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The episode opens at 5pm on the corner at Arbour hill where an anonymous narrator is talking with a Dublin metropolitan police when he nearly gets poked in the eye by the broom of a chimney sweep. He considers going after him, but decides against it.
The episode is interspersed with 33 passages of stylistic parody, which will be noted throughout.
The narrator runs into Joe Hynes, and they discuss a local Jewish grocer that has been selling without a license, which is very looked down upon in Dublin.
PARODY: A passage parodying legal jargon describes the business relations of the merchant Moses Herzog and the vendor Michael Geraghty (accused of selling minus a license).
Hynes proposes going around to get a drink at Barney Kiernan's pub. Hynes wants to tell a man known as the citizen about a meeting of cattle traders he went to where they all discussed foot and mouth disease.
PARODY: A passage written in the style of 19th century translations of Irish myths and poetry describes the marketplace they walk past on their way to the pub.
In the pub they find the citizen sitting up in the corner with his dog. He jokingly tells him to hand over their valuables, and Joe tells him its just friends here. They discuss the effect of foreign wars on Irish markets, and Hynes buys the first round of drinks.
PARODY: There is a long passage describing the citizen by brutally satirizing the heroic style of Irish myths. It also incorporates Homer's description of the Cyclops, Polyphemus, and it ends with a long mocking list of Irish heroes in which a number of world figures clearly not Irish are claimed by the island.
Terry O'Ryan, the bartender, brings their pints over, and the narrator's impressed to see how much money Joe Hynes has.
PARODY: A brief passage, again in the style of Irish legend, describes Bloom at Michan's parish.
The citizen complains about the poor quality of the paper The Irish Independent. He begins reading out obituaries.
They all drink up.
PARODY: A brief parodic passage describing the boy that comes in before Alf Bergan in the style of Irish legend.
Bergan comes in. The narrator notices Bob Doran, passed out on the bar.
Bergan comes over and points out the loon Denis Breen who's running all around town trying to take legal action over a postcard with U.P. written on it. His wife's chasing around after him.
The citizen's dog growls and he tells it to shut up in Irish.
They make small talk about how the subsheriff is reluctant to hang people. Doran tries to insert himself into the conversation with little success.
PARODY: Bergan orders a drink, and as Terrence O'Ryan brings it to him and he pays, the description mixes Irish legend, Greek mythology, and medieval romance.
The citizen notices Bloom pacing around outside, and aggressively asks what he is doing. He refers to him as a "freemason" (12.87).
Alf shares with them a pack of hangmen's letters he's bought. The narrator asks how Willy Murray is doing, and Bergan claims that he saw him with Paddy Dignam. There's a great deal of commotion as Bergan learns that Dignam was buried that morning.
Alf says it is impossible that he's dead. Joe Hynes quips, "They took the liberty of burying him anyhow" (12.111). Alf is flabbergasted.
PARODY: A passage describes the supposed encounter with the late Paddy Dignam. He describes what the afterworld is like, and tells them to tell his wife where the boot is that he had been looking for before he died. The passage is written to parody a Theosophist's account of a spiritualist séance, and mocks the style of reports published by the Society for Psychical Research in London.
PARODY: A passage parodying the Irish lament for the death of an Irish hero is offered for Dignam.
The citizen again complains of Bloom pacing. (We'll gradually see that the citizen is a huge anti-Semite, a perfect example of the worst kind of Irish nationalism.)
Alf is still taken aback. Doran wonders what kind of cruel God would take Dignam from them. The bartender tells him to keep it down, and he goes on lamenting in less offensive terms. The narrator observes he's on his drinking binge.
PARODY: The previous parody is continued.
Bloom enters and the citizen's dog, Garryowen, growls at him. The citizen tells Bloom to come in. Bloom asks the bartender if Cunningham has been in yet. He hasn't.
Joe starts reading one of Alf Bergan's hangman letters. It's by a barber. When he's done, the citizen curses the barber.
Hynes offers Bloom a drink but he opts for just a cigar. The men continue discussing the hangmen.
PARODY: A passage describing the men is told in the style of medieval romance and Biblical prose.
The men start talking about capital punishment, and Bloom starts going on pedantically.
Alf Bergan brings up the rumor he's heard about the penis going erect when a man is hanged.
PARODY: In the style of a medical journalist's report, we hear Bloom offer the bland scientific explanation for the "phenomenon" (12.164).
The citizen turns the conversation to hangings of specific Irish nationalists.
Bob Doran plays with the citizen's dog drunkenly. He feeds it from a tin.
The citizen and Bloom get into an argument, and the narrator thinks disparagingly of the Blooms. He learned about them from Pisser Burke, who lived in the City Arms hotel at the same time as the Blooms, early on in their marriage. He remembers an old man who got Bloom very drunk to teach him the evils of alcohol.
The citizen has become angry with Bloom. He toasts the memory of the dead, and says, "Sinn fein amhain!" (12.173). It means, "ourselves alone."
PARODY: A long passage recounts the moments leading up to the execution of Robert Emmet. It parodies a newspaper's feature-story on such an event and details how Emmet proposed to his fiancée just before the execution, and even the lieutenant colonel could not contain his emotion.
The citizen begins talking about the Irish language, and Bloom chips in about the antitreating league and how drink is the plague of Ireland.
The citizen's dog bothers the narrator, who complains. The citizen calls his dog back over.
PARODY: A section written in the style of a newspaper theater-plug discusses a piece of verse that has been adapted from Irish into English.
Hynes orders another round of drinks, and all partake except for Bloom again. Bloom explains he is just there to meet Cunningham about some insurance business of Dignam's. He begins to go far into the details for Hynes until Doran comes over.
PARODY: As Doran tells Bloom to pass on his condolences to Miss Dignam, their dialogue is parodied through the style of sentimental 19th century fiction.
Doran stumbles out of the bar, and the narrator thinks what a fool he is. He remembers a time when he was pick-pocketed by two prostitutes.
The men make small talk. They discuss Nannetti, who is running for mayor. The citizen says "Hairy Iopas, that exploded volcano," thus denouncing Nannetti's Italian origins (12.212). Again, we notice how the citizen is such an Irish purist that even a "diluted" ancestry offends him.
Joe starts telling the citizen about how he saw Nannetti at the meeting of the cattle traders. Bloom jumps in and starts acting like a know-it-all about country matters, and the narrator again thinks disparagingly of Bloom. He thinks of how Burke told him that Molly used to cry her eyes out when they were living in the hotel together.
PARODY: The narrator thinks that Bloom could steal the egg out from under a hen, and the prose becomes like that of a children's nursery rhyme.
Hynes tells them about how Nannetti is going to London to ask about the cattle trader's problems before the House of Commons, and about Irish games being permitted in the park.
PARODY: There is a passage parodying the minutes at the House of Commons.
Hynes points out the citizen's role in the Gaelic sports revival. He was a great shot-putter back in the day and the spokesman for athletics. Bergan didn't know it, but Bloom tells him it's well known.
They start talking about Irish sports, and as Bloom pitches in, the narrator thinks, "If you said to Bloom: Look at, Bloom. Do you see that straw? That's a straw. Declare to my aunt he'd talk about it for an hour or so he would and talk steady" (12.235).
PARODY: A long passage details a meeting about Irish sports. It parodies the style of minutes taken for a meeting, which are really a disguised advertisement for the organization.
Bergan mentions a recent boxing match between Keogh and Bennett, and the men begin to discuss it animatedly. Alf mentions that Boylan made a killing betting on the match, and Bloom vainly tries to turn the conversation to lawn tennis.
The citizen disparages the Irishman, Myler Keogh, because his father is known as a traitor to Ireland.
Bloom keeps going on as they continue to discuss how Keogh destroyed the Englishman in the fight.
PARODY: A long passage describing the fight is written in the style of sensationalist sports journalism.
Alf mentions that Boylan is running a summer concert tour. Bloom confirms it, and says that Boylan is a very good organizer. The narrator guesses that Boylan is having an affair with Molly, and imagines the scene where Boylan comes to visit Molly over 'the water rate.'
PARODY: A passage describes Molly in the style of 19th century re-workings of medieval romance.
J.J. O'Molloy enters and is greeted all around.
O'Molloy announces he was down at the courthouse and tells them a bit about the proceedings.
Bergan points out Dennis Breen outside still traipsing around. They all laugh at Breen. Bergan thinks of what he would give to be able to hear Breen make his plea over the postcard before a jury.
Bloom mentions how hard it must be for Mrs. Breen, but the citizen says it is her own fault for marrying a man out of his wits. Bloom pushes the point with the citizen, and the narrator thinks that there is trouble coming.
They all drink their pints as Breen passes by the door again. This time he is with Corny Kelleher, who is trying to sell him a coffin.
O'Molloy starts telling them about some of the swindling cases in court. They discuss the recorder, Sir Frederick Falkner, who would always take sympathy with the man who was in debt.
PARODY: The court-scene is described in a mixture of trial records and high-classical Irish legend.
The citizen makes a harsh comment against immigrants, but Bloom lets on not to notice. He starts asking Hynes if he can tell Myles Crawford about the Keyes ad.
The citizen's xenophobic remarks reach a new pitch, but Bloom again plays dumb.
The citizen thinks Katherine O'Shea (women with whom Parnell was having an affair) is the cause of all their problems. Speaking of dishonored wives, they begin looking at the scandalous stories in a tabloid called Police Gazette.
John Wyse Nolan and Lenehan come in, and the citizen asks how the argument for the Irish language is going down at city hall.
PARODY: A passage in the style of medieval romance and Irish legend describes Nolan.
The citizen thinks that the acceptance of the Irish language is inevitable.
O'Molloy begins remembering Lord Nelson's battle against Corsica, and Sinn Fein's early call to impeach the nation of England. Bloom calls for moderation, but is roundly ignored.
The citizen curses England at length.
O'Molloy starts to say something about the Irish family, but the citizen insists that England is not part of the European family and that whatever civilization the country has was stolen from Ireland.
Lenehan jumps in with a bit of French cursing the English.
PARODY: As they raise their glasses, medieval romance and Irish legend are again parodied.
Lenehan tells them about the results of the race. A no-name horse called Throwaway won at twenty-to-one odds. Lenehan announces that he, Boylan, and Boylan's lady friend (likely Molly) all lost money betting on the horse, Spectre.
Lenehan goes to play with the citizen's dog while O'Molloy and the citizen continue to argue about law and history.
Bloom occasionally interjects, such as with, "Some people can see the mote in others' eyes but they can't see the beam in their own" from the gospel of Matthew (12.351).
The citizen begins praising the natural resources of Ireland, and bemoaning the fact that they are all being stolen away. He blames the deforestation of Ireland on England, and Wyse Nolan agrees.
PARODY: A long passage is written in the style of a newspaper account of a wedding, also owing some debts to Sidney's The Faerie Queen. The passage describes the deforestation of Ireland through the metaphor of Irish brides being married away.
The citizen says that Irish trade will again rise to the fore.
(This opinion seems to be based on little more than Irish pride – a little over a hundred years later it certainly does not hold true.)
He takes the last swig from his pint, and he praises the parts of Ireland where the rebel groups are strong, and where people actively protest evictions that reduce the tenants to poverty.
Alf continues looking through the scandalous stories in the weekly, and the citizen begins complaining about the practice of flogging in the British Royal Navy.
Wyse thinks, "'Tis a custom more honoured in the breach than in the observance" (12.371).
The citizen can't believe that this is the navy on which Britain's supposed empire is based.
PARODY: There is a brief passage written in the style of the Apostle's creed about a sailor who, in this case, resembles Jesus.
Bloom thinks that navy discipline would be the same if Ireland had to face force. The narrator thinks what a fool Bloom is.
The citizen looks forward to a time when Ireland can put up her own force, and react violently.
Wyse remembers a number of historic moments where Ireland helped other countries that then turned their backs on Ireland.
The citizen curses the French, and Lenehan jumps on board. Hynes curses Hanover in Prussia. The narrator gets a kick out of Hynes.
J.J. thinks that at least they have King Edward VII now, but the citizen detests Edward too.
Hynes asks what he thinks of the way the Catholic Church hosted him when he came, playing to his reputation as a horse fancier.
Bergan alludes to Edward VII's reputation as a ladies' man.
Hynes orders more drinks all around.
Bloom is talking with John Wyse. He says, "Persecution, all the history of the world is full of it. Perpetuating national hatred among nations" (12.399).
Wyse asks Bloom what a nation is, and he says, "A nation is the same people living in the same place" (12.403).
Lambert says that if that's the case then he's a nation for the past five years, and they all laugh. Bloom tries to get out of it.
The citizen asks Bloom what his nation is. Bloom says it is Ireland because he was born there.
The citizen spits in disgust into the corner. Hynes gives the citizen his drink.
PARODY: There is a long passage written in the style of a newspaper feature on an illuminated manuscript describing an ancient Irish text.
The narrator asks Hynes to shove over his drink. Bloom begins to pipe up and he says that he belongs to a race that is being persecuted right now, at this very moment. He almost burns himself with his cigar.
He talks about how Jews are auctioned off like slaves in Morocco.
The citizen asks if he is referring to the new Jerusalem, and Bloom says he is talking about injustice.
Wyse tells him that he needs to stand up with force if that's his concern, but Bloom suddenly backs off. He says that force is no use.
Instead, he says, "Force, hatred, history, all that. That's not life for men and women, insult and hatred. And everybody knows that it's the very opposite of that that is really life" (12.423). Alf asks what he is referring to, and he says, "Love" (12.425).
Bloom announces that he has to go around the corner to see if Martin Cunningham is there.
As soon as he leaves, the citizen begins making fun of his call to universal love.
Wyse admits that it is, after all, what they are told, but the citizen continues to make fun of Bloom.
PARODY: There is a short passage parodying sentimental adult-talk about love.
Hynes has them all drink one off.
The citizen goes on about how Cromwell used religion when he came to dominate England. He reads a story to them about a Zulu chief that visited England, and thanked the queen for giving him a Bible.
Lambert makes an off-color remark, and Lenehan follows up on it. O'Molloy mentions another report about some atrocities committed by Belgians in the Congo Free State. The citizen confirms an Irishman wrote it.
Lenehan bets that Bloom left to go collect money from his bet on Throwaway. He heard from Bantam Lyons that Bloom gave him the tip (a mistake), and assumes Bloom must also be cashing in.
The citizen can't believe Bloom would bet. When Lenehan says he bet on a dark horse, Hynes pipes in, "He's a bloody dark horse himself" (12.453).
The narrator gets up to make his way out to pee. He's drunk, and as he does so he thinks about Bloom with resentment.
When the narrator comes back in, Wyse is spreading gossip about Bloom. The narrator thinks about what a bane the Jews are on England, and thinks of Bloom's father committing suicide with acid.
PARODY: Martin Cunningham, Jack Power, and Crofton all appear in a carriage. As they come in and greet the people in the bar, the writing style switches to that of late-19th century adaptations of medieval romance.
Cunningham asks for Bloom. Lenehan says that he's busy defrauding widows and orphans. Wyse spreads the rumor he's been telling that Bloom first clued the writer Griffith into Sinn Fein.
Cunningham says that these things are just alleged, and Wyse wonders why a Jew can't love his country just like anyone else.
O'Molloy jokes that that would only work if Bloom knew which country he was from. Lambert starts asking what exactly Bloom is. Cunningham does his best to set the story straight, but they're all very against Bloom by now.
The citizen cries, "That's the new Messiah for Ireland!" (12.489).
Cunningham says, "Well, they're still waiting for their redeemer. For that matter so are we" (12.490).
O'Molloy and Lenehan joke about how every Jew thinks he's the Messiah. Lambert makes fun of how enthusiastic Bloom was for his son to be born, and the citizen doubts his manhood since Molly miscarried.
Hynes mentions he did have children, and the citizen wonders who fathered them. The narrator thinks that the citizen has hit on some truth without knowing it.
The narrator thinks that killing Bloom would be a justifiable homicide. He's furious that Bloom won in the Gold Cup (or so he thinks) and won't buy them drinks.
Martin asks them to be charitable, and they ask Martin to have a drink. The citizen continues to rail against Bloom.
PARODY: As Cunningham says a blessing before they drink, the passage takes on the style of church news coverage of religious festivals, and offers a vision of the Island of Saints and Sages.
Cunningham blesses everyone in Latin.
Bloom comes back in and tells Cunningham he has been looking for him. The narrator thinks he is lying about where he has been and that he's been collecting money.
The citizen makes a dig at Bloom, and Cunningham, seeing things are about to get out of hand, quickly leads Bloom and his other companions out.
PARODY: As Cunningham tells the carriage-driver to get ready to head on, the passage is again written as a late-19th century romantic version of medieval legend.
The citizen drunkenly stumbles to the doors as they are leaving and shouts, "Three cheers for Israel" (12.535).
The narrator thinks that there is always someone causing a ruckus. As the citizen mockingly calls out at Bloom, Bloom stands up in the carriage and starts shouting back.
Just before Bloom starts calling back, a prostitute tells him that his fly is open.
Bloom starts listing all the famous Jews through history, and claims that Christ was a Jew just like he was.
The citizen is furious and rushes back in the bar to get the biscuit box with which Doran was feeding his dog.
PARODY: As people gather around to witness the scene, the style exaggerates the scene by parodying a newspaper account of the departure of a royal foreign visitor.
The citizen rushes out and flings the tin at Bloom.
PARODY: The style now parodies the newspaper account of a national disaster.
The tin falls short, but the citizen's dog goes running after the carriage with him still yelling after Bloom.
The car rounds the corner, and the style enters the last parody.
PARODY: The last passage is written in biblical prose, and it describes Bloom as the prophet Elijah ascending toward heaven: "ben Bloom Elijah amid clouds of angels ascend to the glory of the brightness at an angle of fortyfive degrees over Donohue's in Little Green Street like a shot off a shovel" (12.561).