We open now at noon at the newspaper offices of the Freeman's Journal (and the Evening Telegraph) in the northeast quadrant of Dublin. The chapter begins with the imaginary newspaper headline "IN THE HEART OF THE HIBERNIAN METROPOLIS" (7.1).
(Note: Hibernia is the Latin name for the region that became Ireland.)
Throughout the chapter, newspaper headlines, real and imagined, are pulled from the speech stream.
By Nelson's Pillar (a pillar in the center of Dublin commemorating Lord Nelson; read more about this in the 'Analysis' section) trams are coming in and going out to all the different parts of Dublin. Postal carts are being loaded; barrels are rolling out of Prince's warehouse.
Bloom is in the back office of the Freeman waiting to speak to a foreman at one of the papers there. He has Red Murray cut a copy of the Keyes advertisement out of a paper for him. Bloom is going to try to negotiate the renewal of the advertisement.
Bloom and Red Murray take a break to watch the Irish barrister William Brayden enter the office. They discuss whether he looks more like Jesus or the Italian tenor Mario, and Bloom thinks of the opera Martha.
Bloom passes out of the back office and makes his way to speak with the foreman, Joseph Patrick Nannetti. Hynes is putting in an obituary for Patrick Dignam, so Bloom waits. While he does, he thinks about how strange it is that Nannetti is Italian but has never seen Italy.
Bloom silently considers recent headlines that he's seen in the paper, and imagines getting caught in the printing machines and having the news printed all over himself.
As Hynes finishes his business with Nannetti, he begins leaving. Bloom stops him, and hints at a debt of Hynes by pointing out that the cashier is about to leave. Hynes does not pick up on it, and Bloom thinks that this is the third time he's had to remind him.
Bloom discusses the Keyes ad with Nannetti. In the long pauses, he lets his mind wander and considers what people do with all this paper the day after it is news.
He explains to Nannetti that the ad is going to have two crossed keys to invoke the House of Keys so as to hint at the hope of Irish home rule. (the House of Keys was on the Isle of Man, which, unlike Ireland, was independent of England) Keyes, the man, is a tea, wine, and spirit merchant.
Nannetti tells Bloom to bring him a copy of it. A typesetter brings Nannetti a galleypage.
Bloom thinks of Martin Cunningham and "his spellingbee conundrum" (7.81). Bloom begins playing around with words in his head, and as he watches the machines in the newspaper office, he thinks, "Everything speaks in its own way" (7.83).
Nannetti notes that the archbishop is going to publish a letter in the upcoming Telegraph. Bloom makes his way out and thinks ahead to the August horseshow in Ballsbridge.
Bloom makes his way back to the Evening Telegraph office. He watches the typesetters put paper in backward, and it makes him think of his father reading Hebrew to him as a young boy.
Bloom dabs his nose with a handkerchief, and notices that it smells of citron-lemon because of the soap in his pocket (Remember this recurrent lemon soap he picked up for Molly? Be attentive to how carefully Joyce keeps track of all these details – it's one of the little pleasures of the book.) He thinks that he could return home, but then decides not to.
Bloom finds professor MacHugh and Simon Dedalus in the office listening to Ned Lambert doing impressions of Dan Dawson's overblown speech. Bloom asks whose speech it is, and MacHugh kids him that it is Cicero's before actually telling him.
J.J. O'Molloy, a local lawyer, bumps Bloom with the door as he enters. They make small talk, and Bloom thinks how sad it is that O'Molloy seems to be on the decline. The gossip is that he's having money troubles.
Lambert persists reading Dawson's article, but MacHugh tells him to give it a rest and after a moment Dedalus agrees.
The editor, Myles Crawford, pokes his head in and MacHugh begins teasing him. Crawford begins rattling on about the North Cork militia during the rebellion (a bit of very patchy history). As Lambert leaves, he whispers to O'Molloy that Crawford is half-mad on account of alcoholism. Lambert and Simon Dedalus go to get a drink.
Bloom tries to get Crawford to let him make a phone call about Keyes's ad. MacHugh and Crawford make small talk about what's going to appear in the paper.
Lenehan appears with the sports pages and tosses them to the newsboys who all clamor to see the racing special. MacHugh comes out and chastises a boy for yelling, though the boy says it wasn't his fault because someone pushed him.
Bloom calls Keyes from Crawford's office, but misses him. He hears Keyes is right around the corner at Dillon's, but as he rushes out of the office to go see him he bumps into Lenehan. A bunch of newspaper boys follow Bloom and imitate his jerky walk. From the window, Lenehan laughs at the scene and also mimics Bloom.
Crawford and MacHugh leave to go meet Lambert and Simon at the oval for a drink. On the way out, MacHugh leans over to O'Molloy and notes that Crawford's already pretty buzzed.
O'Molloy offers MacHugh a cigarette. He offers Lenehan one too, but only after he lights theirs. Crawford comes out and joins in the smoking session. Crawford, O'Molloy, and MacHugh joke about the Roman Empire and compare it to Britain. Lenehan tries to insert himself into the conversation by telling a riddle, but they all ignore him.
Stephen Dedalus enters the office behind O'Madden Burke. The editor greets Stephen, who gives him Deasy's article on foot and mouth. The professor peeks over Stephen's shoulder and asks why he's writing about foot and mouth disease.
Stephen is embarrassed and explains that it's not his. Crawford goes on about Deasy's disagreeable late wife and tells Stephen that he is a widower.
Stephen thinks back to Deasy's view that women brought sin into the world and he begins to understand where it came from. (We see here that even Stephen is capable of empathy.)
Crawford scans the article, and begins to speak about the Irishman O'Donnell knocking out a Hungarian that tried to assassinate the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph, but MacHugh cuts him off.
MacHugh begins to talk about how the Irish "were always loyal to lost causes. Success for us is the death of the intellect and of the imagination. We were never loyal to the successful" (7.284).
MacHugh compares the Irish to the Greeks and the British to the Romans. Both the British and the Romans held power and worshipped money, but the Greeks and the Irish, though subordinate, held a certain "radiance of the intellect" (7.287).
Lenehan tells Stephen a limerick he has made up about MacHugh. Crawford stuffs Deasy's letter in his pocket and agrees to publish it. Lenehan finally tells his riddle, but it falls flat.
The professor and O'Molloy make fun of Stephen and O'Madden Burke for looking like Paris communards. Stephen plays it off.
Crawford notes the gathering of talents in the room, "Law, the classics…" (7.310). The professor notes that if Bloom were there he would represent the art of advertisement, and O'Madden Burke notes that if Molly were present she would represent singing. Lenehan makes an off-color remark about Molly.
Crawford puts his hand on Stephen's shoulder and tries to recruit him for the paper. He wants Stephen to write something with "a bite in it" (7.321).
Crawford recalls Ignatius Gallaher, who made a name for himself reporting on the Phoenix Park murders, which he sent to The New York World. They all begin discussing their memory of the Phoenix Park murders and what happened to the culprits. Crawford recounts how Gallaher used an advertisement to explain the get-a-way route.
In the office, MacHugh takes a call from Bloom. He tells Crawford, but Crawford is distracted and tells MacHugh that Bloom can "go to hell" (7.350).
Crawford goes on about what a fine journalist Gallaher was and how hard it is to find anybody like him. They all agree that he was clever.
O'Molloy argues that Gallaher was only one of many fine journalists. He argues that Seymour Bushe is incredibly eloquent and recalls a line from Hamlet that Seymour used in the Childs murder case, which gets Stephen thinking about the play.
There is a lull in the conversation and O'Molloy lights a cigar. Stephen thinks jokingly (in the manner of melodramatic literature; in other words, Joyce is having fun here so don't go looking for how this changes anyone's life) that it was that strike of the match "that determined the whole aftercourse of both our lives" (7.395).
O'Molloy recalls Bushe's statement about Michelangelo's statue of Moses in the Vatican. Stephen finds "his blood wooed by grace of language and gesture" (7.403). He blushes and takes a cigarette.
O'Molloy begins to tell Stephen that Professor Magennis has been asking about him. Magennis heard that Stephen had stopped the mystical poet, George William Russell, in the street to ask him about planes of consciousness. The professor thinks that Stephen was simply joking with Russell.
MacHugh interrupts to recall the finest piece of oratory he has ever heard. It was John F. Taylor speaking in favor of the revival of the Irish tongue. MacHugh dramatically re-enacts Taylor's speech, which compared the Irish struggle for independence from Britain to that of the Jews struggling for independence from the Egyptians. It is a fine piece of oratory, and they all become somber as they listen to it.
When he finishes it, O'Molloy notes that "he died without having entered the land of promise" referring to Moses but also invoking the many devotees of Irish independence like Parnell who never saw the realization of what they were fighting for (7.437).
Stephen suggests they all go to the bar for a drink, and O'Madden Burke agrees. Lenehan leads the way.
O'Molloy stops Crawford to ask him for a loan. Stephen and MacHugh walk out together. The newspaper boys are in the street shouting about the racing special, and Stephen tells MacHugh that he has a vision for a short piece.
Stephen begins to narrate a story about two old Dublin virgins that want to see the view from the top of Nelson's Pillar. They buy food and climb the Pillar, though it exhausts them and "they had no idea it was that high" (7.478).
(This is the "Parable of the Plums" – spend some time thinking about its implications as it's one of many key moments in Ulysses.)
The women from the parable are actual Dublin women, Anne Kearns and Florence MacCabe. MacHugh is following intently, but takes a break to call back to Crawford and O'Molloy.
Bloom returns and tries to get Crawford's attention. He tells him that Keyes will renew his ad, but wants to do it for two months instead of three. Crawford tells Bloom to tell Keyes that he can "kiss my arse" (7.496).
Bloom decides to back off noticing that they're all out for a drink. He observes Stephen and thinks that he is a "moving spirit" (7.497). He notes that Stephen is wearing good boots today though before he had seen him with boots so old that his heels were peeking through.
Bloom says he'll get the ad design lined up for Keyes, but Crawford is persistent: "He can kiss my royal Irish arse" (7.500).
Crawford turns to O'Molloy and apologizes, but says he won't be able to give him the loan. O'Molloy strides on silently.
Stephen continues with his parable, and MacHugh catches Crawford up on it.
Stephen explains that the women are afraid the pillar will fall. They look out at the rooftops and argue about what is where. Stephen notes that they are so giddy they pull up their skirts, and Crawford notes that he has to watch himself because they are in the archdiocese (which is, metaphorically speaking, omnipresent in Dublin).
The two women sit down and look up at the statue of Nelson, whom Stephen refers to as "the onehandled adulterer" (7.512). He is alluding to the fact that Nelson lost an arm in battle and that he carried on an affair with the wife of the British minister at Naples. MacHugh thinks it is very clever.
The women sit at the top of the pillar and eat plums. They wipe the juice off of their mouths with handkerchiefs and spit the plum seeds between the railings.
(Read "Analysis" for more on what this parable might mean.)
Stephen laughs. Crawford isn't quite sure he gets it, but MacHugh is delighted and says that Stephen reminds him of the Greek philosopher Antisthenes who equated virtue with happiness.
The tramcars continue to come and go at the station, and Crawford asks what Stephen calls it. Stephen says, "A Pisgah Sight of Palestine" (vision that was granted Moses) or "The Parable of the Plums."
The professor looks up at Nelson's statue, and continues to chuckle over "the onehandled adulterer."