Oxen of the Sun ― allocating text in the closing paragraphs

Although many aspects of the coda to Oxen of the Sun have been explored, it has never been analysed in full, realistic detail.1 There are indications both in Joyce’s notes for the episode and in the nature of the passage itself that he knew exactly what was happening and to whom each sentence of the dialogue should be attributed.

Despite the general vagueness of the final product and the necessary blurring of the boundaries in keeping with the befuddled consciousness of the characters, it may be possible to give a partial account.

We have drafted what follows as a playlet echoing the structure of Circe, for which it serves to some degree as a preparation, adding speech prefixes and stage directions in an attempt to clarify the action. Our occasional comments are printed as indented passages in smaller type.

We have treated each of the ten paragraphs as separate scenes and have indicated the episode/line numbers in the headings. We have resorted several times to the device of “A Voice” when more precise attribution seemed beyond even a guess — except that, when a question is put and then receives an answer, we use “First Voice”, “Second Voice”.

We remain doubtful about much. Sometimes individual sentences and phrases separated by stops are to be attributed to different speakers; sometimes a sequence of phrases appears to be uttered by the same character. As in Circe, the utterances are a mixture of realistic (if mostly drunken) speech and transformations into quasi-symbolic language. That the exchanges did in some sense “really” happen is, for example, confirmed in Eumeus, where Bloom remembers Mulligan’s quip about “pissedon green” (17.1315-16). That confirmation of the continuing realism of the book casts some light on the status of the more obviously realistic exchanges in Circe. There are also noises off: the sound of someone vomiting in the street; the sound of the whips or reins on the backs of the horses drawing the fire engines.

When the text is represented in this way, it grows increasingly clear how much dialogue and physical action goes unreported. We have attempted to reflect this in the stage directions. Often the drinkers seem to be speaking simultaneously. Since there may be as many as half a dozen speaking at one time, it is not practicable to use parallel columns and, in any case, we wish to keep the text unchanged and consecutive. Individual passages attributed to the “Chorus” are understood to be spoken by a single unspecified member of the group. Elsewhere, multiple passages preceded by the single speech prefix “Chorus” and each given a separate line are understood to be spoken either singly in sequence, as a jumble of voices, or as a mixture of both. Passages progressively indented in echelon are understood to be spoken (or sung) consecutively, while interspersed passages flush left are being spoken at the same time by others.

The text printed here from “All off for a buster” to “try it on”, ignoring stage directions and speech prefixes, is unchanged from that in Ulysses itself. We append notes on points of detail. Some of those, explaining the reasons for our tentative decisions, depend on entries in Herring. We do not, however, believe that the jottings in the notesheets necessarily determine everything. In the course of developing Ulysses, Joyce changed his mind many times; it is likely that he chose to rearrange or otherwise vary some of the dialogue in the ten paragraphs which we attempt to gloss here.

A further caveat: we use the dramatic form of Circe only as an implicit commentary. This in no sense a dramatisation intended for the stage.

One question remains. Joyce has been careful to create a muddle. Is it appropriate to attempt to clarify this jumble of drunken conversation? We believe that, in view of the way the events are integrated with the action elsewhere in Ulysses, the answer is a tentative “yes”. An example: Mulligan’s unsuccessful attempt to separate himself from the others by hanging back during the rush to Burke’s helps the reader to follow the action later in the evening.

Clive Hart, with Harald Beck

Dramatis personae

Stephen Dedalus

Leopold Bloom

An anonymous drunk in the street


Burke’s curate (and possibly

John Burke himself, who lived at 17 Holles Street)







Railway man



A poster on the Merrion Hall

A group of street urchins


Holles Street, from the entrance to the Maternity Hospital to the interior of Burke’s public house and on to the Merrion Hall.

Map by kind permission: Ian Gunn



(Holles Street, outside the maternity hospital. The group, with Dixon and Bloom lagging behind, begins to emerge from tbe entrance. Although the sky is clear, the air is still wet. There are puddles in the street.)

BLOOM. All off for a buster, armstrong, hollering down the street.

This and the following comment by Bloom—“Like ole Billyo”—are evidently transformed interior monologue, not representing literally the thought processes of the character. The same may be true of other thoughts and utterances. Cf. Bloom’s “All off for a drink. Arm in arm” at 7.983.

FIRST VOICE. Bonafides.

SECOND VOICE. Where you slep las nigh?

THIRD VOICE. Timothy of the battered naggin.

BLOOM. Like ole Billyo.

MULLIGAN. (glancing at his new clothes) Any brollies or gumboots in the fambly?

(Lenehan looks about him, trying to identify Dixon and Bloom.)

LENEHAN. Where the Henry Nevil’s sawbones and ole clo?

Lenehan is aware of the time when Bloom and Molly sold old clothing (11.485-97). “Old clo” was a term commonly associated with Jewish sellers of secondhand clothing.

CROTTHERS. Sorra one o’ me knows.

The language is far from definitive. “Sorra,” dialectal, is common in both Ireland and Scotland. Crotthers is a Scot.

MULLIGAN. Hurrah there, Dix!

STEPHEN. (calling to Dixon) Forward to the ribbon counter.

MULLIGAN. Where’s Punch?

COSTELLO. (from nearby) All serene.

(Street urchins from Denzille Lane notice the group and begin to approach it.)

DENZILLE LANE BOYS. Jay, look at the drunken minister coming out of the maternity hospal!

“Minister” because Stephen is dressed in black and his “Latin quarter hat” (3.174), his “Hamlet hat” (3.390), looks like that of a protestant clergyman.

(Stephen turns to the boys and addresses them as they walk under a street lamp.)

STEPHEN. Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus, Pater et Filius.

DENZILLE LANE BOYS. A make, mister.

LYNCH. The Denzille lane boys. Hell, blast ye!

BLOOM. Scoot.

LYNCH. (addressing Bloom) Righto, Isaacs, shove em out of the bleeding limelight.

LENEHAN. Yous join uz, dear sir?

(Bloom replies with something like If I’m not in the way.)

LENEHAN. No hentrusion in life. Lou heap good man. Allee samee dis bunch. (he urges them on) En avant, mes enfants! Fire away number one on the gun.

Lenehan frequently uses French tags. But, NB, Costello is also fluent in French (14.551-54).

STEPHEN. Burke’s! Burke’s!

MULLIGAN. Thence they advanced five parasangs. Slattery’s mounted foot.

BANNON. Where’s that bleeding awfur?

MADDEN. Parson Steve, apostates’ creed!

BANNON. No, no, Mulligan!

LENEHAN. Abaft there!

“Abaft” is nautical language; Lenehan wears a yachtingcap (10.579). Mulligan, conscious of his need to get to Westland Row station, is hanging back.

DIXON. Shove ahead. Keep a watch on the clock. Chucking out time.

Herring 191.48.

BANNON. Mullee!

MULLIGAN. What’s on you? (indicating Stephen) Ma mère m’a mariée.

STEPHEN. British Beatitudes!

For attribution see 15.2236-37.

LENEHAN. Ratamplaatn digidi boumboum. Ayes have it.

MULLIGAN. To be printed and bound at the Druiddrum press by two designing females. Calf covers of pissedon green. Last word in art shades. Most beautiful book come out of Ireland my time.

See 1.365-67 and 17.1315-16.

LENEHAN. Silentium! Get a spurt on. Tention. Proceed to nearest canteen and there annex liquor stores. March! Tramp, tramp, tramp the boys are (atitudes!) parching.

The spelling “atitudes” is an echo of “Beatitudes.” See Sullivan 188, showing that Joyce deleted the initial two letters of what had earlier been the full word. Lenehan is inviting the group to act like British soldiers on their way to a canteen. “Attitudes!” is commonly used by those directing charades to ask for instant adoption by the actors of appropriate stances and behaviour. In this case the background suggestion of “Beatitudes” implies that they should respond to the idea of the “eight British beatitudes” which Stephen then lists. Towards the end of Circe Stephen will encounter two beatified British soldiers.

STEPHEN. Beer, beef, business, bibles, bulldogs, battleships, buggery and bishops.

CHORUS. (sings) Whether on the scaffold high.

STEPHEN. Beer, beef, trample the bibles.

. . . CHORUS. (sings) When for Irelandear.

STEPHEN. Trample the trampellers.

LENEHAN. Thunderation! Keep the durned millingtary step.

. . . CHORUS. (sings) We fall.

MULLIGAN. Bishops boosebox.

Mulligan favours jocular “–box” words. Cf. “playbox,” 9.1130.

(They reach Burke’s.)

LENEHAN. Halt! Heave to. Rugger. Scrum in. No touch kicking.

“Heave to”: nautical language once again.

(Someone has his foot trodden on.)

CHORUS. Wow, my tootsies!

LENEHAN. You hurt? Most amazingly sorry!



(They enter and crowd at the bar.)

LENEHAN. Query. Who’s astanding this here do?

CHORUS. Proud possessor of damnall.

Declare misery.

LENEHAN. Bet to the ropes.

Lenehan is the main betting man. But see Herring 221.19: “Beat to the ropes,” which is boxing language.

CHORUS. Me nantee saltee.

Not a red at me this week gone.

CURATE. (to Stephen) Yours?

MULLIGAN. Mead of our fathers for the Übermensch.

Cf. 1.708-09.

(The curate asks Mulligan And yours?)


(The curate asks a group of the others.)

CHORUS. Five number ones.

CURATE. (to Bloom, who is standing a little apart) You, sir?

BLOOM. Ginger cordial.

CHORUS. Chase me, the cabby’s caudle.

DIXON. Stimulate the caloric.

LENEHAN. (indicating Bloom) Winding of his ticker. (chants) Stopped short never to go again when the old.

STEPHEN. Absinthe for me, savvy?

CHORUS. Caramba! Have an eggnog or a prairie oyster.

(Bloom asks Lenehan for the time.)

LENEHAN. Enemy? Avuncular’s got my timepiece.

DIXON. (consulting his doctor’s watch) Ten to.

BLOOM. Obligated awful.

If the speaker is indeed Bloom, this is a good example of the rhetorical transformations of the passage. Bloom’s comment would very likely have been “Much obliged.”

DIXON. Don’t mention it.

(Dixon mentions to Lenehan that Bloom had consulted him about a thoracic pain.)

LENEHAN. Got a pectoral trauma, eh, Dix?

DIXON. Pos fact. Got bet by a boomblebee whenever he was settin sleepin in hes bit garten. Digs up near the Mater.

“Whenever” is a puzzle. Does the passage allude to a line in a song: “Whenever he was sitting in his garden,” etc?

LENEHAN. Buckled he is.

DIXON. Know his dona?

LENEHAN. Yup, sartin I do. Full of a dure. See her in her dishybilly. Peels off a credit. Lovey lovekin. None of your lean kine, not much. Pull down the blind, love.

Cf. 10.552-76.

CHORUS. (to the curate) Two Ardilauns.

Same here.

Look slippery.

If you fall don’t wait to get up.

CURATE. (counting the number of drinks he has served) Five, seven, nine. Fine.

LENEHAN. Got a prime pair of mincepies, no kid. And her take me to rests and her anker of rum. Must be seen to be believed.

??DIXON. Your starving eyes and allbeplastered neck you stole my heart, O gluepot.

(Bloom asks Dixon about the efficacy of the shrivelled potato which, on his mother’s advice, he carries to protect him from rheumatism.)


(Bloom explains further.)

DIXON. Spud again the rheumatiz? All poppycock, you’ll scuse me saying. For the hoi polloi. ??I vear thee beest a gert vool.

CURATE/BURKE. (to Dixon) Well, doc. Back fro Lapland? Your corporosity sagaciating O K? How’s the squaws and papooses? Womanbody after going on the straw?

DIXON. Stand and deliver. Password. There’s hair.

MULLIGAN. Ours the white death and the ruddy birth.

(Stephen spits, (inadvertently?) spraying someone.)

See Herring 186.48: “SD spits.”

CHORUS. Hi! Spit in your own eye, boss!

MULLIGAN. Mummer’s wire. (showing to others) Cribbed out of Meredith. Jesified, orchidised, polycimical jesuit! (to Stephen) Aunty mine’s writing Pa Kinch. Baddybad Stephen lead astray goodygood Malachi.



CHORUS. Hurroo!

Collar the leather, youngun.

CROTTHERS. Roun wi the nappy.

MADDEN. (to Crotthers) Here, Jock braw Hielentman’s your barleybree.

CROTTHERS. Lang may your lum reek and your kailpot boil!

LENEHAN. My tipple. Merci. Here’s to us.

(A drink is spilled on someone’s trouser front.)

FIRST VOICE. How’s that?

SECOND VOICE. Leg before wicket.

MULLIGAN. Don’t stain my brandnew sitinems.

CHORUS. (to the curate) Give’s a shake of peppe, you there.

That it is — or originally was intended to be — the curate rather than Burke of whom the request is made is confirmed by “Give us a shake of pepper, young fellow”, Herring 186.26.

CURATE. (sliding the pepper shaker along the bar) Catch aholt.

LENEHAN. Caraway seed to carry away. Twig? Shrieks of silence.

STEPHEN. Every cove to his gentry mort.

MULLIGAN. Venus Pandemos.

LENEHAN/COSTELLO (?). Les petites femmes.

BANNON. Bold bad girl from the town of Mullingar. Tell her I was axing at her.

CROTTHERS. Hauding Sara by the wame.

LYNCH. On the road to Malahide. Me? (sings) If she who seduced me had left but the name.

BANNON. What do you want for ninepence?

LYNCH. Machree macruiskeen. Smutty Moll for a mattress jig. And a pull all together.


(They drink.)



(The curate [?Burke] looms over the bar.)

FIRST VOICE. Waiting, guvnor?

CURATE/BURKE. Most deciduously. Bet your boots on.

SECOND VOICE. Stunned like, seeing as how no shiners is acoming. Underconstumble?

LENEHAN. (pointing to Stephen) He’ve got the chink ad lib. Seed near free poun on un a spell ago a said war hisn.

MULLIGAN. Us come right in on your invite, see? Up to you, matey. Out with the oof. Two bar and a wing. You larn that go off of they there Frenchy bilks? Won’t wash here for nuts nohow.

Mulligan is the one most obviously aware of Stephen’s stay in Paris. Cf. 1.342.

CHORUS. (egging Stephen on) Lil chile velly solly. Ise de cutest colour coon down our side. Gawds teruth, Chawley.

CROTTHERS. We are nae fou. We’re nae tha fou.

LENEHAN. Au reservoir, mossoo.

CHORUS. Tanks you.



(Lenehan looks at other customers in the inner snug bar.)

LENEHAN. ’Tis, sure.

FIRST VOICE. What say?

LENEHAN. In the speakeasy. Tight. I shee you, shir. Bantam, two days teetee. Bowsing nowt but claretwine.


LENEHAN. Have a glint, do.

FIRST VOICE. Gum, I’m jiggered. And been to barber he have. Too full for words. With a railway bloke.

(Lenehan poses his riddle.)

CHORUS. How came you so? Opera he’d like?

LENEHAN. Rose of Castile. Rows of cast.

CHORUS. Police! Some H2O for a gent fainted.

LENEHAN. Look at Bantam’s flowers.

CHORUS. Gemini. He’s going to holler.

LYONS. (sings drunkenly) The colleen bawn. My colleen bawn.

CHORUS. O, cheese it! Shut his blurry Dutch oven with a firm hand.

LENEHAN. Had the winner today till I tipped him a dead cert. The ruffin cly the nab of Stephen Hand as give me the jady coppaleen. He strike a telegramboy paddock wire big bug Bass to the depot. Shove him a joey and grahamise. Mare on form hot order. Guinea to a goosegog.

CHORUS. Tell a cram, that.

LENEHAN. Gospeltrue.

CHORUS. Criminal diversion?

LENEHAN. I think that yes. Sure thing.

CHORUS. Land him in chokeechokee if the harman beck copped the game.

LENEHAN. Madden back Madden’s a maddening back.

MULLIGAN. O lust our refuge and our strength.

LYONS. Decamping.

CHORUS. Must you go?

LYONS. Off to mammy.

CHORUS. (making way for the unsteady Lyons) Stand by.

LENEHAN. Hide my blushes someone. All in if he spots me.

CHORUS. Come ahome, our Bantam.

LENEHAN. Horryvar, mong vioo.

CROTTHERS. Dinna forget the cowslips for hersel.

CHORUS. Cornfide. Wha gev ye thon colt? Pal to pal. Jannock. Of John Thomas, her spouse.

LYONS. No fake, old man Leo. S’elp me, honest injun. Shiver my timbers if I had.

CHORUS. There’s a great big holy friar. Vyfor you no me tell? Vel, I ses, if that aint a sheeny nachez, vel, I vil get misha mishinnah. Through yerd our lord, Amen.

(Lyons leaves.)



(Stephen suggests, or indicates with a gesture, that they drink more; cf. 7.885.)

MADDEN. You move a motion? Steve boy, you’re going it some.

LYNCH. More bluggy drunkables? Will immensely splendiferous stander permit one stooder of most extreme poverty and one largesize grandacious thirst to terminate one expensive inaugurated libation? Give’s a breather.

Stephen is pressing for more drink at a rate that even Lynch finds precipitous.

COSTELLO. Landlord, landlord, have you good wine, staboo?

CROTTHERS. Hoots, mon, a wee drap to pree.

CURATE/BURKE. Cut and come again.

STEPHEN. Right. Boniface! Absinthe the lot. Nos omnes biberimus viridum toxicum, diabolus capiat posterioria nostria.

CURATE/BURKE. Closingtime, gents.


CHORUS. Rome boose for the Bloom toff.

BANNON. I hear you say onions? Bloo?

(Someone explains who Bloom is.)

CHORUS. Cadges ads.

BANNON. Photo’s papli, by all that’s gorgeous. Play low pardner. Slide. Bonsoir la compagnie. And snares of the poxfiend.

(Bannon leaves with Mulligan.)

FIRST VOICE. Where’s the buck and Namby Amby? Skunked?


CROTTHERS. Aweel, ye maun e’en gang yer gates.

STEPHEN. Checkmate. King to tower. Kind Kristyann wil yu help yung man hoose frend tuk bungellow kee tu find plais whear to lay crown of his hed 2 night. Crickey, I’m about sprung.

CHORUS. Tarnally dog gone my shins if this beent the bestest puttiest longbreak yet.

FIRST VOICE. (referring to Stephen) Item, curate, couple of cookies for this child.

CURATE. Cot’s plood and prandypalls, none!

CHORUS. Not a pite of sheeses?

STEPHEN. Thrust syphilis down to hell and with him those other licensed spirits.

CURATE. Time, gents.

. . . STEPHEN. Who wander through the world.

CHORUS. Health all.

LENEHAN/COSTELLO (?). À la vôtre!



(The group moves to the door.)

CHORUS. Golly, whatten tunket’s yon guy in the mackintos

Dusty Rhodes.

Peep at his wearables.

By mighty! What’s he got? Jubilee mutton.

Bovril, by James.

Wants it real bad.

CROTTHERS. D’ye ken bare socks?

(Dixon indicates that he has encountered “M‘Intosh” in the asylum.)

CHORUS. Seedy cuss in the Richmond?


DIXON. Thought he had a deposit of lead in his penis. Trumpery insanity. Bartle the Bread we calls him. That, sir, was once a prosperous cit. Man all tattered and torn that married a maiden all forlorn. Slung her hook, she did. Here see lost love. Walking Mackintosh of lonely canyon.

CURATE/BURKE. Tuck and turn in. Schedule time. Nix for the hornies.

(Bloom comments that he saw “M‘Intosh” at Glasnevin.)

LENEHAN. Pardon? Seen him at a runefal? Chum o’ yourn passed in his checks?

(Bloom explains that it was the funeral of Dignam.)

LENEHAN. Ludamassy! Pore piccaninnies!

Cf. Lenehan’s “Boohoo!” (7.574).

CROTTHERS. Thou’ll no be telling me thot, Pold veg!

CHORUS. Did ums blubble bigsplash crytears cos fren Padney was took off in black bag?

Of all de darkies Massa Pat was verra best. I never see the like since I was born.

LENEHAN/COSTELLO (?). Tiens, tiens, but it is well said, that, my faith, yes.

CHORUS. O, get, rev on a gradient one in nine.

(Someone starts discussing the forthcoming motorcar race.)

LENEHAN. Live axle drives are souped. Lay you two to one Jenatzy licks

him ruddy well hollow.

(Somone starts discussing the Russo-Japanese war.)

CHORUS. Jappies? High angle fire, inyah! Sunk by war specials. Be worse or him, says

he, nor any Rooshian.

CURATE. Time all.

(The clock strikes 11 p. m.)

CHORUS. There’s eleven of them.

CURATE. Get ye gone.

CHORUS. Forward, woozy wobblers!



May Allah the Excellent One your soul this night ever tremendously conserve.



(Pause. The group leaves the pub.)

CHORUS. Your attention.

CROTTHERS. We’re nae tha fou. The Leith police dismisseth us. The least tholice.

CHORUS. Ware hawks for the chap puking. Unwell in his abominable regions.

DRINKER/FLYNN (?). (vomiting in the street) Yooka.

CHORUS. Night.

(sings) Mona, my thrue love.


. . . CHORUS. (sings) Mona, my own love.




CHORUS. Hark! Shut your obstropolos.

THE FIRE ENGINE. (the sound of the whips or reins against the lower backs of the horses. NB: there were no motorized fire engines in Dublin in 1904) Pflaap! Pflaap!

CHORUS. Blaze on.

There she goes.


LENEHAN. Bout ship.

CHORUS. Mount street way.

Cut up!


CHORUS. Tally ho. (to Stephen) You not come? Run, skelter, race.




(The group begins to run south down Holles Street.)



STEPHEN. Sign on long o’ me. Denzille lane this way. Change here for Bawdyhouse. We two, she said, will seek the kips where shady Mary is.

LYNCH. Righto, any old time.

STEPHEN. Laetabuntur in cubilibus suis.

(Stephen and Lynch, with Bloom following, divert down Danzille Lane.)

LYNCH. (to Bloom) You coming long? (to Stephen) Whisper, who the sooty hell’s the johnny in the black duds?

STEPHEN. Hush! Sinned against the light and even now that day is at hand when he shall come to judge the world by fire.


STEPHEN. Ut implerentur scripturae.

LYNCH. Strike up a ballad.

STEPHEN. (chanting) Then outspake medical Dick to his comrade medical Davy.

(They reach the Merrion Hall.)

LYNCH. Christicle, who’s this excrement yellow gospeller on the Merrion hall?

THE POSTER. Elijah is coming! Washed in the Blood of the Lamb. Come on you winefizzling, ginsizzling, booseguzzling existences! Come on, you dog-gone, bullnecked, beetlebrowed, hogjowled, peanutbrained, weaseleyed fourflushers, false alarms and excess baggage! Come on, you triple extract of infamy! Alexander J. Christ Dowie, that’s my name that’s yanked to glory most half this planet from Frisco Beach to Vladivostok. The Deity aint no nickel dime bumshow. I put it to you that He’s on the square and a corking fine business proposition. He’s the grandest thing yet and don’t you forget it. Shout salvation in King Jesus. You’ll need to rise precious early, you sinner there, if you want to diddle the Almighty God.

We attribute these words to the poster, not as appearing on it in print but as an imaginary or hallucinated address suggested by it. The passage is thus a preparation for the talking inanimates in Circe. Cf. the words attributed to the nymph (15.3239-91). As we attempt to show in chapter 2, many episodes in Ulysses end with a foretaste of what is to follow. It is also possible that Lynch is ventriloquising the poster.


THE POSTER. Not half. He’s got a coughmixture with a punch in it for you, my friend, in his backpocket. Just you try it on.

(Stephen, Lynch, and Bloom disappear up Westland Row towards the station.)


1 For earlier studies, see Jorn Barger, on the web: www.robotwisdom.com/jaj/ulysses/oxen3.html (link no longer live); Daniel Weiss, “The end of ‘The Oxen of the Sun’: An analysis of the boosing scene in Joyce’s Ulysses”. The Analyst 9 (December, 1955), with further notes by various contributors in issues X (March, 1956) 10-18 and XV (March 1958) 14-16; especially, perhaps, John Noel Turner’s excellent and sensitive “A Commentary on the Closing of ‘Oxen of the Sun’”, JJQ 35.1 (Fall 1997) 83-111; Turner’s readings agree in many — though not all — respects with our own. See also entries in Phillip F. Herring, Joyce’s Ulysses Notesheets in the British Museum (Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1972) and Sullivan 184-94.