Episode 4: Calypso,~pp 54-69

Important Symbols & Phrases of Episode 4

  • The Science of “the cat’s whiskers”: Leopold Bloom is a man of persistent curiosity. He is a practiced thinker but not armed with much education. His contemplation on the cat’s whiskers is laced with wives’ tales and inaccuracy. This is only the first of the misbeliefs you will find in Poldy’s calculations.
  • La ci darem” and “Love’s Old Sweet Song”: Molly will perform these pieces in a concert organized by impresario Blazes Boylan. The first is from Mozart’s Don Giovanni an opera about seduction. The lyrics of the second piece speak of lifelong devotion. Both sentiments apply to the sub-plot between Bloom and Molly.
  • The nymph above the bed: Bloom remains devoted to Molly although the relationship has been incomplete. Eleven years have elapsed since the death of their son just after his birth. Bloom has not been able to be intimate with Molly since then. Molly is a captor and a nymph both, but she is also, in unique and ironic ways, a modern reflection of Penelope, Ulysses’ faithful wife. Stuart Gilbert points out that Molly’s maiden and stage name Tweedy suggests Penelope as a “weaver of webs” to confound her suitors.
  • “Beef to the heels”: The full expression according to Gifford & Seidman also refers to “a Mullingar heifer.” Here we see a return to the cattle theme. Moreover, the reference to Mullingar ties the reference to fifteen-year-old Milly Bloom who is a photographer’s assistant in that town. Milly is also being pursued by Bannon, allied to Mulligan and referred to in Episode 1. In her letter, Milly also expresses affection for the middle-aged arch-rogue Blazes Boylan. This links her in an uncomfortable way to her mother who is about to consummate an affair with Boylan.
  • The Song of Sixpence: There are two stories about the origin of the nursery rhyme. Since one of the historical references follows the other chronologically they might both be true although only one could be the original catalyst for the rhyme. Both are at least a bit dark. The first option refers to Henry VIII’s divorce of Catherine of Aragon and remarriage to Anne Boleyn. The King is in the counting-house because he has taken the opportunity to seize the properties that formerly belonged to the Church. The clergy is represented by blackbirds. The queen is Catherine, seemingly unaware of her impending fate; the maid is Anne. The snipping off of Anne’s nose refers to the undermining of Anne during her short, tragic reign by Papists lay and clergy. The second story told about the rhyme says the pirate Edward Teach used the rhyme to recruit crew members through this coded message. Blackbeard’s crew being the Blackbird’s and his ship The Pie.
  • A confusion of daughter and wife: Along Bloom’s stream of consciousness mingle thoughts mixing his wife and daughter. “Milly too. Young kisses: the first. Far away now past. Mrs Marion. Reading, lying back now, counting the strands of her hair, smiling, braiding.” This may be an indication of incestuous thoughts.
  • Nymphs and Witch: Bloom’s current love interest is a creased, unfolded, and framed newspaper clipping. The veiled nymph “wearing a yashmak” beckons Bloom back to the Orient of his ancestors (Gilbert). She is also Molly but Mrs. Bloom is not only that nymph. She is also “the laughing witch” of Beaufoy’s story (Tindall) and Calypso, daughter of Atlas from Gibraltar.
  • O crockery!: One of the thousand tiny delights of the novel is the use of Kalpe (Calypso’s island translated). It means “bowl or cup” and also references the contents of the bed-chamber of Bloom’s nymph— a teacup and a chamberpot.
  • Bloom’s hat: Called melon in French, its wearer will later hallucinate that he offers a melon to Stephen (Tindall). 
  • “Might manage a sketch. By Mr and Mrs L. M. Bloom.” for Matcham’s Masterstroke: Bloom mentally mumbles his way through the prose: “How he won the laughing witch… often thinks…who now… Hand in hand.” This, of course, reminds him of his wife’s assignation with Boylan. Bloom used the news page for toilet tissue. Poldy and Molly might submit a story like “Matcham’s Masterstroke.” Bloom has already advertised for a typist. By typist, he means lover or at least partner in flirtation. You might wonder if the misspelling and vocabulary peculiarities suggest his selected respondent to his ad is not Molly herself. Other candidates will appear later.
  • “Do you want the blind up?”: …Bloom asks his wife still abed. A blind does not here refer to blindness but to a structure built by hunters and bird watchers to conceal themselves. Ever deferential, Bloom will turn his back allowing Molly to hide the letter from Boylan.
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