James Joyce Reading Finnegans Wake

Every telling has a taling and that’s the he and the she of it. Here is a 1929 recording of  James Joyce reading the Anna Livia Plurabelle episode of Finnegans Wake, where he speaks in the brogue of an Irish washerwoman. Below the video is the full text of this episode, so you can follow along with Joyce as he reads. Can’t hear with the waters of. The chittering waters of. The last paragraph is one of my favorite passages in the whole book, and hauntingly beautiful in Joyce’s reading. Beside the rivering waters of, hitherandthithering waters of. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Anna Livia Plurabelle, Finnegans Wake (pp. 213-216):

Well, you know or don’t you kennet or haven’t I told you
every telling has a taling and that’s the he and the she of it. Look,
look, the dusk is growing! My branches lofty are taking root.
And my cold cher’s gone ashley. Fieluhr? Filou! What age is at?
It saon is late. ‘Tis endless now senne eye or erewone last saw
Waterhouse’s clogh. They took it asunder, I hurd thum sigh.
When will they reassemble it? O, my back, my back, my bach!
I’d want to go to Aches-les-Pains. Pingpong! There’s the Belle
for Sexaloitez! And Concepta de Send-us-pray! Pang! Wring out
the clothes! Wring in the dew! Godavari, vert the showers! And
grant thaya grace! Aman. Will we spread them here now? Ay,
we will. Flip ! Spread on your bank and I’ll spread mine on mine.
Flep! It’s what I’m doing. Spread ! It’s churning chill. Der went is
rising. I’ll lay a few stones on the hostel sheets. A man and his bride
embraced between them. Else I’d have sprinkled and folded them
only. And I’ll tie my butcher’s apron here. It’s suety yet. The
strollers will pass it by. Six shifts, ten kerchiefs, nine to hold to
the fire and this for the code, the convent napkins, twelve, one
baby’s shawl. Good mother Jossiph knows, she said. Whose
head? Mutter snores? Deataceas! Wharnow are alle her childer,
say? In kingdome gone or power to come or gloria be to them
farther? Allalivial, allalluvial! Some here, more no more, more
again lost alla stranger. I’ve heard tell that same brooch of the
Shannons was married into a family in Spain. And all the Dun-
ders de Dunnes in Markland’s Vineland beyond Brendan’s herring
pool takes number nine in yangsee’s hats. And one of Biddy’s
beads went bobbing till she rounded up lost histereve with a
marigold and a cobbler’s candle in a side strain of a main drain
of a manzinahurries off Bachelor’s Walk. But all that’s left to the
last of the Meaghers in the loup of the years prefixed and between
is one kneebuckle and two hooks in the front. Do you tell me.
that now? I do in troth. Orara por Orbe and poor Las Animas!
Ussa, Ulla, we’re umbas all! Mezha, didn’t you hear it a deluge of
times, ufer and ufer, respund to spond? You deed, you deed! I
need, I need! It’s that irrawaddyng I’ve stoke in my aars. It all
but husheth the lethest zswound. Oronoko ! What’s your trouble?
Is that the great Finnleader himself in his joakimono on his statue
riding the high horse there forehengist? Father of Otters, it is
himself! Yonne there! Isset that? On Fallareen Common? You’re
thinking of Astley’s Amphitheayter where the bobby restrained
you making sugarstuck pouts to the ghostwhite horse of the
Peppers. Throw the cobwebs from your eyes, woman, and spread
your washing proper! It’s well I know your sort of slop. Flap!
Ireland sober is Ireland stiff Lord help you, Maria, full of grease,
the load is with me! Your prayers. I sonht zo! Madammangut!
Were you lifting your elbow, tell us, glazy cheeks, in Conway’s
Carrigacurra canteen? Was I what, hobbledyhips? Flop! Your
rere gait’s creakorheuman bitts your butts disagrees. Amn’t I
up since the damp dawn, marthared mary allacook, with Corri-
gan’s pulse and varicoarse veins, my pramaxle smashed, Alice
Jane in decline and my oneeyed mongrel twice run over, soaking
and bleaching boiler rags, and sweating cold, a widow like me,
for to deck my tennis champion son, the laundryman with the
lavandier flannels? You won your limpopo limp fron the husky
hussars when Collars and Cuffs was heir to the town and your
slur gave the stink to Carlow. Holy Scamander, I sar it again!
Near the golden falls. Icis on us! Seints of light! Zezere! Subdue
your noise, you hamble creature! What is it but a blackburry
growth or the dwyergray ass them four old codgers owns. Are
you meanam Tarpey and Lyons and Gregory? I meyne now,
thank all, the four of them, and the roar of them, that draves
that stray in the mist and old Johnny MacDougal along with
them. Is that the Poolbeg flasher beyant, pharphar, or a fireboat
coasting nyar the Kishtna or a glow I behold within a hedge or
my Garry come back from the Indes? Wait till the honeying of
the lune, love! Die eve, little eve, die! We see that wonder in
your eye. We’ll meet again, we’ll part once more. The spot I’ll
seek if the hour you’ll find. My chart shines high where the blue
milk’s upset. Forgivemequick, I’m going! Bubye! And you,
pluck your watch, forgetmenot. Your evenlode. So save to
jurna’s end! My sights are swimming thicker on me by the sha-
dows to this place. I sow home slowly now by own way, moy-
valley way. Towy I too, rathmine.

Ah, but she was the queer old skeowsha anyhow, Anna Livia,
trinkettoes! And sure he was the quare old buntz too, Dear Dirty
Dumpling, foostherfather of fingalls and dotthergills. Gammer
and gaffer we’re all their gangsters. Hadn’t he seven dams to wive
him? And every dam had her seven crutches. And every crutch
had its seven hues. And each hue had a differing cry. Sudds for
me and supper for you and the doctor’s bill for Joe John. Befor!
Bifur! He married his markets, cheap by foul, I know, like any
Etrurian Catholic Heathen, in their pinky limony creamy birnies
and their turkiss indienne mauves. But at milkidmass who was
the spouse? Then all that was was fair. Tys Elvenland ! Teems of
times and happy returns. The seim anew. Ordovico or viricordo.
Anna was, Livia is, Plurabelle’s to be. Northmen’s thing made
southfolk’s place but howmulty plurators made eachone in per-
son? Latin me that, my trinity scholard, out of eure sanscreed into
oure eryan! Hircus Civis Eblanensis! He had buckgoat paps on
him, soft ones for orphans. Ho, Lord ! Twins of his bosom. Lord
save us! And ho! Hey? What all men. Hot? His tittering daugh-
ters of. Whawk?

Can’t hear with the waters of. The chittering waters of. Flitter-
ing bats, fieldmice bawk talk. Ho! Are you not gone ahome?
What Thom Malone? Can’t hear with bawk of bats, all thim liffey-
ing waters of. Ho, talk save us ! My foos won’t moos. I feel as old
as yonder elm. A tale told of Shaun or Shem? All Livia’s daughter-
sons. Dark hawks hear us. Night! Night! My ho head halls. I feel
as heavy as yonder stone. Tell me of John or Shaun? Who were
Shem and Shaun the living sons or daughters of? Night now!
Tell me, tell me, tell me, elm! Night night! Telmetale of stem or
stone. Beside the rivering waters of, hitherandthithering waters
of. Night!


Telmetale of stem or stone. The recording above of James Joyce reading from Finnegans Wake was made in 1929, and is one of only two recordings of Joyce reading ever made. The other, from a passage in Ulysses, was made in 1924, is hard to find online and apparently is of poor quality.

UbuWeb has a Joyce page where you can download the mp3 of this recording, accompanied by Sylvia Beach’s story about the making of the two recordings — she made all the arrangements and took Joyce to the sessions.

See also: A blessing paper freed the flood.

One thought on “James Joyce Reading Finnegans Wake

  1. Pingback: Telmetale of Stem or Stone | Wordlab

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