnegan is a builder, fond of the drink, who falls from a ladder when drunk. His mourners gather at his wake and place a bottle of whiskey at his feet and a barrel of porter at his head. As they become rowdy, whiskey is spilled on the corpse and he comes back to life.
The image of the skeleton in his cist grave allowed me to superimpose the skull on an aerial view of Howth Head, where according to legend, the giant Finn McCool’s own head is buried, while the rest of his body lies beneath Dublin, with his feet resting in the Phoenix Park.
Grave goods in the form of pots were often placed with the human remains in Bronze Age times, sometimes in the form of pots with food for their journey into the afterlife. I have placed a barrel of Guinness at the head of Finnegan and a whiskey still from Jamesons at his feet. Both of Dublin companies are mentioned among others throughout the Wake.
The bird in the case was Belinda of the Dorans, a more than
quinquegintarian (Terziis prize with Serni medal, Cheepalizzy's
Hane Exposition) and what she was scratching at the hour of
klokking twelve looked for all this zogzag world like a goodish-
sized sheet of letterpaper.. FW:111, 5-9
On page 111 of Finnegans Wake we are introduced to Belina of the Dorans, who is scratching about in a midden, a primitive dump, full of debris of the past. In her excavations, she finds remnants of a letter and reads, finding that it introduces her to literature, to periods in Irish history and the rumour of the misdemeanours of HCE.
The scratching of the hen is very like my own excavation of the text of Finnegans Wake. Like engaging in an archaeological dig, there are so many treasures to be unearthed. Joyce has embedded anecdotes from history, mythology and world religions, marrying a mixture of ancient and modern languages with the English text.
Behove this sound of Irish sense. Really? Here English might be seen.
silence speaks the scene. Fake!
“So This Is Dyoublong?
Hush! Caution! Echoland!
How charmingly exquisite! It reminds you of the outwashed
innkempt house.” FW13:1-8
John Speed’s map of Dublin in 1610 forms the background for this painting where the familiar creatures from Irish coinage, past and present roam about. The River Liffey, which symbolises the life of the city is not confined within its banks but spills over to its environs.
So, do you belong to this Dublin and if so to what era? Speed’s map shows a city that we can’t recognise today, the only points of reference being the river and trinity college. And yet, in this ever-changing urban landscape the Liffey will continue to renew itself.