The sacred pint

The sacred pint

In Brief

In Telemachus Mulligan says that "The sacred pint alone can unbind the tongue of Dedalus." The sacredness of drink is a joke told with deep conviction in Ulysses. Mulligan has earlier proposed a lunchtime drinking bout by spouting the national creed, "Ireland expects that every man this day will do his duty," and he is right about intoxication unbinding Stephen’s tongue. When we meet Stephen in a highly inebriated state in Oxen of the Sun he is unusually voluble, and one of the first things he says, while filling his companions' cups, is that man does not live by bread alone.

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Stephen perverts the biblical saying to mean that alcohol is more important than food: “Now drink we, quod he, of this mazer and quaff ye this mead which is not indeed parcel of my body but my soul’s bodiment. Leave ye fraction of bread to them that live by bread alone.Finnegans Wake repeats the idea with countless associations, including a punning coincidence of Guinness and Genesis. In Aeolus, Lenehan uses the same drinkers' pun to praise the natural returning of water to water: "Our old ancient ancestors, as we read in the first chapter of Guinness's, were partial to the running stream."

Ithaca and Finnegans Wake allude to one historical encouragement of this association of inebriation with religious practice. The Franciscan church off Merchant's Quay popularly known as Adam and Eve's was founded in the 17th century as an "underground" church, to evade the English suppression of Catholic worship. Rosemary Lane hosted a tavern called Adam and Eve's. Franciscan friars secretly said Mass there, and later built a church on the lane; since the tavern had signboards on both entrances to the lane, worshipers could enter the street pretending to be going for a drink.

JH 2011
Chalk drawing at the Fort George Brewery and Public House in Astoria, Oregon. Source: www.oregonlive.com.
Church of the Immaculate Conception, off Merchant's Quay, Dublin. Source: Wikimedia Commons.