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by James Joyce

Ulysses Episode 11: Sirens Summary

  • This episode opens at 4pm in the Concert Room – the saloon at the bar and restaurant of the Ormond Hotel. At first, a number of phrases are offered in more or less haphazard fashion, the different sounds and words of the chapter being warmed up, like the tuning session of a symphony. Then, after about two pages of this, "Begin!" (11.57).
  • The two barmaids, Miss Lydia Douce and Miss Mina Kennedy, watch the viceregal cavalcade.
  • Miss Douce catches one the aides looking in at her, and runs to the window to look out at him. She laughs and thinks of how foolish men are.
  • Miss Kennedy bemoans the fact that men always get to have the fine times.
  • Meanwhile, Bloom passes by a pipe importer's shop carrying the book that has he bought for Molly.
  • A busboy brings the china and tea into the barmaids. He acts impertinent and they scold him.
  • The barmaids draw their tea, and Miss Douce has Miss Kennedy check to see if she is sunburnt. Miss Kennedy tells her no, but that she should have used lotion.
  • Miss Douce recounts going to Boyd's to get cream for her skin. She does an impression of the old man, Mr. Boyd. Miss Kennedy begs her not to because she finds him so repulsive, but they both laugh.
  • Bloom peeks in the window of a jeweler's then passes by a statue and picture-frame maker. He thinks of hearing a student speak and wonders if it was Mulligan.
  • The two barmaids continue to laugh hysterically thinking of Mr. Boyd as Bloom continues on his walk.
  • Simon Dedalus enters the Concert Room. He welcomes Miss Douce back because she has been on vacation. He flirts with her shamelessly, and she scolds him and calls him simple. He orders a whisky and she prepares it for him.
  • Lenehan enters the bar as Bloom reaches Essex Bridge. Bloom thinks that he will buy paper in Daly's to write back to Martha Clifford.
  • Lenehan comes in and asks the barmaids if Boylan has been in looking for him. They say that he has not. Lenehan sits down.
  • Lenehan passes on greetings from Stephen Dedalus to his father. He tells him about the scene at Mooney's where they all went drinking after the "Aeolus" episode.
  • Simon comments to the barmaid that the piano has been moved. Miss Douce tells him that the tuner was in today, a blind twenty year old. Simon listens passively and then wanders away.
  • Lenehan waits impatiently for Boylan.
  • Bloom, in Daly's, buys paper to write to Martha. He sees Boylan's hat as he passes by in a carriage on his way to the Ormond Hotel. Bloom thinks it's a coincidence that he's seen Boylan three times today (from the carriage in "Hades," outside the National Library at the end of "Lestrygonians," and now). Bloom pays for the paper and decides to follow Boylan to Ormond.
  • Simon tries out the piano.
  • Lenehan asks Miss Douce a question about the opera The Rose of Castille.
  • Miss Douce tells him, "Ask no questions and you'll hear no lies" (11.219).
  • Blazes Boylan enters. A moment later, Bloom approaches the door at about the same time as Richie Goulding.
  • Boylan orders a beer and a gin, and asks if the Gold Cup results are in yet. They're coming in at 4pm.
  • Cowley and Ben Dollard are speaking over in the corner.
  • Bloom makes small talk with Goulding and they decide to have dinner together.
  • Miss Douce reaches up for a glass, and Lenehan looks at her bust and gasps exaggeratedly.
  • Boylan tells her to grow, and she coyly tells him "Fine good in small parcels" (11.237).
  • Boylan pays by tossing a coin down on the bar. Lenehan thinks his pick for the race will do well, and Boylan says that he plunged a bit on account of a friend.
  • Miss Douce puts Boylan's coin in the register as the clock strikes 4pm. Bloom takes a table by the door where he can watch Boylan.
  • Lenehan talks Miss Douce into raising her skirts and snapping her garter on her thigh to sound the hour. She smiles at Boylan as she does so.
  • Boylan tosses back his drink and begins to exit. Lenehan says that he has to tell him about Tom Rochford's invention, and Boylan tells Lenehan to walk with him.
  • Dollard takes a break from listening to Cowley's complaints about Reuben J. Dodd to ask Simon for a ditty on the piano. Richie and Bloom order. Dollard moves to the piano.
  • As Boylan leaves, Bloom lets out a "light sob of breath" because he knows that Boylan is going to have sex with Molly (11.291).
  • Miss Douce wonders why Boylan left so suddenly after her little display.
  • Around the piano, Dedalus, Cowley, and Dollard recall a time when Dollard had forgotten formal clothes for a concert. At the time, Bloom and Molly were poor, living on Holles Street, and were also running a secondhand clothing shop. Cowley had the idea to run down and outfit Dollard there, and they gave him a pair of trousers that was too tight, but free of charge.
  • Bloom orders liver and bacon, steak and kidneys.
  • Dedalus makes a bawdy joke about Molly. The men begin to discuss her and her father, Major Tweedy. Bloom and Goulding dive into their meal.
  • Boylan makes his way to the Blooms' house at 7 Eccles Street.
  • Dollard begins singing "Love and War." Cowley points out he is singing the wrong part and they all burst into laughter. Dedalus says Dollard would burst the soprano's ear with his voice, and Cowley makes a bawdy joke of it.
  • As they sing, Miss Kennedy makes small talk with a patron. Bloom eats and remembers when Dollard came to them for clothes, and how Molly cracked up laughing after he left. She got a big kick out of the fact that his privates were clearly visible through the trousers and would no doubt offend all the women in the front rows. Miss Douce chats with George Lidwell.
  • Cowley and Dollard urge Dedalus to get on the piano. He reluctantly agrees and tries out a few chords.
  • Bloom and Goulding eat, and Goulding recalls his favorite tenor part ever written, from Bellini's La Somnabule.
  • As Goulding goes on and on, Bloom observes him critically and thinks that he has lost some of his youthful vitality, become a man that believes his own lies. Yet he also thinks of how tough it must be to have back pain like Goulding does.
  • The men encourage Simon, and he falls to their flattery. He begins singing Lionel's air "M'appari" in Martha. Bloom makes a sign to the deaf waiter Pat to open the door to the street.
  • Bloom admires Simon's singing, and thinks how tenors always get the girls. He thinks that if Simon sung different songs he could have been quite successful. He thinks, "Wore out his wife: now sings" (11.399).
  • Bloom considers what a coincidence it is that Simon is singing from Martha, and Bloom was about to write a letter to Martha Clifford.
  • As Simon sings, Bloom recalls the first night he met Molly, at Mat Dillon's while playing musical chairs. He wonders if it was fate that they were the last two left in the game, and remembers how alluring she was.
  • Simon goes up for a high note and Bloom is almost overwhelmed as he associates himself with Lionel, the singer. As the note comes down, he thinks "Siopold! Consumed" (11.420-1).
  • Everyone applauds Dedalus.
  • Boylan whips his horse to get the carriage to Eccles Street faster.
  • Goulding begins remembering another time he heard Dedalus sing at Ned Lambert's. He goes on about how fine it was.
  • Dollard and Cowley chat with Simon. Bloom thinks about how many songs are on the theme of lost ones. He thinks what a shame it is that people get so affectionate for one another and then die.
  • Lidwell flirts with Miss Douce, and she tells him not to be so free with his language.
  • Bloom decides to answer Martha Clifford's letter right here in the bar. He has Pat the waiter bring him a pen and ink.
  • As Goulding continues admiring Dedalus, Bloom thinks about how all music is really just numbers.
  • Dedalus is improvising on the piano, and Bloom thinks about how music relates to mood. He wishes they had silent pianos for when young girls are learning to play.
  • Dedalus is telling Dollard that music is the only language, and Pat brings Bloom his pen and ink. Bloom begins composing the letter in his head and tries to remember what she wrote in his. He's somewhat bored with it.
  • Richie asks if he is answering an ad, and he says that he is. He continues composing, thinking about all the little touches that Martha will like. He addresses the letter.
  • Bloom makes sure to place the ink so Richie can't see his letter. He thinks that the music made him too sentimental, but decides he'll send it anyway.
  • A tapping begins that continues until the end of the chapter. It's the tap of the blind tuner returning to get his tuning fork.
  • Bloom observes the deaf waiter and thinks, "He waits while you wait" (11.469). Bloom chuckles to himself.
  • The barmaids are listening to a seashell, and Tom Kernan is telling a story about a husband whose wife messed around with a tenor. Lidwell listens in to the seashell, but the barmaid implies that she is not so lonely as he thinks she is.
  • Cowley is at the piano, and he begins playing a minuet from Don Giovanni. The music raises Bloom's spirits and he thinks about listening to Molly sing.
  • At this moment, Boylan arrives at the Bloom's door at 7 Eccles Street and knocks upon it.
  • Tom Kernan asks Ben Dollard to sing "The Croppy Boy." Ben Dollard agrees, and Bloom tells Goulding that he has to go. He puts money down on the table as Dollard begins singing.
  • Bloom and Goulding listen on admiringly. When Dollard begins singing a few lines in Latin, Bloom remembers being at Church earlier that morning and thinking of the power of Latin.
  • Everyone gathers round to listen to Dollard sing about the croppy boy confessing his sins.
  • The story is that this boy, Robert Emmet, who led the 1803 rebellion, went to a priest to confess, and it turned out that the priest was a disguised British soldier. Emmet was brutally executed in the street.
  • Bloom thinks of Molly, and how he tried to tell her about a quote from Spinoza, but she brushed it aside.
  • Bloom associates himself with the fate of the croppy boy. He thinks that because he doesn't have a son, he is "last my race" (11.525). He thinks about getting old.
  • Bloom gets up to go. He sees Miss Douce leaning down over the piano, and wonders what about Boylan appeals to so many women. Bloom remembers a time that Molly asked him to sleep with her, but can barely even get the words out.
  • Bloom thinks about Mrs. Purefoy, and again looks at Lydia Douce. He thinks that he should get out before the end of the song, and as he stands he realizes that the soap in his back pocket has gone wet. He reminds himself to pick up the lotion for Molly.
  • As Bloom makes his way out and Dollard wraps up, Bloom feels very lonely.
  • Everyone applauds Dollard and congratulates him.
  • Mina Kennedy talks with the tankard about what an incredible voice Dollard has. Bloom thinks that the cider has made him gassy.
  • Dedalus finds a tuning fork in the piano, and Lydia thinks that the tuner forgot it there. Dedalus hears Bloom was inside, and they briefly discuss what a nice voice his wife has.
  • The men joke around as Bloom wanders the streets and lets out a bit of gas. He passes a tailors' shop, and then gets to thinking about who came up with the idea of a donkey skin drum.
  • The blind tuner taps along the sidewalk. Bloom listens to the sounds of the street and thinks about his day. He remembers that he has made an appointment with Martin Cunningham for 5pm. He still wonders who the guy in the mackintosh was at Dignam's funeral.
  • Bloom sees a prostitute, Birdie Kelley, that he once made an appointment with, knowing he wouldn't keep it. He avoids her by looking in the window of an antique shop. He thinks about what makes an item worth selling.
  • Back in the bar, everyone is clinking glasses. The blind tuner makes his way into the bar.
  • Bloom sees a picture of Robert Emmet, the hero of "The Croppy Boy," in the antique store window.
  • He recalls Emmet's famous last words: "When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then and not till then, let my epitaph be written. I have done" (11.619-25).
  • As he recalls the words, he sees that no one is behind him and that a loud tram is passing. He lets out all the gas that has been building in his stomach in one great big fart.

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