GENETIC JOYCE STUDIES - Issue 10 (Spring 2010)


“Spanish Verse Brought to Light in the Cornell Joyce Collection”

Jefferey Simons


The recent “Guide to the James Joyce Collection [ca. 1893]-1941” (2003) at Cornell, a descriptive inventory compiled by Rando and Reagan[1] and seemingly made in preparation for the splendid 2005 exhibition “From Dublin to Ithaca: Cornell’s James Joyce Collection,”[2] brought to light items that Scholes did not include in his 1961 catalogue,[3] the documents having seemed too insignificant or anomalous to be inventoried explicitly. Among these documents is an unidentified manuscript of Spanish verse with translation into English. The bringing to light of the manuscript leads to the study below, whose sections explore the document’s nature and provenance, and whether Joyce made use of it when writing Finnegans Wake.[4]


1. The Verse Brought to Light

The third of three undated items of “Unidentified material” in Box 15, Folder 25, of the Cornell Joyce Collection, the document in question, consists of “1 sheet of Spanish poems, with translations into English, all in the same hand.”[5] The Spanish verse and its translation are written on a yellowed sheet of ruled paper relatively thick in weight and of the sort commonly used to do schoolwork. Both the recto and the verso writing appears―in language of expression and in arrangement on the page―in nearly identical ways. Each side of the document holds two columns of text divided by a long, wavy vertical line down the middle. To the left of the wavy line and in Spanish, quatrains and, in one instance, a quintain are handwritten, each stanza separated by a ruled blank space; to the right of the wavy line, the identically lineated translation of the stanzas into English appears. On the recto, short horizontal lines group the first three quatrains together, leading one to believe that they form a single lyric, and below the last stanza―the document’s only quintain―an authorial attribution to the Spanish poet José de Espronceda y Delgado (1808-42) follows. On the verso, short horizontal lines divide the two quatrains, and an authorial attribution to an unknown “Corvalan” follows the first stanza, though below the English version. That the Spanish verse appears first in the eye’s reading motion from left to right leads one to infer that it was of primary interest, and that the translation into English sought to make the verse intelligible to someone with little if any reading knowledge of Spanish.

A transcription of the document roughly reproducing its writing’s arrangement on the page and the lines dividing it appears below:




En la mañana bien tempranito                       In the morning quite early,

Con la fresquita me levanté,                          With the freshness I got up.

Cogí una rosa y una azusena                         Gathered a rose and a lily

Y a mi negrito si lo mandé.                           And to my nigger sent it.


Ai! niña no digas eso                                    Oh! girl do not say that                       [5]

Que tu madre te va pegar,                            Your mother will beat you

A mi no me pega nadie                                 Me! nobody can beat

Porque digo la verdad!                                 Because I only say the truth


Me gustan todos, me gustan todos                 I like them all, I like them all

Me gustan todos en general                          I like them all, generally                      [10]

Pero los negros pero los rubios                      But the black ones, or the fair ones

Pero los morenos me gustan mas?                But the creoles, I love best.




Hojas del arbol caidas                                  Leaves of the tree that fall,

Juguetes del viento son,                                Playthings of the wind become.

Ai!, las hojas caidas                                     Oh! the fallen leaves                           [15]

Son ilusiones perdidas                                   Are ideals lost

Del árbol del corazon!                                  From the tree of the heart.






Mi dices coquella                                         You call me coquette

Pues como ha de ser,                                   But what schall I be,                           [20]

Si el hombre es veleta                                  When man is so changeable

Que hará la mujer?                                                What can woman do?




Tus ojos me dicen si                                     Your eyes say yes,

Tu boca me dice no,                                     Your mouth says no                            [25]

Entre los ojos y la boca                                 Between the eyes mouth and the eyes

A los ojos me atengo yo!                              To the eyes I shall go!




At the outset, several clarifying observations concerning the document and its transcription are germane. First, the transcription entailed few difficult readings and little emendation. The erratic accidentals of punctuation at line end, the two instances of corrected text (ll.20, 26), and the more bold “yes” (l.24) are left intact, though I have normalized all “t’s” by crossing them, interpreted as a question mark the ambiguous punctuation after “gustan mas” (l.12), and deciphered “Juguetes” (l.14) by looking at its English translation. Second, the Spanish verse holds a surprising number of solecisms. These include the absent diacritics in “mas” (l.12) for más, “arbol caidas” (l.13) for árbol caídas, “corazon” (l.17) for corazón, “como” (l.20) for cómo, and “si” (l.24) for ; in the last instance, the diacritic in Spanish significantly distinguishes “yes” from “if.” Other solecisms are: the absent preposition in “te va pegar” (l.6), which should read te va a pegar; the absent exclamation marks before “Ai!” (ll.5, 15), which should read ¡Ay!; the absent clause-initial punctuation mark “¡” before lines 8, 16, and 27, and “¿” before lines 11 and 22; the misuse of personal pronouns in “si lo mandé” (l.4) for se lo mandé and “Mi dices” (l.19) for Me dices; and the misspelling of “azusena” (l.3), which should read azucena, of “Ai” (ll.5, 15) for Ay, and of “coquella” (l.19) for coqueta. In the last instance, the double-“l” may owe to the influence of the French and English coquette. There is, in contrast, only one solecism in the translation into English: “sent it” (l.4) should read sent them.

These solecisms lead, in a second set of observations, to the issues of document scribe and translator, handwriting, date, and provenance. The scribe displays, given the numerous mistakes listed above, either indifference to or incomplete competence in written Spanish, and the handwriting throughout, proper to a fair copy adorned with flourishes for verse-initial capitals, is neither Joyce’s nor, in Lernout’s view, is it readily familiar in the study of Joyce’s manuscripts.[6] Identifying the scribe and translator, likely the same person, would be helped by a dating of the document and an attempt to correlate the date with the shifting groups of associates who surrounded Joyce, particularly in Paris. Dating the document, however, is not possible at this point, nor is knowing exactly where it was written.

How then, we wonder, did the document come to form a part of the Cornell Joyce Collection? The Collection began in 1957 with the acquisition of material that, as Scholes writes, “came from the same source―the widow of James Joyce’s younger brother Stanislaus,” and the documents first acquired held “almost no material related to Joyce’s life and work after 1920.”[7] The recent Cornell “Guide” confirms Scholes’s dating of most documents, yet also catalogues in its first section, “Series I. Manuscripts,” a “Translation into Italian of a poem by James Stephens,” dated “1932 or earlier,” “A notebook of Stanislaus Joyce, 1936-1943,” and an “Advance notice of an exhibition and sale of books and mss. left by James Joyce to be held at the Librairie-Galerie, Oct. 25, 1949.”[8] In “Series II. Documents and Miscellaneous,” the Cornell “Guide” lists 11 entries dated after 1920, among them a “Printed announcement of a lecture to be given by Valery Larbaud, 1927 [/] 1 leaf. Written in Paris” and a “Typed report on the condition of Joyce’s eyes, Sept. 7, 1933 [/] 1 leaf. Written in Paris.”[9] Five of these 11 entries are dated after 1957, when the founding documents of the Cornell Collection were acquired, and thus even the dates in the title of the recent “Guide,” “[ca. 1893]-1941,” are not wholly accurate. In “Series V. Photographs and Miscellaneous,” where the manuscript of Spanish verse and its translation is placed, eight entries are dated after 1920, seven of them after 1957. All told, it is impossible to know at this point not only how and when the document became a part of the Cornell Joyce Collection, but also who copied the Spanish verse, who translated it, and when and where the manuscript was written. The two other items of unidentified material alongside the document in Box 15, Folder 25, are of little help: “1 colored graph, not labeled” and “1 note in pencil, unsigned, referring to ‘Giles’ and ‘Mr M.’”[10]  This “Mr M” might refer to William G. Mennen, the Cornell benefactor who acquired for the University the greater part of its Joyce Collection, or to Stephen A. McCarthy, University Librarian at Cornell when the Collection began, but we cannot know for certain.

In light of this scant evidence, it is tempting to dash off on innumerable wild goose chases that exemplify the red herring fallacy.[11] This is a typical Joycean conundrum: in the absence of a definitive version of events, discourse pours in. The “Mr M” above would point to the finally unveiled identity of the “chap in the macintosh” (U 6.825), and “Giles” would simply be the nickname of Stuart Gilbert, an always ready explicator. It is preferable, though, to take the manuscript of Spanish verse for what it is, a floating text whose scribe, translator, date, place of writing, and provenance are unknown, and whose inclusion among the papers at Cornell is a mystery. One plausible guess is that the document, uniquely in Spanish in the Cornell Collection, might have entered it through the sale of manuscripts at the Librairie-Galerie in 1949 quoted above. I believe that Valery Larbaud was either a participant or an intermediary in the copying and translating of the Spanish verse, given his twin roles as advocate and translator of Joyce and of Spanish and Latin American literature.[12] I also believe that the document was written in Paris, and that the scribe was not a native speaker of Spanish.

A third set of observations concerns the literary properties of the Spanish verse and its translation, and here we stand on somewhat more solid ground. The most solid ground is the document’s sole quintain, whose first line is “Hojas del arbol caidas” (l.13), and whose authorial attribution to José de Espronceda is correct. The quintain corresponds to lines 268-72 of Espronceda’s poem “El estudiante de Salamanca,” “The Student of Salamanca,” published in 1840.[13] Though correctly identifying the author, the document’s rendering of the stanza holds four altered or changed words, and reverses the order of lines 3 and 4.[14] More than mere copying mistakes, these differences suggest the oral transmission of the verse. Gómez Canseco notes that the quintain, taken separately from the poem to which it belongs, became very popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to such an extent that it entered the store of Spanish proverbs and sayings in collective memory, without its author necessarily being known.[15] The stanza consists of octosyllables that in Spanish prosody form a “quintilla” rhyming abaab,[16] and its motif of leaves falling conveys a wistful awareness of decay, fate, the loss of aspiration, and as Stephen Dedalus recalls his mother saying near the end of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, “what the heart is and what it feels” (P 252). The quintain’s translation into English bears no attempt to reproduce either a regular metrical pattern or an equivalent rhyme scheme. The translation does replicate the hyperbaton in line 14, but generally is more perfunctory than polished, especially in the lexical choice of “ideals” (l.16), a poor rendering of “ilusiones” (l.16), whose meaning is “conceived hopes.” This offhand quality, together with the fact that the Spanish verse and its translation are in the same hand, lend strength to the belief that the scribe is the translator.

The other stanza with an authorial attribution, the first quatrain on the verso, which opens “Mi dices coquella” (l.19), is far more difficult to identify, and very different in theme. In discursive terms, the stanza holds a female voice that answers the charge of coquetry with the conditional assertion that if men are capricious in their desires for women, a woman has no choice but to seek the attentions of many men. The quatrain consists of hexasyllabic lines that, were the solecism coquella written coqueta, would rhyme abab. This alternate rhyme scheme well suits the stanza’s reciprocal, tit-for-tat amorous theme. Gómez Canseco finds quoted reference to a nearly identical quatrain in the memoires of the Spanish novelist Pío Baroja (1872-1976), who was just ten years Joyce’s senior. Writing between 1944 and 1949, Baroja recalls “old songs, to which one Ramón Fernández wrote the lyrics, translating them from the French,” and after the novelist goes on: “I still remember another song of the time: ‘Me llaman coqueta, / y cómo ha de ser; / si el hombre es veleta, / ¿qué hará la mujer?’”[17] The few changes in this quatrain―the first line in the Cornell manuscript, Mi dices coquella, shifts to Me llaman coqueta, “They call me coquette”―lead us to a popular song titled “Me Llaman coqueta (Coquette),” recorded at Brunswick Records in New York between 1927 and 1931.[18] The quatrain in the Cornell manuscript would thus seem to bear a close relation to the verses opening the popular song, but I have not been able to track down the recorded song’s lyrics. The reference to “Corvalan” (l.23) in manuscript, an apparent authorial attribution yet placed below the English translation of the stanza, is another enigma. It may identify the translator, yet a more plausible place for the translator’s name would be the end of the document, and we find no reference to a Corvalan in Ellmann’s James Joyce (1982) or in the Letters of James Joyce (1957, 1966). The only candidate a Google search yields is Octavio Corvalan, an Argentine poet and singer whose year of birth, 1923, leaves him in principle out of consideration.[19] As regards the quatrain’s translation into English, it holds the prim “But what schall I be” (l.20), lexically incongruent with the Spanish and far too formal for a defence of coquetry, and the tame “man is so changeable” (l.21), which does little justice to the colloquial metaphor “el hombre es veleta” (l.21), “man is a weather vane.” No attempt is made in the English translation to reproduce a consistent metrical pattern or rhyme scheme.

The remaining quatrains in the Cornell manuscript are similarly songful in nature, and just as uncertain in origin and authorship. The second stanza on the verso, which opens “Tus ojos me dicen si” (l.24), seems to be Latin American, or at least finds a partial precedent there. In the fourth number of La Idea Moderna, a short-lived weekly published in Uruguay from January to April of 1893, a poem in quintains by M. H. Colón[20] titled “Tus labios y tus ojos,” “Your Lips and Your Eyes,” includes these lines: “¿Cómo no adorarte yo, / Si al decir tus labios ‘no,’ / Tus ojos me dicen ‘si.’”[21] A translation of the lines, which bear the same yo / no rhyme as the stanza in manuscript, though in a different scheme, is: “How couldn’t I adore you, / If when your lips say ‘no,’ / Your eyes say ‘yes.’” In discursive terms, both the stanza in manuscript and its Latin American precedent correspond to a male voice that courts its addressee by assigning a language to the eyes that cancels that of speech. The quatrain in manuscript, whose first two lines are octosyllables and last two acatalectic, is tied together by its alternate rhyme. The translation into English here is more accomplished than the previous ones discussed. Its first two lines are iambic dimeters that replicate the parallelism in Spanish, and the even lines rhyme. The solution given to “A los ojos me atengo yo” (l.27), literally “I abide by your eyes,” is especially successful, since it introduces motion not in the original and closes the rhyme with “no” (l.25).

The three quatrains remaining on the recto, which begin “En la mañana bien tempranito” (l.1) and may form a single lyric in view of the horizontal lines that group them together, also have a Latin American, Cuban, or Caribbean air. This is evident both in the reference to “mi negrito” (l.4), which as a diminutive expresses affection and none of the disparagement that its poor translation as “my nigger” (l.4) does, and the references to “los negros” (l.11), “los rubios” (l.11), “the blond,” and “los morenos” (l.12), “the brown,” which name groups by a range of tones in societies where there is widespread miscegenation. Proper to a female voice and, in the second quatrain, to voices in dialogue, the stanzas convey a candid desire for amorous coupling, preferably with males darker in tone rather than light, as manifest in the sending of a rose and a lily as tokens (quatrain one), the dismissal of punishment for transgression (quatrain two), and the reduplicative assertion of desire (quatrain three). This is the sort of material that Joyce would have delighted in. As with the quatrains discussed above, I have not been able to identify an author of the stanzas, and I doubt they form a single lyric, given the relatively weak cohesive ties joining them. Metrically they do not cohere: quatrains one and three largely consist of decasyllables, and quatrain two of octosyllables. A single, anomalous rhyme appears in the even lines of quatrain one. I thus surmise that the stanzas share a loose thematic relation, yet belong separately to the store of popular song material available in Spanish at the time of the document’s writing. An intertextual link, in point of fact, confirms the popular nature of the lines opening quatrain three. “Me gustan todos, me gustan todos / Me gustan todos en general” (ll.9-10) is adopted as a threefold refrain in “I Like Them All,” a bilingual song sung by Dean Martin (1917-1995).[22] As regards the translation of the stanzas into English, it is perfunctory at best. To the solecism “sent it” (l.4) and inaccurate “my nigger” (l.4), we add the clumsy “With the freshness I got up” (l.2), whose freshness seems an odd bedfellow rather than a reference to cool morning air. An attempt is made to create slant rhymes where they do not appear in Spanish, specifically in the phonic echoes of “early” (l.1) in “lily” (l.3) and of “you” (l.6) in “truth” (l.8). No attempt is made to replicate the metrical distinctions in Spanish through a parallel pattern in English.

A last set of observations regarding the verse brought to light draws conclusions that relate the remarks made above, and offers a final conjecture. The Spanish verse as a whole in the Cornell manuscript is given to solecisms, songful in nature, largely anonymous, and evinces oral transmission. It focuses on wistful loss in the Espronceda quintain, and on the amorous coupling of the sexes in the quatrains. There may, in addition, be an explanation for how the Spanish verse entered the world of Joyce. In his inestimable biography, Ellmann notes that in “September 1928, back in Paris, Joyce collapsed again with eye trouble, and could no longer see print” (JJII 603). Larbaud had just helped to tidy up the French translation of Ulysses, but Joyce was beset with other ailments and worries, among them the legal battle over the pirating of Ulysses and the reception of “Work in Progress.” At some point during the autumn of 1928, Joyce “took to his bed, with his eyes inflamed again, and whiled away the hours during which he was forbidden to work by learning Spanish from a tutor” (JJII 607).[23] This unidentified tutor may be the scribe of the Cornell document, and may also be the translator of its Spanish verse, but the manuscript itself, like a balloon without a string, is a floating text tied to no known person, date, or place, and its inclusion among the documents at Cornell remains a mystery.


2. Seeking Intersecting Lexis

There is no reason to believe that Joyce made use of the Spanish verse or its translation before writing Finnegans Wake. The slightly more bold “yes” (l.24) and language of “eyes” (ll.24, 26, 27) in the second quatrain on the verso seem more an acknowledgment of the end of Ulysses than an anticipation of it.[24] There is reason to believe, however, that the document may have strengthened the Spanish lexis in the Wake, and that the manuscript’s lexis accords with several of the Wake’s motifs. I draw below on Slepson’s fine search engine at The “Finnegans Wake” Extensible Elucidation Treasury (FWEET) Website[25] to look for strings of letters in the Wake that coincide with or relate closely to strings of letters in the Cornell document. The premise guiding the search is: if Joyce made direct use of the Cornell manuscript, then strings in the former will arise, and even cluster in proximity. The search for intersecting lexis begins with the Espronceda quintain and thereafter moves to the anonymous quatrains, thus following the order of exposition adopted above in discussion of the verse’s literary properties.

There are few Spanish strings in the Espronceda quintain that arise intact or with recognizable permutation in the Wake, and among them, only the opening “Hojas caidas” (l.13), “fallen leaves,” may lie behind the reference in FW II.ii to “hoojahs koojahs” (FW 282.24). Earlier in this same chapter, we find “muchas bracelonettes gracies barcelonas,” the corresponding footnote reading “Well, Maggy, I got your castoff devils all right and fits lovely. And am vaguely graceful. Maggy thanks” (FW 273.18, F6). The Spanish muchas gracias, “many thanks,” and toponym Barcelona are discerned here, as is a great deal of other Spanish lexis in the prose relatively near hoojahs koojahs.[26] Closer still to the phrase, whose reduplicative oojahs echoes muchas, we find reference to “lifetrees leaves whose silence hitherto has shone as sphere of silver fastalbarnstone” (FW 280.30). These lifetrees leaves recall the “Leaves of the trees that fall” (l.13) in manuscript. The hoojahs koojahs themselves seem to refer to ecclesiastical folios read by “his eminent curdinal Kay O’Kay. Always would he be reciting of them, hoojahs koojahs, up by rota, in his Fanden’s catachysm from fursed to laced” (FW 282.22). If the hoojahs koojahs are taken to be “fallen leaves,” or leaves of the Fall, then they partake of the Wake’s salient motif of falling.[27] We also hear in the phrase a pun on the pseudo-magic of hocus-pocus, and McHugh glosses the sequence as descending from the Kiswahili huja, “argument,” and kuja, “come.”[28]

The English translation of the Espronceda quintain holds several other strings that coincide in proximity in the Wake, notably in FW II.ii, where the above-cited muchas . . . gracies and lifetree leaves appear, and where we find the visible sign-post “leo I read, such a spanish, escribibis” (FW 300.16), whose last term enfolds most of escribir, “to write,” and first, leo, “I read,” leads when translated to the reduplicative “I read I read,” a self-reflexive joke that Joyce would have enjoyed. In selecting the strings “leaves” and “fall” from the manuscript line “Leaves of the tree that fall” (l.13), and “lost” from the line “Are ideals lost” (l.16), we see the words converge, alongside the solecism “Ai” (l.15), in the following allusion to ALP, “Annah the Allmaziful, the Everliving, the Bringer of Plurabilities” (FW 104.1): “A is for Anna like L is for liv. Aha hahah, Ante Ann you’re apt to ape aunty annalive! Dawn gives rise. Lo, lo, lives love! Eve takes fall. La, la, laugh leaves alass! Aiaiaiai, Antiann, we’re last to the lost, Loulou! [bold emphasis added here and below]” (FW 293.18). These same dovetailing ties, along with the string “wind” (l.14) in manuscript, later arise in ALP’s Soft morning, city! sequence near the Wake’s close. The sequence is announced by reference in a typographically isolated line to “Alma Luvia, Pollabella” (FW 619.16), whose Alma is “soul” in Latin and Spanish, and opens: “Soft morning, city! Lsp! I am leafy speafing. Lpf! Folty and folty all the nights have falled on to long my hair. Not a sound, falling. Lispn! No wind no word. Only a leaf, just a leaf and then leaves” (FW 619.20). Numerous currents of meaning are swirling in motion here, and the motif of leaves silently falling is longstanding in Western literature. The ties above do not demonstrate the clear influence of the Espronceda quintain in the passages quoted from the Wake, but they do evince patterns in lexis that link the texts in an intricate web.

The first quatrain on the verso of the Cornell manuscript, which begins “Mi dices coquella” (l.19) and bears under its English translation the equivocal attribution “Corvalan” (l.23), holds only stray Spanish strings arising in the Wake. Of these the most noteworthy is the collective noun hombre, “man,” in “Si el hombre es veleta” (l.21), which occurs twice, though without nearby lexis plausibly drawn from the Spanish verse. The first occurrence, in an echoic reduplication of the sort superabundant in the Wake,[29] fuses hombre and hambre, “hunger,” to coin a proper noun in the direct speech of “good mothers gossip” (FW 316.11): “And he got and gave the ekspedient for Hombreyhambrey wilcomer what’s the good word” (FW 317.9). The Spanish lexis here also includes the conjunction “y,” “and,” which as a suffix to hombre and hambre likens them both to the spelling of hungry, and the verb “comer,” “to eat,” discerned in wilcomer.[30] The shadily instinctive Hombreyhambrey, prosodically modelled on Humpty Dumpty and an Iberian cousin of “Manandhungerand,” or simply “Hungerman,” brings to mind the reduplicative curdinal Kay O’Kay above, or the fleet-of-foot “Hairy O’Hurry” (FW 8.27) in FW I.i, and reminds us that the primary needs of the living body were never far from Joyce’s imagination, as our first glimpse of Bloom, and our fourth of Mulligan, reveal.[31]

The other occurrence of hombre appears very near “aljambras” (FW 550.35), in allusion to the Alhambra in Granada,[32] and amid discourse clearly referring to amorous coupling: “I made nusance of many well pressed champdamors and peddled freely in the scrub: I foredreamed for thee and more than fullmaked: I prevened for thee in the haunts that joybelled frail light-a-leaves for sturdy traemen: pelves ad hombres sumus: I said to the shiftless prostitute; let me be your fodder” (FW 551.9). That the Spanish hombres here is slipped into a Latin clause in lieu of homines foregrounds the word markedly. McHugh’s transcription and gloss on the clause―“pelves ad homines sumus: we are basins to men”[33]―frankly conveys the theme of amorous coupling, as do the shiftless prostitute, the puns on naked in fullmaked and on pelvis in pelves, the portmanteau champdamors, enfolding the Latin and Spanish “amor,” “love,” and the twin I foredreamed for thee and I prevened for thee, both recalling “I cream for thee, Sweet Margareen” (FW 164.18). Neither of the two occurrences of hombre in the Wake, however, is accompanied by lexis in proximity that is plausibly related to the Spanish quatrain.

Like its Spanish counterpart, the English translation of the first verso quatrain holds stray strings in the Wake, the most noteworthy being “coquette” (l.19). As the word’s meaning predicts, coquette arises in the context of amorous coupling, and in the Wake it is underscored by sound as well as by sense: “So till Coquette to tell Cockotte to teach Connie Curley to touch Cattie Hayre and tip Carminia to tap La Chérie though where the diggings he dwellst amongst us here’s nobody knows save Mary” (FW 239.23). The sound play here not only pairs Coquette with Cockotte, but also brings to mind Bloom’s resigned “Tipping her tepping her tapping her topping her. Tup” (U 11.706). Apart from related verbs of speech, there is no nearby lexis in the Wake evidently drawn from the Cornell document. Even more than with the Espronceda quintain, then, we have no grounds to claim that elements of the stanza were embroidered directly into the Wake.

The search for coincident strings in the remaining quatrains of the Cornell document reveals a similar lack of persuasive evidence that Joyce made use of the manuscript when writing Finnegans Wake. The second quatrain on the verso, which begins “Tus ojos me dicen si” (l.24), holds almost no Spanish strings in the Wake. The search for “tus ojos,” “tu AND ojo,”[34] “ojo,” “dicen,” “dice,” “boca,” “ce no,” “entre AND oj,” “entre AND bo,” “atengo,” “teng,” “go yo,” and “goyo” yields either no hits or no language of evident relation to the Spanish verse. The quatrain’s English translation, in turn, does hold several strings that converge in proximity. The search for “eyes AND yes,” “eyes AND say,” and “eyes AND go” yields considerable discourse proper to amorous coupling, yet no passage is lexically tied to the language of the Cornell document.

The three quatrains grouped together on the document’s recto, lastly, hold several stray Spanish strings of interest. Without its diacritic, “mañana” (l.1.), “morning,” arises in “he hath no mananas” (FW 170.20), an allusion to death coming on the heels of another to Ibsen in “when wee deader walkner” (FW 170.18).[35] The string “negr” in “negrito” (l.4), “little negro,” appears amid the Wake’s motif of rivers in reference to El Río Negro, whose source lies in Venezuela, and which empties into the Amazon: “El Negro winced when he wonced in La Plate” (FW 198.13). The sequence “madr” leads to “madre” (l.6), “mother,” in “She gave them ilcka madre’s daughter a moonflower” (FW 212.15), and to “Hispain’s King’s trompateers, madridden mustangs” (FW 553.36), where we discern Spain and Madrid. The string “verd” locates a permutation of “verdad” (l.8), “truth,” in “what’s the first sing to be sung? Is it urbrics, mandarmius, pasqualines, or verdidads” (FW 432.29). And “todos” (l.9), “all,” echoes in “they just done been doing being in a dromo of todos” (FW 598.02). No pair of these strings converges in proximity, nor do the passages in which they appear relate closely to the Spanish verse.

Several strings in the translation of the three recto quatrains converge in proximity, such as “morning AND early,” “morning AND fresh,” and “morning AND lily,” but neither evidences adjacent lexis tied to that in the Cornell manuscript. Like the sing to be sung in verdidads, “mock truths,” above, two instances of “the truth” (l.8) are noteworthy for their relation to song. In the first, lisping is mimicked in the truths thong: “they could hear like of a lisp lapsing, that was her knight of the truths thong plipping out of her chapellledeosy” (FW 396.30).[36] The English string in the verse’s translation most striking in the Wake is the disparaging “nigger” (l.4), which appears on seven occasions, and also has an inglorious place in Ulysses.[37] None of the occasions is assigned to a female voice that seeks amorous coupling, as in the Spanish verse, and most share in the word’s disparagment. We are a long way from Freddy Malins in “The Dead,” whose retort to the sleek Mr Browne regarding “a negro chieftain singing in the second part of the Gaiety pantomime” (D 198) is right on target.[38]


3. “when all is zed and done” (FW 123.04)

If source and manuscript study aspires, as philosophy often does, to “rational cognition through concepts,”[39] then more cannot be claimed at this point for the Spanish verse brought to light in the Cornell Joyce Collection. The document holding the verse with English translation is veiled by mystery, given its unknown scribe, translator, date, and place of composition, and doubt also surrounds the document’s provenance, since we do not know how or when it entered the Cornell Collection. These enigmata are matched by the anonymity of most of its verse, whose literary properties are detailed above.

Whether Joyce made use of the document when writing Finnegans Wake is open to debate. There is significant lexical overlap between the English translation of the Espronceda quintain and passages in the Wake, yet there is another explanation for the overlap, namely a store of motifs shared by Western literature. The other stanzas in the manuscript bear fewer signs of lexical coincidence. Stray strings do arise, and at times converge in proximity, yet in passages which bear little resemblance to the Spanish verse. It is reasonable to argue, in view of the evidence above, that the Cornell document may have strengthened the Wake’s Spanish lexis, and that the verse accords with several of its motifs.

The study of Joyce’s sources, and exegesis of Finnegans Wake, might be likened at times to playing pin the tail on the donkey. Blindfolded by source uncertainty and spun around by the Wake, we stumble in the darkness, seeking to assign stable meanings to language that tends to resist them. Amid the swirl of signs, we stay afoot by tracing moments of insight that soon vanish, as the reading eye moves on to new mysteries. The Joyce in the Wake is a polyglot lightning rod, to which flashes of language in the air constantly drew near. The manuscript of Spanish verse at Cornell is an instance of such a flash, one not previously studied, whose explication here may yield elsewhere insight in the future.


[1] The 2003 Cornell “Guide” by David Rando and Katherine Reagan is available online at <> 20 September 2009. I cite the “Guide” below as Rando and Reagan, followed by page number.

[2] This exhibition ran from June 9 to October 12, 2005, and was organized in tandem with the 2005 North American James Joyce Conference “Return to Ithaca.” For an online view of the exhibition, see <> 4 September 2009. For a summary description of the Cornell Joyce Collection, see <> 4 September 2009.

[3] See Robert E. Scholes, The Cornell Joyce Collection: A Catalogue (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1961).

[4] I am grateful to Gabriela Castro Gessner, PhD, of the Olin Library, and to Craig Eagleson, MSE, for help in resolving doubts that arose after my visit to the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections at Cornell. I am also grateful to Professor David M. Simons for an early and memorable tour of Olin, long before I was ready to use it. Amor patris et filii.

[5] Rando and Reagan 38.

[6] Geert Lernout kindly agreed to look closely at the document, and in personal correspondence wrote: “this is definitely not any of the Joyce hands I know. It is not Nora, Lucia or Giorgio and does not resemble Stuart Gilbert’s or Paul Léon’s. It looks very much like the kind of thing we find in the notebooks, where Joyce has somebody translate bits and pieces in a literal fashion, possibly for later use.” I am very grateful for these observations.

[7] Scholes v.

[8] Rando and Reagan 13, 18.

[9] Rando and Reagan 24, 25.

[10] Rando and Reagan 38.

[11] Walton defines the red herring fallacy in reasoned argumentation as “an attempt at distraction that leads off to a different issue or even on a distracting trail to nowhere.” See Douglas Walton, Informal Logic: A Pragmatic Approach (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008 [1989]) 93-94.

[12] Larbaud’s relation to Joyce is well known. María Isabel Porcel García documents Larbaud’s role as a literary intermediary between France and Spanish-speaking countries in “La influencia de Valery Larbaud en James Joyce,” Estudios Joyceanos en Gran Canaria: Joyce “in his Palms,” eds. Santiago J. Henríquez and Carmen Martín Santana (Madrid: Huerga & Fierro, 2007) 215-23.

[13] I am indebted throughout this discussion of the Spanish verse to the observations of Luis Gómez Canseco.

[14] The original Spanish reads: “Hojas del árbol caídas / juguetes del viento son: / Las ilusiones perdidas / ¡ay! son hojas desprendidas / del árbol del corazón.” The lexical changes in the Cornell manuscript are: Ai for ay; las hojas caidas for son hojas desprendidas; and Son ilusiones for Las ilusiones. See José de Espronceda, El estudiante de Salamanca, ed. Benito Varela Jácome (Madrid: Cátedra, 1990 [1840]) 68.

[15] Gómez Canseco writes in personal correspondence: “Fue una estrofa popularísima, que se independizó del resto del texto en la memoria colectiva y funcionó sola. Probablemente a veces sin que se supiera que era de Espronceda.” / “It was an extremely popular stanza that became independent of the poem in collective memory, and functioned alone. Probably at times without knowing it was Espronceda’s.”

[16] Quilis defines a “quintilla” in these terms: “Estrofa de cinco versos octosílabos. La combinación de la rima queda a la voluntad del poeta, con la condición de que no haya tres versos seguidos con la misma rima y de que los dos últimos no forman pareado. Por lo tanto, las combinaciones posibles son: ababa, abaab, abbab, aabab, aabba.” / “Stanza of five octosyllables. The rhyme scheme is left to the poet’s discretion, with the condition that there not be three consecutive verses with the same rhyme and that the final two verses not be a couplet. Therefore, the possible rhyme schemes are: ababa, abaab, abbab, aabab, aabba.” See Antonio Quilis, Métrica española (Barcelona: Ariel, 1984) 103.

[17] I translate here from the Spanish, which refers to “canciones antiguas, a las cuales un señor don Ramón Fernández había puesto letra, traduciéndola del francés,” after which Baroja continues: “Todavía recuerdo otra canción del tiempo: ‘Me llaman coqueta, / y cómo ha de ser; / si el hombre es veleta, / ¿qué hará la mujer?’” See Pío Baroja, Desde la última vuelta del camino: Memorias (Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, 1978) 527.

[18] See Ross Laird, Brunswick Records: A Discography of Recordings, 1916-1931, Volume 2: New York Sessions, 1927-1931 (Westport: Greenwood, 2001) 887.

[19] For a brief biography of this Octavio Corvalan from the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, see <> 27 September 2009.

[20] I have not been able to find any biographical information about this M. H. Colón.

[21] The quoted verses are lines 33-35 of the poem and appear on page 27 in the number cited. See <> 24 September 2009.

[22] The earliest recording I find of this song is April 20, 1955. See <> 29 September 2009. As would be expected, Martin changes the amorous liking in his song to suit his tastes and charm. For the song’s lyrics, see <> 29 September 2009.

[23] Francisco García Tortosa points out this biographical clue in “Tracing the Origins of Spanish in Joyce: A Sourcebook for the Spanish Vocabulary in Buffalo Notebook VI.B.23,” Genetic Joyce Studies 4 (2004), < Tortosa.htm> 30 September 2009. This study shows that Joyce’s taking note of Spanish lexis for use in the Wake drew directly on a source used in the Berlitz School of Languages.

[24] I have in mind the following: “and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower” (U 18.1605-6).

[25] See Raphael Slepson, ed., The “Finnegans Wake” Extensible Elucidation Treasury (FWEET) Website, <> 3 October 2009.

[26] This relatively near lexis, found within a radius of ten pages before or after hoojahs koojahs, includes: the period-enclosed infinitive “Huirse” (FW 273.23), “to flee”; the insult “hijo de puta” (FW 274.23), “son of a bitch”; the mythic toponym “Eldorado” (FW 276.16), El Dorado; the capitalized “Diana with dawnsong hail” (FW 276.19), in allusion to the Spanish diana, the playing of reveille; the portmanteau “as cooledas as culcumbre” (FW 279.F28), in which the English speaker hears the idiom as cool as a cucumber, and the Spanish speaker sees cumbre, “peak”; the exclamative “Nom de nombres!” (FW 285.L6), which glides from the French Nom to the Spanish nombres, “names”; the mock ordinals in “faust of all and on segund thoughts” (FW 288.9), whose segund all but completes the Spanish segundo, “second”; the compound “maderaheads” (FW 288.17), whose madera is Spanish for “wood,” and which might be translated “meatheads”; the reduplicative “mutchtatches” (FW 288.F10), which in context admits muchachas, “girls”; the enumeration “disparito, duspurudo, desterrado, despertieu” (FW 289.22), whose first term is the diminutive of disparo, “shot,” third term means “exiled,” and fourth term alludes to the verb despertar, “to wake”; and the pseudo-enterprise “Lagrima and Gemiti” (FW 290.27), whose first noun lacking a diacritic is the Spanish lágrima, “tear.”

[27] Campbell and Robinson describe the Wake in the first sentence of “Introduction to a Strange Subject” as “a mighty allegory of the fall and resurrection of mankind.” The authors expand on this fall in the following terms: “Finnegan’s fall from the ladder is hugely symbolic: it is Lucifer’s fall, Adam’s fall, the setting sun that will rise again, the fall of Rome, a Wall Street crash. It is Humpty Dumpty’s fall, and the fall of Newton’s apple. It is the irrigating shower of spring rain that falls on seeded fields. And it is every man’s daily recurring fall from grace. These various fallings (implying, as they do, corresponding resurrections) cause a liberation of energy that keeps the universe turning like a water wheel, and provide the dynamic which sets in motion the four-part cycle of universal history.” See Joseph Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson, A Skeleton Key to “Finnegans Wake”: Unlocking James Joyce’s Masterwork, ed. Edmund L. Epstein (Novato, California: Joseph Campbell Foundation and New World Library, 2005 [1944]) 3, 5.

[28] See Roland McHugh, Annotations to “Finnegans Wake,” 3rd ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2006 [1980]) 282.

[29] An early sustained instance of this staple procedure in word formation holds the collective noun man and reads: “when mulk mountynotty man was everybully and the first leal ribberrobber that ever had her ainway everybuddy to his lovesaking eyes and everybilly lived alove with everybiddy else” (FW 21.7).

[30] Other Spanish lexis relatively near Hombreyhambrey tends to cluster around the poles of time and hunger: comer again arises in “O, lord of the barrels, comer forth from Anow” (FW 311.11); ahora, “now,” may inhabit “Ahorror, he sayd” (FW 311.25) and “―Comither, ahorace, though mighty man of valour” (FW 325.13); and tiempo, “time,” is discerned in “my old relogion’s out of tiempor” (FW 317.2). We also find the ordinal segundo, “second,” clipped in “nogeysokey first, cabootle segund” (FW 315.22) and both toros, “bulls,” and criados, “servants,” in “with your kowtoros and criados to every tome” (FW 325.33).

[31] Our first glimpse of Bloom is too well known to quote. As regards Mulligan, Joyce devotes a resonant iambic pentameter set in a single typographical line to describe his breakfast-eating habits: “He crammed his mouth with fry and munched and droned” (U 1.385).

[32] Other relatively near Spanish lexis includes: furioso, “furious,” in “spunish furiosos” (FW 548.8), whose pun on Spanish is evident, and which comes on the heels of a reference to ALP, “Appia Lippia Pluviabilla” (FW 548.6); cumpleaños, “birthday,” lurking behind “folliedays till the comple anniums of calendarias” (FW 553.16); and a cluster of Spanish terms, among them iglesias, “churches,” and agua, “water,” in “pampos animos and (N.I.) necessitades iglesias and pons for aguaducks” (FW 553.21).

[33] McHugh 551.

[34] The “AND” keyword in the FWEET search engine finds the co-occurrence of the strings linked by it within the same one to four lines of Wake text.

[35] Nearby Spanish lexis, announced by travel to “Soak Amerigas, vias the shipsteam Pridewin” (FW 171.35), includes tren, “train,” and patata, “potato,” in “nummer desh to tren, into Patatapapaveri’s” (FW 171.36).

[36] The second allusion to song praises “the better half of my alltoolyrical health, not considering my capsflap, and that’s the truth now out of the cackling bag for truly sure” (FW 452.03).

[37] Bloom’s limerick in “Lestrygonians” “There was a right royal old nigger” (U 8.748) is tame when compared to narrative description in “The Wandering Rocks”: “From the hoardings Mr Eugene Stratton grimaced with thick niggerlips at Father Conmee” (U 10.141). This, in turn, is tame when compared to the reference in “Circe” to “Tom and Sam Bohee, coloured coons in white duck suits” who sing “with smackfatclacking nigger lips” (U 15.412, 417). The issue here is not the presence of the disparaging lexis, but rather the degree to which the novel is complicit with it.

[38] Malins’s riposte is: “―And why couldn’t he have a voice too? asked Freddy Malins sharply. Is it because he’s only a black?” (D 198).

[39] The quoted phrase is Kant’s in the first introduction to the Critique of the Power of Judgment, which begins: “If philosophy is the system of rational cognition through concepts, it is thereby already sufficiently distinguished from a critique of pure reason, which, although it contains a philosophical investigation of the possibility of such cognition, does not belong to such a system as a part, but rather outlines and examines the very idea of it in the first place.” See Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, ed. Paul Guyer, trans. Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000 [1790]) 3.