A Finnegans Wake Gaarden

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Appendix B  

A plant that is not to be located in Finnegans Wake is the ashplant.  However information about the ashplant is pertinent to both Joyce and the Wake.  In Disunited Kingdom, John Garvin devotes Chapter 3 (pp. 27-32) to a discussion of the ashplant.  According to Garvin the ashplant is not a limb of the parent tree.  It is a sapling which is uprooted when it is the right size to be used for a walking stick after it is seasoned in a chimney and filled with molten lead.  Joyce carried an ashplant the year before he left Dublin.  Garvin suggests that the ashplant which Joyce carried was once a sapling from the mountain ash which, as we have discussed, is also called the quicken or rowan tree.  Garvin posits that "Joyce acquired his ashplant during one of his visits to Mullingar (1900-1901), probably at Uisneach, southwest of Mullingar ('Now, springing quickenly from the mudland Loosh...' FW 295.19)" (p.29).

"Quickenly" is an obvious reference to the quicken tree.  "Loosh" is less obvious but equally significant.  Refer to the The Modern Irish Alphabet (page v of this paper) and you will note that the tenth letter of this modern alphabet is luis (pronounced loosh?).  (For more insights into luis/loosh, see Robert Graves" The White Goddess, pp. 165-188.)

Upon re-reading the chapter from Garvin's book, it occurred to me to check for a reference to "sapling"  in Hart's Concordance, but no luck.  But, there is an entry - "sapstaff."  Is this after all the seemingly elusive ashplant?  "The quicker the deef the safter the sapstaff, but the main the mightier the stricker the strait" (FW 512.14-15).

On an autobiographical note, Herbert Gorman (James Joyce.  Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., New York, 1939.) quotes John Eglinton's description of Joyce in 1903:

 "A young man with a pair of burning dark-blue eyes, serious and questioning, fixed on me from under the peak of a yachting cap; the face is long, with a slight flush of dissipation, and an incipient beard is permitted to straggle over a very pronounced chin, under which the open shirt collar leaves bare a full womanish throat.  The figure is tall and very erect and gives a general impression of a kind of seedy hauteur.  One needs but add the ashplant and one has Stephen Dedalus." (p. 112).

As noted above, luis/loosh is the tenth letter of the modern Irish alphabet; but it is the second letter of the Beth-Luis-Nion tree-alphabet and corresponds to February, the month in which Joyce was born.  Joyce, ever the observer of anniversaries, especially his birthday, was aware of this and the rowan/quicken or mountain ash were of particular importance to him.  

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