Notes on
Finnegans Wake

(beyond McHugh)
Insights & Inspirations
from members of the 
Wake Watchers
The Finnegans Wake Society
of New York


Left Boot Sent on Approval (epithet #63


Left-footer. A Catholic. In Northern Ireland, the inquiry as to which foot
you dig with is really an attempt to find out whether you are Catholic or
Protestant. The belief is that Catholics dig with the left foot, Protestants
with the right. According to Terry Eagleton, two different kinds of spade
were traditionally used in Ireland, one in (mainly Catholic) Munster and
Connacht, and the other in (partly Protestant) Ulster. One spade was notched on the right side for digging, the other notched on the left. But actually the Catholic spade was notched on the right, the Protestant one on the left. Folklore prevailed: the Catholic "Other" had to be consigned to the left; calling them "right" would have involved dangerous ironies. 

Source: LS1, TAI


from the James Joyce Quarterly,

Vol. 39, No. 2  Winter 2002, pgs. 336-7.



the Rose and Bottle or Phoenix Tavern or Power's Inn or Jude's Hotel

as McHugh notes, is a reference to the Ouzel Society.In 1695 the Ouzel Galley, a merchant ship, sailed from Dublin harbor.  As nothing was heard of her for several years, she was presumed lost and the insurance paid. Five years later, in 1700, she sailed into Dublin harbor with a valuable cargo and the following story: it had been captured by Algerian pirates who impressed the crew; only years later was the Irish crew able to re-take the ship and sail it home.To whom did the ship and cargo belong? The lawsuits left the cases unresolved until a committee of merchants arbitrated them to all claimants' satisfaction. After this success, in 1705, the Ouzel Galley Society was founded to arbitrate commercial disputes without recourse to courts or lawyers. They met at various pubs, including the four mentioned in the Wake, to conduct their business. The Society, a forerunner of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, gradually turned into a fraternal organization, was dissolved in 1888.Source:  Mink, L. - A Finnegans Wake Gazetteer, Oxford University Press, pp. 434-5.


Lilt a bolero, bulling a law
A reference to the song "Lillibulero:"  This song is memorable to many as the tune that Tristram Shandy's Uncle Toby sings interminably.

According to legend this tune first appears in 1641 in Ulster. Richard Talbot (1630-1691), a Catholic and royalist, had been made Earl of Tyrconnel after the Restoration and King James II later appointed him Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1686). He pursued strong pro-Catholic policies. Even after James was deposed in England Tyrconnel governed Ireland in James' name. Irish Catholic forces were eventually defeated by William. English and Irish Protestants took up the song as their melody during that time.  

According to one source the words "lillibulero" and "bullen al-a" were used as a rallying cry for the Irish to recognize one another in the uprising in 1641. Later (1687) Thomas, Lord Wharton (1640-1715), wrote a set of satirical verses titled Lillibolero regarding the Irish problems and set them to a melody arranged by Henry Purcell in 1678. Purcell's arrangement was based on an older tune under the name Quickstep which appeared in Robert Carr's Delightful Companion (1686). It became popular immediately. After the Stuarts were deposed, Lord Wharton, a strong supporter of William III, boasted that he had "rhymed James out of three kingdoms" with his tune.*

However, Irish writer Brendan Behan claimed the words of the chorus were a corruption of the Gaelic: "An lili ba leir e, ba linn an la" - roughly "The lily won the day for us."** A forum post at Digital Tradition reveals that according to Sources of Irish Traditional Music (1998) it translates as:
Lilli/ bu le'ir o/, bu linn an la/ - Lilli will be manifest, the day will be
ours. William Lilly (1602-1681) was a famous astrologer who made predictions regarding British politics of the time. One prediction was the Prophecy of the White King (made in 1644 after Marston Moor), which predicted a King would be beheaded or killed. Lilly wrote a letter to Charles I warning him of the prophecy.

Anther theory, from Songs That Made History by H. E. Piggot, states the refrain came from a popular Irish song when James II (a Roman Catholic) came to the the throne which had the Irish words, "Lere, lere, burlere." Lere meant religion or faith and burlere meant your faith. Piggot says a form of the tune was printed in 1661 in An Antidote against Melancholy which was set to words beginning There was an old man of Waltham Cross.

Wharton never publicly supported the Stuarts. As a member of the House of Commons Wharton supported the bill to bar James from the succession because of his Catholicism. When William won the war, Wharton was given prominent posts. There is speculation that Wharton referred to the Lilly prophecy, and used the Gaelic words to disguise them because when he wrote the words the Stuarts were still in power.

John Gay used the tune in The Beggar's Opera. It was the British Broadcasting Corporation's signature theme during World War II.  "Brother Teague" was then the nickname of the Irishmen (as "John Bull" would later be for Englishmen).

plus an automatic sample of the tune and downloadable midi file.

Fore the battle or efter the ball? The lyrics of the two songs named in McHugh.Just Before the Battle, Mother - 1863
by George F. Root (1820-1895)Just before the Battle, Mother,
I am thinking most of you,
While upon the field we're watching,
With the enemy in view,
Comrades brave are 'round me lying,
Filled with thoughts of home and God;
For well they know that on the morrow,
Some will sleep beneath the sod.[Chorus]
Farewell, Mother, you may never,
Press me to your heart again,
But, oh, you'll not forget me mother,
If I'm number'd with the slain.
Oh, I long to see you, Mother,
And the loving ones at home,
But I'll never leave our banner,
Till in honour I can come.
Tell the traitors, all around you,
That their cruel words we know,
In ev'ry battle kill our soldiers,
By the help they give the foe.[Chorus]Hark! I hear the bugles sounding,
'tis the signal for the fight,
Now, may God protect us, Mother,
As he ever does the right.
Hear the "Battle Cry of Freedom,"
How it swells upon the air,
Oh, yes, we'll rally 'round the standard,
Or we'll perish nobly there.[Chorus]

After the Ball is Over - 1892
Words and Music by Charles K. Harris (1864-1930)A little maiden climbed an old man's knee
Begged for a story - "Do, uncle, please!"
Why are you single; why live alone?
Have you no babies; have you no home?"
"I had a sweetheart, years, years ago;
Where she is now, pet, you will soon know.
List to the story, I'll tell it all,
I believed her faithless, after the ball."[Chorus]
After the ball is over,
After the break of morn --
After the dancers' leaving;
After the stars are gone;
Many a heart is aching,
If you could read them all;
Many the hopes that have vanished
After the ball.Bright lights were flashing in the grand ballroom,
Softly the music, playing sweet tunes.
There came my sweetheart, my love, my own -
'I wish some water; leave me alone.'
When I returned, dear, there stood a man,
Kissing my sweetheart, as lovers can.
Down fell the glass, pet, broken, that's all.
Just as my heart was, after the ball."[Chorus] . . .Long years have passed child, I've never wed
True to my lost love, though she is dead.
She tried to tell me, tried to explain;
I would not listen, pleadings were vain.
One day a letter came from that man,
He was her brother - the letter ran.
That's why I'm lonely, no home at all;
I broke her heart, pet, after the ball."[Chorus]

Return, sainted youngling, and walk once more among us! From the Confession of St. Patrick 1 [A.D. 452])."And once more, after a few years, I was in Britain with my family. . . . And there indeed I saw in a vision of the night a man whose name was Victoricus coming as it were from Ireland with countless letters. He gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the letter, which was entitled 'The Voice of the Irish.' And while I was reading aloud the beginning of the letter, I thought that at that very moment I heard the voices of those who dwelt beside the Wood of Foclut [in Ireland], which is nigh unto the Western Sea. And thus they cried, as with one mouth, 'We beseech you, holy youth, to come and walk once more among us!"

. . . 'twill be o'erthemore willfully intomeet if the coming offence can send our shudders before.
From Thomas Campbell's c. 1802 poem, "Lochiel's Warning," at right.  from

325.13 - 329.13
A chart of the reported speech in 325.13 - 329.13 in pdf format.



Lilli Burlero

Ho brother Teague,
Dost hear de decree?
Lilli burlero, bullen a la;
Dat we shall have a new deputie,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la.

Lero, lero, lilli burlero,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la
Lero, lero, lero lero
Lilli burlero, bullen a la

Ho, by my Soul, it is a Talbot;
Lilli burlero, bullen a la
And he will cut all de English throat
Lilli burlero, bullen a la


Though, by my soul, de Enlish do prate,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la
De law's on dere side and de divil knows what,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la


But if Depense do come from de Pope
Lilli burlero, bullen a la
We'll hang Magna Carta demselves on a rope
Lilli burlero, bullen a la


And de good Talbot is now made a Lord,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la
And with his brave lads he's coming aboard,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la


Who all in France have taken a swear,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la
Dat day will have no Protestant heir,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la


O but why does he stay behind?
Lilli burlero, bullen a la
Ho, by my soul, 'tis a Protestant wind,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la


Now that Tyrconnel is come ashore,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la
And we shall have comissions galore.
Lilli burlero, bullen a la


And he dat will not go to Mass,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la
Shall be turned out and look like an ass,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la


Now, now de hereticks all will go down,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la
By Christ and St. Patrick's the nation's our own,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la


Dere was an old prophercy found in a bog,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la
Dat our land would be ruled by an ass and a dog,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la


So now dis old prophecy's coming to pass,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la
For James is de dog and Tyrconnel's de ass,
Lilli burlero, bullen a la


Lochiel's Warning
by Thomas Campbell
circa 1802
Wizard-Lochiel Wizard.

Lochiel, Lochiel!  beware of the day
When the Lowlands shall meet thee in battle array!
For a field of the dead rushes red on my sight,
And the clans of Culloden are scatter'd in fight.
They rally, they bleed, for their kingdom and crown;
Woe, woe to the riders that trample them down!
Proud Cumberland prances, insulting the slain,
And their hoof-beaten bosoms are trod to the plain.
But hark!  through the fast-flashing lightening of way,
What steed to the desert flies frantic and far?
'Tis thine, oh Glenullin!  whose bride shall await,
Like a love-lighted watch-fire, all night at the gate.
A steed comes at morning: no rider is there;
But its brindle is red with the sign of despair.
Weep, Albin!  to death and captivity led!
Oh weep!  but thy tears cannot number the dead:
For a merciless sword on Culloden shall wave,
Culloden!  that reeks with the blood of the brave.


Go, preach to the coward, thou death-telling seer!
Or, if gory Culloden so dreadful appear,
Draw, dotard, around thy old wavering sight
This mantle, to cover the phantoms of fright.


Ha!  laugh'st thou, Lochiel, my vision to scorn?
Proud bird of the mountain, thy plume shall be torn!
Say, rush'd the bold eagle exultingly forth
From his home, in the dark rolling clouds of the north?
Lo!  the death-shot of foeman outspeeding, he rode
Companionless, bearing destruction abroad;
But down let him stoop from his havoc on high!
Ah!  home let him speed, - for the spoiler is nigh.
Why flames the far summit?  Why shoot to the blast
Those embers, like stars from the firmament cast?
'T is the fire-shower of ruin, all dreadfully driven
From his eyrie, that beacons the darkness of heaven.
Oh, crested Lochiel!  the peerless in might,
Whose banners arise on the battlement's height,
Heaven's fire is around thee, to blast and to burn;
Return to thy dwelling!  all lonely return!
For the blackness of ashes shall mark where it stood,
And a wild mother scream o'er her famishing brood.


False Wizard, avaunt!  I have marshall'd my clan,
Their swords are a thousand, their bosoms are one!
They are true to the last of their blood and their breath,
And like reapers descend to the harvest of death.
Then welcome be Cumberland's steed to the shock!
Let him dash his proud foam like a wave on the rock!
But woe to his kindred, and woe to his cause,
When Albin her claymore indignantly draws;
When her bonneted cheiftains to victory crowd,
Clanronald the dauntless, and Moray the prooud,
All plaided and plumed in their tartan array -


- Lochiel, Lochiel!  beware of the day;
For, dark and despairing, my sight I may seal
But man cannot cover what God would reveal;
'Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical lore,
And coming events cast their shadows before.
I tell thee, Culloden's dead echoes shall ring
With the bloodhounds that bark for thy fugitive king.
Lo!  anointed by Heaven with the vials of wrath,
Behold, where he flies on his desolate path!
Now in darkness and billows, he sweeps from my sight:
Rise, rise!  ye wild tempests, and cover his flight!
'Tis finish'd.  Their thunders are hush'd on the moors:
Culloden is lost, and my country deplores.
But where is the iron-bound prisoner?  Where?
For the red eye of battle is shut in despair.
Say, mounts he the ocean-wave, banish'd, forlorn,
Like a limb from his country cast bleeding and torn?
Ah no!  for a darker departure is near;
The war-drum is muffled and black is the bier;
His death-bell is tolling: oh!  Mercy, dispel
Yon sight, that it freezes my spirit to tell!
Life flutters convulsed in his quivering limbs,
And his blood-streaming nostril in agony swims.
Accursed be the faggots, that blaze at his feet,
Where his heart shall be thrown, ere it ceases to beat,
With the smoke of its ashes to poison the gale -


- Down, soothless insulter!  I trust not the tale:
For never shall Albin a destiny meet,
So black with dishonour, so foul with retreat.
Though my perishing ranks should be strew'd in their gore,
Like ocean-weeds heap'd on the sufr-beaten shore,
Lochiel, untainted by flight or by chains,
While the kindling of life in his bosom remains,
Shall victor exult, or in death be laid low,
With his back to the field, and his feet to the foe!
And, leaving in battle no blot on his name,
Look proudly to Heaven from the death-bed of fame.

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