Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Top 50 shed sequences: the cabman's shelter scene from 'Ulysses' by James Joyce

The shelter is no longer there...

Mr Bloom went round the corner and passed the drooping nags of the
hazard. No use thinking of it any more. Nosebag time. Wish I hadn't met
that M'Coy fellow.

He came nearer and heard a crunching of gilded oats, the gently champing
teeth. Their full buck eyes regarded him as he went by, amid the sweet
oaten reek of horsepiss. Their Eldorado. Poor jugginses! Damn all they
know or care about anything with their long noses stuck in nosebags.
Too full for words. Still they get their feed all right and their doss.
Gelded too: a stump of black guttapercha wagging limp between their
haunches. Might be happy all the same that way. Good poor brutes they
look. Still their neigh can be very irritating.

He drew the letter from his pocket and folded it into the newspaper he
carried. Might just walk into her here. The lane is safer.

He passed the cabman's shelter. Curious the life of drifting cabbies.
All weathers, all places, time or setdown, no will of their own. _Voglio
e non_. Like to give them an odd cigarette. Sociable. Shout a few flying
syllables as they pass. He hummed:

     _La ci darem la mano
     La la lala la la._


Preparatory to anything else Mr Bloom brushed off the greater bulk of
the shavings and handed Stephen the hat and ashplant and bucked him up
generally in orthodox Samaritan fashion which he very badly needed. His
(Stephen's) mind was not exactly what you would call wandering but a bit
unsteady and on his expressed desire for some beverage to drink Mr
Bloom in view of the hour it was and there being no pump of Vartry water
available for their ablutions let alone drinking purposes hit upon an
expedient by suggesting, off the reel, the propriety of the cabman's
shelter, as it was called, hardly a stonesthrow away near Butt bridge
where they might hit upon some drinkables in the shape of a milk and
soda or a mineral.


Mr Bloom and Stephen entered the cabman's shelter, an unpretentious
wooden structure, where, prior to then, he had rarely if ever been
before, the former having previously whispered to the latter a few
hints anent the keeper of it said to be the once famous Skin-the-Goat
Fitzharris, the invincible, though he could not vouch for the actual
facts which quite possibly there was not one vestige of truth in. A few
moments later saw our two noctambules safely seated in a discreet corner
only to be greeted by stares from the decidedly miscellaneous collection
of waifs and strays and other nondescript specimens of the genus _homo_
already there engaged in eating and drinking diversified by conversation
for whom they seemingly formed an object of marked curiosity.

--Now touching a cup of coffee, Mr Bloom ventured to plausibly suggest
to break the ice, it occurs to me you ought to sample something in the
shape of solid food, say, a roll of some description.

Accordingly his first act was with characteristic _sangfroid_ to order
these commodities quietly. The _hoi polloi_ of jarvies or stevedores
or whatever they were after a cursory examination turned their eyes
apparently dissatisfied, away though one redbearded bibulous individual
portion of whose hair was greyish, a sailor probably, still stared for
some appreciable time before transferring his rapt attention to the
floor. Mr Bloom, availing himself of the right of free speech, he having
just a bowing acquaintance with the language in dispute, though, to be
sure, rather in a quandary over _voglio_, remarked to his _protégé_ in
an audible tone of voice _a propos_ of the battle royal in the street
which was still raging fast and furious:

--A beautiful language. I mean for singing purposes. Why do you not
write your poetry in that language? _Bella Poetria_! It is so melodious
and full. _Belladonna. Voglio._

Stephen, who was trying his dead best to yawn if he could, suffering
from lassitude generally, replied:

--To fill the ear of a cow elephant. They were haggling over money.

--Is that so? Mr Bloom asked. Of course, he subjoined pensively, at the
inward reflection of there being more languages to start with than were
absolutely necessary, it may be only the southern glamour that surrounds

The keeper of the shelter in the middle of this _tête-â-tête_ put a
boiling swimming cup of a choice concoction labelled coffee on the table
and a rather antediluvian specimen of a bun, or so it seemed. After
which he beat a retreat to his counter, Mr Bloom determining to have
a good square look at him later on so as not to appear to. For which
reason he encouraged Stephen to proceed with his eyes while he did
the honours by surreptitiously pushing the cup of what was temporarily
supposed to be called coffee gradually nearer him.

--Sounds are impostures, Stephen said after a pause of some little time,
like names. Cicero, Podmore. Napoleon, Mr Goodbody. Jesus, Mr Doyle.
Shakespeares were as common as Murphies. What's in a name?

--Yes, to be sure, Mr Bloom unaffectedly concurred. Of course. Our name
was changed too, he added, pushing the socalled roll across.

The redbearded sailor who had his weather eye on the newcomers boarded
Stephen, whom he had singled out for attention in particular, squarely
by asking:

--And what might your name be?

Just in the nick of time Mr Bloom touched his companion's boot but
Stephen, apparently disregarding the warm pressure from an unexpected
quarter, answered:


The sailor stared at him heavily from a pair of drowsy baggy eyes,
rather bunged up from excessive use of boose, preferably good old
Hollands and water.

--You know Simon Dedalus? he asked at length.

--I've heard of him, Stephen said.

Also see:
Jorn Barger's The Internet Ulysses 'A watershed in Irish culture!' said the Irish Times.

And for more on cabman's shelters see:
Cabman's Shelters on London Landmarks

The Cabman's Shelter Fund

Heritage and History including other shelters around the world

And just for fun click here to find every use of the word 'shed' in Ulysses!


Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Shedlife...

With best wishes

John Davies aka Shedman