Ulysses By James Joyce Chapter 15 - Circe

THE SOAP: We're a capital couple are Bloom and I. He brightens the earth. I polish the sky.

(The freckled face of Sweny, the druggist, appears in the disc of the soapsun.)

SWENY: Three and a penny, please.

BLOOM: Yes. For my wife. Mrs Marion. Special recipe.

MARION: (Softly) Poldy!

BLOOM: Yes, ma'am?

MARION: ti trema un poco il cuore?

(In disdain she saunters away, plump as a pampered pouter pigeon, humming the duet from Don Giovanni.)

BLOOM: Are you sure about that voglio? I mean the pronunciati . . .

(He follows, followed by the sniffing terrier. The elderly bawd seizes his sleeve, the bristles of her chinmole glittering.)

THE BAWD: Ten shillings a maidenhead. Fresh thing was never touched. Fifteen. There's no-one in it only her old father that's dead drunk.

(She points. In the gap of her dark den furtive, rainbedraggled, Bridie Kelly stands.)

BRIDIE: Hatch street. Any good in your mind?

(With a squeak she flaps her bat shawl and runs. A burly rough pursues with booted strides. He stumbles on the steps, recovers, plunges into gloom. Weak squeaks of laughter are heard, weaker.)

THE BAWD: (Her wolfeyes shining) He's getting his pleasure. You won't get a virgin in the flash houses. Ten shillings. Don't be all night before the polis in plain clothes sees us. Sixtyseven is a bitch.

(Leering, Gerty Macdowell limps forward. She draws from behind, ogling, and shows coyly her bloodied clout.)

GERTY: With all my worldly goods I thee and thou. (She murmurs) You did that. I hate you.

BLOOM: I? When? You're dreaming. I never saw you.

THE BAWD: Leave the gentleman alone, you cheat. Writing the gentleman false letters. Streetwalking and soliciting. Better for your mother take the strap to you at the bedpost, hussy like you.

GERTY: (To Bloom) When you saw all the secrets of my bottom drawer. (She paws his sleeve, slobbering) Dirty married man! I love you for doing that to me.

(She glides away crookedly. Mrs Breen in man's frieze overcoat with loose bellows pockets, stands in the causeway, her roguish eyes wideopen, smiling in all her herbivorous buckteeth.)

MRS BREEN: Mr . . .

BLOOM: (Coughs gravely) Madam, when we last had this pleasure by letter dated the sixteenth instant . . .

MRS BREEN: Mr Bloom! You down here in the haunts of sin! I caught you nicely! Scamp!

BLOOM: (Hurriedly) Not so loud my name. Whatever do you think of me? Don't give me away. Walls have ears. How do you do? It's ages since I. You're looking splendid. Absolutely it. Seasonable weather we are having this time of year. Black refracts heat. Short cut home here. Interesting quarter. Rescue of fallen women. Magdalen asylum. I am the secretary . . .

MRS BREEN: (Holds up a finger) Now, don't tell a big fib! I know somebody won't like that. O just wait till I see Molly! (Slily) Account for yourself this very sminute or woe betide you!

BLOOM: (Looks behind) She often said she'd like to visit. Slumming. The exotic, you see. Negro servants in livery too if she had money. Othello black brute. Eugene Stratton. Even the bones and cornerman at the Livermore christies. Bohee brothers. Sweep for that matter.

(Tom and Sam Bohee, coloured coons in white duck suits, scarlet socks, upstarched Sambo chokers and large scarlet asters in their buttonholes, leap out. Each has his banjo slung. Their paler smaller negroid hands jingle the twingtwang wires. Flashing white Kaffir eyes and tusks they rattle through a breakdown in clumsy clogs, twinging, singing, back to back, toe heel, heel toe, with smackfatclacking nigger lips.)


There's someone in the house with Dina
There's someone in the house, I know,
There's someone in the house with Dina
Playing on the old banjo.

(They whisk black masks from raw babby faces: then, chuckling, chortling, trumming, twanging, they diddle diddle cakewalk dance away.)

BLOOM: (With a sour tenderish smile) A little frivol, shall we, if you are so inclined? Would you like me perhaps to embrace you just for a fraction of a second?

MRS BREEN: (Screams gaily) O, you ruck! You ought to see yourself!

BLOOM: For old sake' sake. I only meant a square party, a mixed marriage mingling of our different little conjugials. You know I had a soft corner for you. (Gloomily) 'Twas I sent you that valentine of the dear gazelle.

MRS BREEN: Glory Alice, you do look a holy show! Killing simply. (She puts out her hand inquisitively) What are you hiding behind your back? Tell us, there's a dear.

BLOOM: (Seizes her wrist with his free hand) Josie Powell that was, prettiest deb in Dublin. How time flies by! Do you remember, harking back in a retrospective arrangement, Old Christmas night, Georgina Simpson's housewarming while they were playing the Irving Bishop game, finding the pin blindfold and thoughtreading? Subject, what is in this snuffbox?

MRS BREEN: You were the lion of the night with your seriocomic recitation and you looked the part. You were always a favourite with the ladies.

BLOOM: (Squire of dames, in dinner jacket with wateredsilk facings, blue masonic badge in his buttonhole, black bow and mother-of-pearl studs, a prismatic champagne glass tilted in his hand) Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ireland, home and beauty.

MRS BREEN: The dear dead days beyond recall. Love's old sweet song.

BLOOM: (Meaningfully dropping his voice) I confess I'm teapot with curiosity to find out whether some person's something is a little teapot at present.

MRS BREEN: (Gushingly) Tremendously teapot! London's teapot and I'm simply teapot all over me! (She rubs sides with him) After the parlour mystery games and the crackers from the tree we sat on the staircase ottoman. Under the mistletoe. Two is company.

BLOOM: (Wearing a purple Napoleon hat with an amber halfmoon, his fingers and thumb passing slowly down to her soft moist meaty palm which she surrenders gently) The witching hour of night. I took the splinter out of this hand, carefully, slowly. (Tenderly, as he slips on her finger a ruby ring) La ci darem la mano.

MRS BREEN: (In a onepiece evening frock executed in moonlight blue, a tinsel sylph's diadem on her brow with her dancecard fallen beside her moonblue satin slipper, curves her palm softly, breathing quickly) Voglio e non. You're hot! You're scalding! The left hand nearest the heart.

BLOOM: When you made your present choice they said it was beauty and the beast. I can never forgive you for that. (His clenched fist at his brow) Think what it means. All you meant to me then. (Hoarsely) Woman, it's breaking me!

(Denis Breen, whitetallhatted, with Wisdom Hely's sandwich-boards, shuffles past them in carpet slippers, his dull beard thrust out, muttering to right and left. Little Alf Bergan, cloaked in the pall of the ace of spades, dogs him to left and right, doubled in laughter.)

ALF BERGAN: (Points jeering at the sandwichboards) U. p: Up.

MRS BREEN: (To Bloom) High jinks below stairs. (She gives him the glad eye) Why didn't you kiss the spot to make it well? You wanted to.

BLOOM: (Shocked) Molly's best friend! Could you?

MRS BREEN: (Her pulpy tongue between her lips, offers a pigeon kiss) Hnhn. The answer is a lemon. Have you a little present for me there?

BLOOM: (Offhandedly) Kosher. A snack for supper. The home without potted meat is incomplete. I was at Leah. Mrs Bandmann Palmer. Trenchant exponent of Shakespeare. Unfortunately threw away the programme. Rattling good place round there for pigs' feet. Feel.

(Richie Goulding, three ladies' hats pinned on his head, appears weighted to one side by the black legal bag of Collis and Ward on which a skull and crossbones are painted in white limewash. He opens it and shows it full of polonies, kippered herrings, Findon haddies and tightpacked pills.)

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