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7.6 The Language of Flowers

The Four Historians view Issy as she sleeps in the Porter's inn in terms of sexual pleasure and child-bearing. In the following, they focus upon her reproductive organs, with the names Cunina, Statulina and Edulia alluding to Roman goddesses associated with childbearing,8 and the flowers that appear to be in her bed constitute her new pubic hair:

Who sleeps in now number one, for example? A pussy, purr esimple. Cunina, Statulina and Edulia, but how sweet of her! Has your pussy a pessname? [...] Loreas with lillias flocaflake arrosas! Here's newyearspray, the posquiflor, a windaborne and heliotrope; there miriamsweet and amaranth and marygold to crown. (FW 561.8-21)

Margot Norris suggests a continuity between Ulysses and Finnegans Wake in both the use of flowers and the rainbow motif to express female sexuality:

Bloom thinks, as he catches a whiff of Gerty MacDowell's sachet. 'What is it? Heliotrope? No. Hyacinth? Hm. Roses, I think.' (U 12.1007) [...] He begins to explain the chemistry of perfume and of female fragrance in diaphanous imagery that oscillates between presence and absence: 'Tell you what it is. It's like a fine fine veil or web they have all over the skin, fine like what do you call it gossamer, and they're always spinning it out of them, fine as anything, like rainbow colours without knowing it' (U 13.1019).9

The flower pinned to Martha Clifford's letter, a gesture Bloom considers a 'poison bouquet to strike him down', is also a feminine language of love, a 'Language of flowers', because 'no-one can hear' (U 5.261-62). Kimberly Devlin describes this language as a 'semiology of desire' and one of the 'alternative silent discourses' with which the young women of Ulysses express their desire.10 In the Wake the 'language of flowers' is translated into a far less furtive combination of the themes of flowers, singing and the flow of the Liffey: 'Dola. Mineninecyhandsy, in the languo of flows' (FW 621.21-22). The language of flowers in the Wake is not a language of love or romance so much as a language of overt female sexuality, with the female genitalia a signifier of a silent 'semiotics of desire' exposed (both willingly and unwillingly) as an open flower:

The youngly delightsome frilles-in-pleyurs are now showen drawen, if bud one, or, if in florileague, drawens up consociately at the hinder sight of their commoner guardian. (FW 224.22-24)

Just so stylled with the nattes are their flowerheads now and each of all has a lovestalk onto herself and the tot of all the tits of their understamens is as open as he can posably she and is tournesoled straightcut or sidewaist, accourdant to the coursets of things feminite, towooerds him in heliolatry, so they may catchcup in their calyzettes, alls they go troping, those parryshoots from his muscalone pistil. (FW 236.33-237.3)

Hunt her orchid! Gob and he found it on her right enough! With her shoes upon his shoulders, 'twas most trying to beholders when he upped their frullatullepleats with our warning. (FW 530.25-27)

Accordingly, the moth-like 'eternal chimerahunter Oriolopos' hunts the sexual flowers of the young women of the Wake, and 'with guns like drums and fondlers like forceps persequestellates his vanessas from flore to flore' (FW 107.14-18). It is only in death that HCE lets up his biological letter-writing quest: 'his likeness is in Terrecuite and he giveth rest to the rainbowed' (FW 133.30-31). The centrality of the female reproductive organs to the Wake is similarly indicated by the vesica piscis diagram, a geometric representation of ALP's womb and pubic delta composed by Shem for the elucidation of his brother, which is distinguished, not merely as a view or picture of Dublin, but as its goddess (dieu + Venus): 'Vieus Von DVbLIn' (FW 293.12). The answer to the Colours game of the Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies also suggests the female genitalia, as in the following anagram of 'heliotrope' in a passage suggesting Kitty O'Shea may have been Parnell's price: 'peethrolio or Get my Prize, using her flower or perfume or, if veryveryvery chumming, in otherwards, who she supposed adeal, kissists my exits. Shlicksheruthr' (FW 280.24-27).

8 Roland McHugh, Annotations, p. 561.

9 Margot Norris, 'Joyce's Heliotrope', Coping With Joyce: Essays from the Copenhagen Symposium, edited by Morris Beja and Shari Benstock (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1989), pp. 3-24 (p. 9)

10 Kimberly Devlin, Wandering and Return in Finnegans Wake: An Integrative Approach to Joyce's Fictions (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), pp. 62, 142.