Mustered and bred

Mustered and bred

In Brief

As Bloom sits in Davy Byrne's in Lestrygonians, trying to decide what to eat for lunch, he thinks, "Sandwich? Ham and his descendants mustered and bred there." In these sentences four different puns (ham, mustard, bread, sandwich) are laid atop a slice of biblical history—the story of Noah and his son Ham, also alluded to in Circe. The witticism is not Bloom's, though he may be commended for having read and remembered it. It appears to put him in the mood for a sandwich with gorgonzola and mustard.

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Pun number one is "Ham." Genesis reports that after surviving the flood Noah took up grape-growing, drank some wine, and fell asleep naked in his tent. "And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. / And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness" (9:22-23). Stephen later recalls this episode: "And Noah was drunk with wine. And his ark was open."

When Noah wakes up from his stupor and learns that Ham has beheld the paternal phallus, he curses Canaan to be "a servant of servants," visiting the sin of the father upon the son. The story may have been intended to justify the subjugation of the Canaanite people to the Israelites. In some later interpretations Ham was arbitrarily held to represent the origin of the dark-skinned people, despised by God, who lived to the south. He is associated with the Egyptians in Psalms 78, 105, and 106, and perhaps in other traditions he became linked to the Arabian peninsula, because a bit of whimsical 19th century writing asserts paradoxically that the deserts there are well stocked with food: 
Why should no man starve on the deserts of Arabia?
Because of the sand which is there.
How came the sandwiches there?
The tribe of Ham was bred there and mustered.
The puns on ham, bread, and mustard have stuck in Bloom's memory, and it appears that he also recalls the wonderfully delivered pun (worthy of Groucho Marx) on "sand which is." The whole production seems perfectly suited to Bloom's goofy affection for cute double meanings.

Fritz Senn was the first commentator to discover the source of Bloom's puns. In "Trivia Ulysseana I," JJQ 12.4 (1975): 443-50, he remarks that "Bloom is not original but remembers some current joke, one version of which is recorded in C. C. Bombaugh, 'A Pun-Gent Chapter' in Oddities and Curiosities of Words and Literature, ed. Martin Gardner (New York: Dover, 1961), p. 158 (this is a republication of the first 310 pages of Gleanings for the Curious from the Harvest-Fields of Literature, 3rd ed., J. B. Lippincott, 1890)." In defense of the pun on punning, Senn references several details in Lestrygonians: "Pungent mockturtle oxtail mulligatawny," "pungent meatjuice, slop of greens," and "pungent mustard, the feety savour of green cheese."

JH 2020
  Noah Damning Ham, 19th century painting by Ivan Stepanovitch Ksenofontov. Source: Wikimedia Commons.