U 14.1452-4: Keep a watch on the clock. Chuckingout time. Mullee! What’s on you? Ma mère m’a mariée. British Beatitudes! Retamplan digidi boumboum.
Ma Mère m’a Mariée is a traditional French chanson grivoise (bawdy or ribald song), recorded in a number of versions from at least the early eighteenth century. Sometimes it is the mother who marries off her daughter, sometimes the father. The bridegroom varies too – a young man, an old man, a lawyer, etc. – and for each the rigmarole story takes its own path.1
It is likely that the version to which Joyce alludes is a café-concert version with lyrics by Raphael May and music by Henri Neuzillet. This was recorded by the singer ‘Charlus’ (Louis-Napoléon Defer) in 1898-9 on the Pathé label, and was published (and the music sheet sold) by A. Rouart, of 18 Boulevard Strasbourg in the 18th arrondissement, Paris.
The 18th is the area of Paris where Montmartre is located. It is famous for its cafés-concerts and cabarets, including Le Ciel - and L’Enfer, which Stephen most certainly visited and which he mentions in Circe (U 15.3889). When in Paris, Stephen also visited the expatriate Kevin Egan, who lived in the Rue de la Goutte d’Or, also in the 18th arrondissement (U 3.245). Joyce added the reference to his Oxen notesheets while he was still in Trieste in 1920 (Herring 186, l. 45). Stephen is the most likely protagonist in Oxen to sing the song, which chimes in with the episode’s themes of sexuality and reproduction.
The following is my translation:
To hear a 1932 recording of the song, click here.
1 See, for example, E. Rolland (ed.), Receuil de chansons populaire (1883), vol. 1, pp. 63-87 and especially p. 84, which cites an early version of the song from Christophe Ballard’s Les Rondes, Chansons à Danser (1724), vol. 1 (see pages 52, 62, and 72). The tune Ma Mère m’a Mariée is referred to in Antoine de Pils and Pierre Barré’s Etrennes de Mercure; ou le bonnet magique, opera-comique (1782), p. 46. [Click on the three links above for the texts.]