The word "jingle," in Joyce's prose, generates an
extraordinarily dense web of aural associations. In Calypso
the "quoits" of the
Blooms' brass bed sound the word early on when Molly turns
over in bed ("the loose brass quoits of the bedstead
jingled"), and later when she raises herself on an
elbow ("She set the brasses jingling"). Their
tinkling onomatopoeia resonates throughout the novel,
gathering associations with the business that Molly will
transact with Blazes Boylan in the bed. In Lestrygonians jingling
becomes associated not only with sexual activity but with the
harness bells of horses, and in Sirens a jingling
horse brings Boylan to his love nest on Eccles Street. Still
more associations accrue: the sound of horses' hooves, the
strains of a Christmas song, sexual bell-ringing in a foreign
Read MoreIn Penelope Molly recalls that the bed was noisy when she and Boylan were busy: "this damned old bed too jingling like the dickens I suppose they could hear us away over the other side of the park till I suggested to put the quilt on the floor with the pillow under my bottom." The lewd jingling has been anticipated in Circe: after a cuckoo clock calls Bloom a cuckold three times in its monotonous language ("Cuckoo. / Cuckoo. / Cuckoo"), "The brass quoits of a bed are heard to jingle" the words "Jigjag. Jigajiga. Jigjag." Those jigging sounds go back to Sirens, where they indicate the clap-clop trotting of a horse with different consonants: "Jog jig jogged stopped. Dandy tan shoe of dandy Boylan socks skyblue clocks came light to earth."
Other "j" and "g" sounds in Sirens connect the horse motif with the jingling of harness bells and the expression "jaunting car": "Jingle jingle jaunted jingling," "Jingle a tinkle jaunted," "jinglejaunty blazes boy," "Jiggedy jingle jaunty jaunty." Jaunting cars were apparently sometimes called jingles, judging by a passage in part 2 of A Portrait of the Artist: "They drove in a jingle across Cork while it was still early morning." Boylan comes to the Ormond Hotel on one of these tinkling, jingling, jaunty urban cabs—their harness bells no doubt mandated by city authorities to promote pedestrian safety, since rubber tires had lowered their sound profile. He keeps the car waiting outside the Ormond, and later in the chapter he travels to Eccles Street on its "bounding tyres."
Even before Boylan becomes associated with horses' bells and hooves in Sirens, Lestrygonians has insinuated a suggestion that these sounds will be connected with sex. The rich shopping mall of Grafton Street makes Bloom associate horses with men's desire for women and the luxurious things that they buy for them (in his case, most recently, violet garters, which Molly will wear to her assignation with Boylan).
Grafton street gay with housed awnings lured his senses. Muslin prints, silkdames and dowagers, jingle of harnesses, hoofthuds lowringing in the baking causeway.Evidently the horse bells sounding all around him make Bloom think of his noisy bed back on Eccles Street, and of sex with Molly.
High voices. Sunwarm silk. Jingling harnesses. All for a woman, home and houses, silkwebs, silver, rich fruits spicy from Jaffa.
Jingling, hoofthuds. Perfumed bodies, warm, full. All kissed, yielded: in deep summer fields, tangled pressed grass, in trickling hallways of tenements, along sofas, creaking beds.
From Calypso to Lestrygonians (a hop of four chapters), from Lestrygonians to Sirens (three), from Sirens to Circe (four), and from Circe to Penelope (three), the novel periodically renews this constellation of sounds. It rings most richly in Sirens, where variants of "jingle" sound again, and again, and again. A hasty word count turns up at least 53: jingle 18, jingling 3, jingled 2, jing 2, tinkle 1, tinkling 2, tink 2, twinkling 2, jaunting 1, jaunty 4, jaunted 6, jinglejaunty 1, jig 1, jiggedy 3, jog 1, jogged 1, joggled 2, jogjaunty 1. Two or three of these words—tink, twinkling—have no evident conceptual connection to Boylan's horsedrawn journeys, but all of them grow out of the sounds that his cars import into the chapter's musical texture.
Associating Dublin hackney car bells with New England sleigh bells, Gifford and Seidman hear in this central, generative word "jingle" an allusion to the hugely popular Christmas song Jingle Bells, which was composed in 1857 by American songwriter James Lord Pierpont (not his father John, as they say). They note "particularly the phrases 'Laughing all the way' in the first verse and 'Take the girls tonight' in the third" (actually the fourth). It seems a plausible claim given the way Sirens associates jingling harness bells with Boylan's insouciant sexual hunger. The annotators neglect the best piece of evidence, however. The second verse is by far the most suggestive:
A day or two agoOut riding with Miss Fanny (whose name, in Britain and Ireland, carries an obscene suggestion), and all of a sudden pitched into a snowbank with her. Oh jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way! What fun it is to ride!
I thought I'd take a ride,
And soon Miss Fannie Bright
Was seated by my side.
The horse was lean and lank,
Misfortune seemed his lot,
He got into a drifted bank
And we, we got upsot. [variant form of upset]
If it seems a stretch to suppose that Joyce echoed Jingle Bells in his text and heard sexual thrills in a supposedly family-friendly song, then consider just how far he reaches (Jaysus, James!) to transpose the jingle theme into the new key of a foreign language:
— No, now, urged Lenehan. Sonnez la cloche! O do! There's no-one.To Lenehan and Miss Douce "Sonnez la cloche" means snapping her garter against her "woman's warmhosed thigh"—pretty darn high up the leg for an era that thought it ravishingly sexy to catch a glimpse of socks. The "smack" sound at the center of this passage suggests sexual activity at least as vividly as the jingling bed does, but the sounds are remarkably different. The English here draws on all the plosive consonants, unvoiced and voiced, of k/g, t/d, and p/b—quick, kindling, quavering, chords, nipped, peak, taunted, bending, suspending, rebound, nipped, garter, smackwarm, smackable—while the French expression introduces some softer consonants and a warm deep "o." None of them sound remotely like jingling bells or a jogging jaunt.
She looked. Quick. Miss Kenn out of earshot. Sudden bent. Two kindling faces watched her bend.
Quavering the chords strayed from the air, found it again, lost chord, and lost and found it, faltering.
— Go on! Do! Sonnez!
Bending, she nipped a peak of skirt above her knee. Delayed. Taunted them still, bending, suspending, with wilful eyes.
Smack. She let free sudden in rebound her nipped elastic garter smackwarm against her smackable a woman's warmhosed thigh.
— La Cloche! cried gleeful Lenehan. Trained by owner. No sawdust there.
She smilesmirked supercilious (wept! aren't men?), but, lightward gliding, mild she smiled on Boylan.
— You're the essence of vulgarity, she in gliding said.
But in the case of the French phrase, that is because translation cannot carry over both sound and sense: it must falsify one or the other. The sense of "Sonnez la cloche," Senan Molony points out in a personal communication, is "Ring the bell." "Sonnez for the thwack of a garter" is not the best match, he notes, but it translates the sense that Joyce wants, and a later passage in Sirens makes clear that he is weaving it into the same aural web as "jingle":
Jingle by monuments of sir John Gray, Horatio onehandled Nelson, reverend father Theobald Mathew, jaunted, as said before just now. Atrot, in heat, heatseated. Cloche. Sonnez la. Cloche. Sonnez la. Slower the mare went up the hill by the Rotunda, Rutland square. Too slow for Boylan, blazes Boylan, impatience Boylan, joggled the mare.Lydia's suggestive smacking of her thigh, performed at Lenehan's request but for Boylan's benefit, rides in the carriage with him, harmonizing with the jingling of Bloom's bed, the jigjogging of the mare, and the jingling of the mare's harness.
Molony contends that Jingle Bells shows up here too, because the beast bringing a conqueror to invade Bloom's house is really a Trojan horse:
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh!
Horse. Open. Slay!