Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Joycean Triad and a Poltroon with a Wooden Sword


The other day I had the very great pleasure of discovering error on the internet. Joyce Images is an excellent site which marries the myriad references in Ulysses to images of the day mostly in the form of postcards. I informed the editor:

Nice site and I am enjoycing it. I notice a small error on page 8 of telemachus where you identify an 'irish triad' as an 'irish bull'. A version of that triad (three things to be distrusted) Three things to be distrusted: a cow's horn, a dog's tooth, and a horse's hoof. 'Smile of a Saxon is an obvious varient. cf: Kuno Meyer Triads

May I add a little note which is missed. 'whose mother is beastly dead' said by Buck Mulligan and upsetting to Kinch - beastly dead is the inverse in English of 'beo beithioch' which is the Irish for 'beastly alive' a common expression.

Again fine work gathering up all those references and finding pcs to match,

‘That has the true scholastic stink’ with a verb sap. matiness. Scholars are touchy folk but correction from the likes of me is like a kindly hour before dawn in the stocks before the burghers emerge.

The triad collection of Kuno Meyer is a great find and I recommend it as a source of poetic compression.
Kuno Meyer

Three slender things that best support the world: the slender stream of milk from the cow's dug into the pail, the slender blade of green corn upon the ground, the slender thread over the hand of a skilled woman.

Three smiles that are worse than sorrow: the smile of the snow as it melts, the smile of your wife on you after another man has been with her, the grin of a hound ready to leap at you.

Three signs of a fop: the track of his comb in his hair, the track of his teeth in his food, the track of his stick behind him.


Three idiots that are in a bad guest-house: the chronic cough of an old hag, a brainless tartar of a girl, a hobgoblin of a gillie.

Three things that constitute a comb-maker: racing a hound in contending for a bone; straightening a ram's horn by his breath, without fire; chanting upon a dunghill so that all antlers and bones and horns that are below come to the top.

One triad I two thirds remember (must talk to the brother) is - Three useless things that are as good as three right things: X, dirty water to quench a fire, a poltroon with a wooden sword (claiomh adhmaid ag cladhaire).

Proposals for X - a liars breath to blow out a candle.

Addendum 27/2/15: Aida of joyce images tells me that the image of Irish Bull refers to the smile of the Saxon. She wasn’t aware of the peculiarly Irish (and Welsh) tradition of triadic sayings. There’s a lot in Joyce and certainly he loved the obscure and recondite. Visit her site and experience the pantographical panoply of Dublin in June 1904










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