Everyone take a nice, deep breath – this is the final chapter! Although if you were hoping for any kind of resolution or explanation, you will be disappointed. In fact, as far as final chapters go, it is a little disappointing all round.
Book 4 (which consists of just one chapter) opens with an unknown narrator calling for dawn to break and the people of the world to awaken. Some sort of deity of the dawn talks nonsense for quite a while, mainly concerning inedible yellow meat, the twenty nine schoolgirls and fish. Someone goes away and then comes back again (possibly Shaun).
Eventually, Here Comes Everybody wakes up and is surprised that he has been dreaming. It has apparently been a long, hard night but now the day is coming and will make everything right again. A conflict or battle between night and day ensues, interspersed with details about the transient nature of rivers and the various regenerations of ALP. There is then some discussion about Shaun:
‘Here’s heering you in a guessmasque, letterman! And such an improofment! As root as the mail and as fat as a fuddle!’
‘…night-shared nakeshift with the alter girl they tuck in for sweepsake.’
Shaun is then asked about the crime in the park and his involvement with ALP’s letter. His vague reply states that anything can happen after night fall and only the deers know the truth for sure. Perhaps if we could find one of these deers that might be helpful. But anyway. There is then a lengthy passage concerning the Kevin character, who seems to be a sanctimonious version of Shaun. Saint Kevin becomes a priest and travels along rivers collecting Gregorian water. As you do.
Finally, day triumphs over night and a couple of jaunty chaps named Muta and Juva pop up and talk vaguely about beetles, a king and the story of HCE and ALP. They close with:
‘Muta: May I borrow that hordwanderbaffle from you, old rubberskin?
Juva: Here it is and I hope it’s your worming pen, Erinmonker! Shoot.’
A king and a tramp die. ALP seems to be trapped in a miasma of fairytales and dreams:
‘That was the prick of the spindle to me that gave me the keys to dreamland.’
She is surrounded by ‘Impossible to remember persons in unprobable to forget position places.’
ALP now gives us her version of events and her thoughts on her letter. The much discussed (but never seen) letter apparently contained proof that HCE could not have committed the crime in the park, as he was canoodling with a lady named Lily under a grand piano at the time. She speaks surprisingly highly of her philandering husband – ‘Meet a great civilian (proud lives to him!) who is gentle as a mushroom…’ Although, considering her own transgressions, an assignation under a piano seems pretty insignificant. We were warned earlier about the dangers of engaging in romantic pursuits with piano-playing lodgers, perhaps HCE should have been paying attention.
The close of this chapter and, indeed, the book is given over to a plaintive monologue by ALP. She is attempting to wake HCE, who might actually be dead by this point. If he has given up the will to live, I can’t say I entirely blame him. She tries to tempt him to awaken with suggestions of going abroad and she implores him to get up and put on his new big green belt. She then rambles on about ‘two old crony aunts’, who are reminiscent of both the gossiping washerwomen (one of whom turned into a tree) and the tale of the Mookse and the Gripes from Book 1.5. ALP is not fond of these two ladies, amusingly named Queer Mrs Quickenough and Odd Mrs Doddpebble. She also appears to randomly invent the world’s favourite search engine:
‘One chap googling the holyboy’s thingabib and this lad wetting his widdle.’
I wouldn’t advise googling this, but if you do, be sure to clear your search history. Anyway. ALP derides the two women and also the Four Masters. She firmly informs the unresponsive HCE that he must buy her a new girdle, before describing how she will distract herself from his failings by imagining him as an innocent young child – ‘The child we all love to place our hope in forever.’ She is of the opinion that all men make mistakes and all people are prone to failure – ‘It’s something fails us. First we feel. Then we fall.’
As ALP considers dying, she seems to forgive HCE and also herself and calls for a river to carry her home to the sea. The final line appears incomplete, but is in fact the opening fragment of the very first line in the book:
‘A way a lone a last a loved a long the /
riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodious virus of recirculation back to Howth Castles and Environs.’
We did it!! Oh, we have done it, dear, sweet reader – we have completed Finnegans Wake! Of course, this is a mere glancing of the intricate and complex text and does not even begin to scratch the surface of this widely-studied work. With a book where almost every sentence is open to interpretation, it is likely impossible to provide a definitive synopsis. However, the impossible has always been a favourite of mine and I shall have a crack at an overview very shortly. In the meantime, I am off to have a lie down in a dark room – hopefully with a large steak and the biggest glass of wine you have ever seen in your life.
‘(for the farmer, his son and their homely codes, known as eggburst, eggblend, eggburial and hatch-as-hatch can)’
The farmer and his son are keen on eggs, I see.
‘He may be humpy, nay, he may be dumpy but there is always something racy about, say, a sailor on a horse.’
I have always thought this myself.
‘Grand old Manbutton, give your bowlers a rest!’
I wonder if this has anything to do with the aforementioned bootybutton?
‘A naked yogpriest, clothed of sundust, his oakey doaked with frondest leoves,’
This summer I shall be mostly wearing sun dust. (Also I wanted the final quote to involve nudity. And a priest.)