The Annotated "Ulysses"/Page 003

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Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of
lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown,
ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held
the bowl aloft and intoned :

Introibo ad altare Dei.

Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called up coarsely :

Come up, Kinch. Come up, you fearful Jesuit.

Solemnly he came forward and mounted the round gunrest. He faced
about and blessed gravely thrice the tower, the surrounding country and the
awaking mountains. Then, catching sight of Stephen Dedalus, he bent towards
him and made rapid crosses in the air, gurgling in his throat and shaking his
head. Stephen Dedalus, displeased and sleepy, leaned his arms on the top of the
staircase and looked coldly at the shaking gurgling face that blessed him, equine
in its length, and at the light untonsured hair, grained and hued like pale oak.
Buck Mulligan peeped an instant under the mirror and then covered the
bowl smartly.

Back to barracks, he said sternly.

He added in a preacher’s tone :

For this, O dearly beloved, is the genuine Christine : body and soul and
blood and ouns. Slow music, please. Shut your eyes, gents. One moment. A
little trouble about those white corpuscles. Silence, all.

He peered sideways up and gave a long low whistle of call then paused
awhile in rapt attention, his even white teeth glistening here and there with
gold points. Chrysostomos. Two strong shrill whistles answered through
the calm.

Thanks, old chap, he cried briskly. That will do nicely. Switch off
the current, will you?


S: Ulysses opens and closes with the serpentine letter S. This has been compared to figures of serpents in the Book of Kells that have their tails in their mouths: Ulysses is a closed circle, ending where it began. In Finnegans Wake Joyce achieved a similar effect by linking the opening and closing sentences so that the former completes the latter.

S: The three parts into which Joyce divides Ulysses open with significant letters:

Part I (The Telemachia): S
Part II (The Odyssey): M
Part III (The Nostos): P

These letters are the initials of the novel's three protagonists: Stephen Dedalus, Molly (Marion) Bloom and Poldy (Leopold) Bloom.

S, M and P are also significant in the context of Aristotelian logic. In a syllogism there are three terms: the subject, the middle term and the predicate. These are conventionally represented by the letters S, M and P respectively. In the original 1922 edition, Episode 17 (Ithaca) ended with a large black period, which was once used as a conventional sign for Q.E.D. at the end of a formal proof or demonstration. Thus Ulysses is a polemical work with a logical structure.

Stately: For all his cynicism and neo-paganism, Buck Mulligan is identified as an upholder of church and state.

plump: (1) Fat, chubby. But Joyce's principal model for Buck Mulligan, Oliver St. John Gogarty, was hardly plump.

plump: (2) Blunt (in manners); rude; clownish. These adjectives accurately describe Mulligan's character.

Buck Mulligan: Malachi Mulligan is a portrait of Oliver St. John Gogarty, a young writer and medical student with whom Joyce (portrayed here as Stephen Dedalus) lived for six nights (9-14 June 1904) in the Martello Tower at Sandycove. According to the two schemas Joyce provided for Ulysses, Buck Mulligan here represents Antinous, the leader of the suitors of Penelope in the Odyssey. As Stephen represents Hamlet as well as the Odyssey's Telemachus, Mulligan can also be identified with Claudius.

stairhead: The level space at the top of a flight of steps. In the Martello tower at Sandycove, a narrow spiral staircase of stone steps leads from the interior of the tower to the roof or terreplein. Buck Mulligan, in mockery of the Catholic ceremony of the Mass, has just ascended these steps in imitation of a Catholic priest ascending the altar steps.

bearing: A more solemn word than carrying; one also bears arms, which is appropriate here as Mulligan and Stephen will cross swords in this episode.

bowl: Mulligan's shaving bowl represents the chalice that holds the wine, which becomes the blood of Christ in the Mass.

razor: The first of many allusions in this episode to blades and cutting. Mulligan is a shaver, and also a future surgeon, but his deadliest weapon in this episode is neither the razor nor the scalpel but the lancet of his art, the cold steel pen.


Chrysostomos: Greek, golden mouthed, normally referring to a good orator, but in this case probably referring to his golden fillings.