Treading water to paradise
U 6.448-51: Cheaper transit. By easy stages. Houseboats. Camping out. Also hearses. To heaven by water. Perhaps I will without writing. Come as a surprise, Leixlip, Clonsilla. Dropping down lock by lock to Dublin. With turf from the midland bogs. Salute.
In ‘Hades’ Bloom contemplates various modes of travel and various modes of death, playing with the idea of going “to heaven by water”.
The idea of going to heaven by water is not new to Joyce, but it has had several meanings over the years. The editor of John Heywood’s Playe called the foure PP [= Ps: the palmer, the pardoner, the (a)pothecary, and the pedlar], originally published in 1544, interprets the expression as implying drinking:
A century later John Waite’s lecture The way to heaven by water
concomitated, by the sweet-breathing gales of the spirit: wherein, the point of
originall sinne is touched; infants baptisme justified, and how far the guilt
of originall sinne, in the elect, is therein ordinarily removed, &c., published
in 1645, introduces the idea of baptism
as the true route to heaven.
And this meaning is also found
in Edmund Hickeringill’s Scandalum
Postscript, p. 106):
At roughly the same time we find that the lover Alciana:
in Cloria and Narcissus (1653), associating weeping as the means of expressing her grief to heaven.
Joyce is calling on the tradition that identifies drowning as the road to heaven by water (in the context of Paddy
Dignam’s/Matthew Kane’s funeral), and in this he draws on a classical tradition
given voice in Robert Stapylton’s translation of Juvenal’s eleventh satire:
relevant line of Juvenal’s satire (which happens to mention Ulysses a few lines
commentary explains the reference:
This is not to imply that Joyce read Stapylton. The expression had a long history with the sense of “drowning”. We find it in Thomas Hutchinson’s History of Massachusetts-Bay (1765, p. 85):
and, in 1813, in the Monthly Magazine and & Literary Journal (1
April, p. 361):
Of numerous other references in the
nineteenth century – some retelling medieval English and French stories – the
most relevant to Joyce relate to the death of Ophelia. The poet Theodore Hook’s skit on Hamlet in the Universal Songster of 1834 (sung to the air “Lunnon is the Devil”) includes
W. H. Maxwell’s “Boulogne en route to Paris” in Bentley’s
Miscellany (1849) seems to allude to this song (or a similar one):
The song was persistent. Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly of May 1886 comments on “Curious Suicides”:
seems that the expression had a long pre-history in song before appearing en passant in Ulysses.
1 Robert Stapylton in Juvenal’s Mores Hominum (1666), p.
Joyce's Allusions >