the first riddle of the universe: asking, when is a man not a man?: telling them take their time, yungfries, and wait till the tide stops (for from the first his day was a fortnight) and offering the prize of a bittersweet crab, a
little present from the past, for their copper age was yet
unminted, to the winner.
1) One said when the heavens are quakers,
2) a second said when Bohemeand lips,
3) a third said when he, no, when hold hard a jiffy, when he is a gnawstick and detarmined to,
4) the next one said when the angel of death kicks the bucket of life,
5) still another said when the wine's at witsends,
6) and still another when lovely wooman stoops to conk him,
7) one of the littliest said me, me, Sem, when pappa papared the harbour,
8) one of the wittiest said, when he yeat ye abblokooken and he zmear hezelf zo zhooken,
9) still one said when you are old I'm grey fall full wi sleep,
10) and still another when wee deader walkner,
11) and another when he is just only after having being semisized,
12) another when yea, he hath no mananas,
13) and one when dose pigs they begin now that they will flies up intil the looft.
14) All were wrong, so Shem himself, the doctator, took the cake, the correct solution being -- all give it up? -- ; when he is a -- yours till the rending of the rocks, -- Sham.
so, what do we understand?
quakers (1), bohemian protestants (Bohemeand, 2) and [a]gnostics (gnawstick, 3) are heretics.
(2) seems to be an allusion to balfe's opera the BOHEMIAN girl. the aria "then you'll remember me" (very prominently quoted in dubliner's "clay") contains the words "when other LIPS". (but i have no clue, what this has got to do with the riddle.)
(4): kick the bucket vs. life
(5): "when the wine is in the wit is out" & "be at one's wits' end"
(6): "when lovely woman stoops to folly" (goldsmith, The vicar of WAKEfield) & "she stoops to conquer" (play by goldsmith)
(7): a song: "when papa papered the parlour"
(8): something about yeats and paradise (yabloko, russian: apple; apfelkuchen, german: appletart, zmeya, russian: snake)
(9): yeats: "when you are old and grey and full of sleep"
(10): ibsen: "naar vi dode vaagner" (when we dead aWAKEn), the play joyce reviewed, when he was young.
(12): a song: "yes, we have no bananas" & manana, spanish: tomorrow
(13): "when pigs begin to fly": never; luft, german: air
(14): ragnarokr: destruction of the norse gods & shamrocks & "the earth did quake, and the rocks rent" (Matt 27:51)
(those clues are taken from McHugh's Annotations. as to the correct solution i found this in Petr Skrabanek, Night Joyce of a Thousand Tiers:)
The answer to the central riddle of the Wake, Shem's riddle, when is a man not a man, is easy,-when he is a noman.
Joyce divided the name of Ulysses into outis (Noman) and Zeus. If Homer could make a pun on Odysseus's name, Joyce, our "homerole poet" (445.32) could do the same with the name of Shem.
Shem in Hebrew means name, or God's name. As Hebrew reads backwards, nomen (name) gives nemon. Nemo in Latin means Noman. Noman holds the key to the Wake, in Revelations 5:3 "No man ... was able to open the book," and in the words of Noman Jesus: "I will give unto thee the keys ... then he charged his disciples that they should tell to no man" (Matthew 16:20).
Shem's riddle, with its solution hidden within Shem's name is modelled on the most famous riddle of all times, the riddle of the Sphinx ... "riddle a rede from the sphinxish pairc" (324.06), the Sphinx of the Phoenix Park. "There is on earth a thing which has four legs, two legs, and three legs, and one voice." The answer, provided by Oedipus, was-man: in infancy on all four, with a stick in old age, and on two in between. The answer was hidden in Oedipus's own name: oida (I know) and dipous (biped, man), i.e. "I know that the answer is man," "know-man." As Sophocles put it: "The riddling Sphinx caused us to turn our eyes to what lay at out feet."
there's much left to be explained. can you contribute?