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