Who's getting it up?

  Who's getting it up?

In Brief

In Lotus Eaters, as Bloom pursues alternatives to pondering his wife's upcoming assignation with Boylan—dreaming about Ceylon, lusting after an unknown woman who is above his social station, reading flirtatious correspondence—the world around him seems to be trying to remind him of his cuckolding, in a maniacal, hallucinatory version of Freud's "return of the repressed." Trying to tune out the annoying M'Coy, he unrolls his newspaper and sees an ad for Plumtree's Potted Meat, announcing that without it home is incomplete. He tells M'Coy about Molly's impending concert tour in Belfast and M'Coy asks him, "Who's getting it up?" Bloom answers evasively that "There's a committee formed. Part shares and part profits." Slightly later, a song verse floats into his mind about a woman who "didn't know what to do / To keep it up." All these details knock on Bloom's skull to remind him that he has not been getting it up and Boylan soon will.

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The direct answer to "Who's getting up?" would be Hugh Boylan. He is, to use less colloquial language, organizing the concert tour. But this term too drips with latent sexual suggestion, as the men in Cyclops make clear:

     — He knows which side his bread is buttered, says Alf. I hear he's running a concert tour now up in the north.
      — He is, says Joe. Isn't he?
      — Who? says Bloom. Ah, yes. That's quite true. Yes, a kind of summer tour, you see. Just a holiday.
      — Mrs B. is the bright particular star, isn't she? says Joe.
      — My wife? says Bloom. She's singing, yes. I think it will be a success too.
      He's an excellent man to organise. Excellent.
      Hoho begob says I to myself says I. That explains the milk in the cocoanut and absence of hair on the animal's chest. Blazes doing the tootle on the flute. Concert tour....That's the bucko that'll organise her, take my tip. 'Twixt me and you Caddareesh.
Bloom's effort to avoid thinking about Boylan's organ (which, it turns out, is quite large and will be potted multiple times) lead him to tell M'Coy about a "committee" that will operate by "Part shares and part profits." But this is scarcely better, as it suggests that he will be sharing his wife with another man in a kind of ménage à trois. This thought clearly lingers in his subconscious awareness because as he speaks to a domineering version of his wife in Circe, he implores her, "I can give you... I mean as your business menagerer... Mrs Marion... if you..." Double entendres and Freudian slips seem to lurk in every possible linguistic representation of Molly's business arrangement, at least when Bloom feels himself fixed by unsympathetic stares. As he tries to explain Mrs. Dignam's financial situation to the men in the bar, language bites him once again:
     You see, he, Dignam, I mean, didn't serve any notice of the assignment on the company at the time and nominally under the act the mortgagee can't recover on the policy.
      — Holy Wars, says Joe, laughing, that's a good one if old Shylock is landed. So the wife comes out top dog, what?
      — Well, that's a point, says Bloom, for the wife's admirers.
      — Whose admirers? says Joe.
      — The wife's advisers, I mean, says Bloom.

Bloom allows little of this into the conscious thoughts represented in the book, but the imagery is running wild at some subconscious level. It climaxes in Circe in the hallucination of Boylan arriving at Eccles Street and finding Mrs. Marion naked in her bath, ready to be fucked. In Lotus Eaters, yet one more off-color phrase taps on the doors of consciousness. Having shaken off M'Coy and read Martha's letter, Bloom thinks of Martha and Mary (the latter a version of his wife's name) and recalls some verses that he once heard "two sluts" bawling out in the rain:

O, Mairy lost the pin of her drawers.
She didn't know what to do
To keep it up
To keep it up.
"It? Them," thinks Bloom, puzzling at the grammatical inconsistency. But for a reader, "it" refers to something other than Mary's drawers.

Scholars have never identified an actual song that Bloom is thinking of, but the Special Collections unit of the University of Miami library records a copy of sheet music titled "O Mary lost the pin of her drawers," held in Box 5 of the James Joyce sheet music collection (ID # 182956). However, my request to see the music produced only the report that "the sheet music was not in place, only a reference form about the piece with very little coded information." I hope that this resource may eventually pop up.

JH 2022
The headquarters of the Peoples Daily newspaper in Beijing, which has kept internet censors working overtime for a decade. Source: www.macleans.ca.