This is a post in a series called Decoding Dedalus where I take a paragraph of Ulysses and break it down line by line.
The passage below comes from “Nestor,” the second episode of Ulysses. It appears on page 31 in my copy (1990 Vintage International).
To listen to a discussion of this topic, check out the podcast episode here.
Glorious, pious and immortal memory. The lodge of Diamond in Armagh the splendid behung with corpses of papishes. Hoarse, masked and armed, the planters’ covenant. The black north and true blue bible. Croppies lie down.
Having listened to Mr. Deasy’s imprecise recitation of history, Stephen Dedalus returns a silent retort. With great efficiency, Stephen rebuts the headmaster’s assertion that the orange lodges had actually supported the repeal of the Union, even before Catholic political hero Daniel O’Connell had. (You can find a discussion of Mr. Deasy’s comments here). While the old headmaster is eager to lessen the sectarian nature of Ireland’s historical strife, Stephen can’t look away.
Glorious, pious and immortal memory.
These words are included in the opening of the Orange Toast. Though it sounds like a delicious brunch menu item, the Orange Toast is actually a proclamation recited in memory of King William III, also known as William of Orange, by the Orange Order (previously the Orange Society). A protestant fraternal organization, not unlike the freemasons, chapters of the Orange Order meet in the orange lodges cited by Mr. Deasy. Though they have rebranded in recent years, the Orange Order have historically been a strictly pro-Union, pro-monarchy and anti-Catholic organization, at times violently so.
The Orange Toast varies from place to place and time to time, but the words “glorious, pious and immortal memory” seem to be consistent. Lest this line convince you that the toast is a solemn, dignified affair, it’s worth reading the whole thing behind the link above. The second paragraph goes:
And whoever denies this toast may he be slammed, crammed and jammed into the muzzle of the great gun of Athlone, and the gun fired into the Pope’s belly, and the Pope into the Devil’s belly, and the Devil into Hell, and the door locked, and the key in an Orangeman’s pocket, and may we never lack a brisk Protestant boy to kick the arse of a Papist, and here’s a fart for the Bishop of Cork.
These words vary from version to version, but the message remains the same. These are the words that spring first and foremost into Stephen’s internal monologue. The notion that the orange lodges would agitate for repeal the union is patently absurd.
The lodge of Diamond in Armagh the splendid behung with corpses of papishes.
In this line, Stephen considers the circumstances under which the Orange Order was founded – a conflagration in 1795 known as the Battle of the Diamond. That the event occurred and that the protestant side was victorious are about the only two facts that every source agrees on, as sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland remains a deeply divisive issue to this day.
On the website of the Grand Orange Lodge, the Battle of the Diamond is described like this:
In 1795, following the culmination of attacks on Protestants in County Armagh at the Battle of the Diamond, in which Protestants routed those who had attacked them and attempted to burn properties, it was decided to form an organisation which would protect Protestants.
While this summary is factually accurate, it commits the sin of omission. The Catholic Defenders who attacked the lodge of Diamond – a cottage at a crossroads in County Armagh, Northern Ireland – had suffered violent raids at the hands of the Protestant Peep O’Day Boys, a name inspired by the way they would ransack Catholic homes just before dawn.
Tensions boiled over and lead to a violent clash on September 21, 1795. The Defenders had every disadvantage on their side – they attacked an opponent who not only held the high ground, but was also ensconced inside a cottage. 30 Defenders died in the fighting, while there were no recorded deaths on the Protestant side. The Orange Society was founded that same evening. The victors saw their triumph as a mandate from God to continue raiding Catholic homes in the area.
Stephen imagines the walls of the lodge of Diamond hung with the corpses of “papishes,” a derogatory term for Catholics mainly used in Scotland and Northern Ireland. I haven’t seen a reference to this particularly grisly imagery anywhere but Stephen’s mind, so perhaps the young Artist’s ideas about history are “fabled by the daughters of memory,” much like the headmaster’s.
As an aside, in recent years the Orange Order, though still staunchly Protestant, has attempted to rebrand and attract a more diverse crowd, due in part to dwindling membership. Amongst those efforts was the 2008 introduction of Diamond Dan, a superhero whose namesake is Daniel Winter, one of the founders of the Order in the aftermath of the Battle of the Diamond. Get it? In that same year Diamond Dan was brought low not by conniving papists, but rather by copyright law.
Hoarse, masked and armed, the planters’ covenant.
The Planter’s Covenant is a reference to the plantation system inflicted on Ulster (the northernmost Irish province) beginning in the early 1600’s, around 200 years before the Battle of the Diamond. If you were left asking yourself, “What were those Catholics so angry about?” in the last section, you’re about to have your question answered.
Beginning in the 1500’s, the English Crown enacted laws that prevented Irish Catholics from holding position of power in their own country. Amongst many other things, it was illegal for Catholics to hold government office or practice law. These laws were nearly impossible to implement in areas outside of Dublin since the population was overwhelmingly Catholic in rural areas.
In the early 1600’s, over 500,000 acres were seized in Ulster by the Crown and given to settlers, only a tiny percent of whom were Irish-born or Catholic. Instead, English and Scottish planters were given preference to run this “plantation.” Favoritism was particularly shown to London companies and religious and educational institutions (Trinity College received nearly 10,000 acres of land at this time). In order to claim these “forfeited” lands, planters were required to “covenant” loyalty to the Crown, meaning they had to swear a loyalty oath in order to receive the land. This system increased the Protestant population while simultaneously reducing the native-born Irish population to feudal peasants on land that was theirs the previous year.
The black north and true blue bible.
The “black north” refers to the parts of Ireland home to many protestants, mainly in the northern province of Ulster (much of which makes up the modern Northern Ireland).
“True blue” has a surprising origin considering its neutral modern usage (at least in the US). Simply put, blue was the color of the Scottish Presbyterians (Covenanters) who swore loyalty (hence “true”) to the Crown in exchange for Catholic lands in Ulster in the 17th century. They even get a shout-out in the 1663 satirical poem, Hudibras:
For his Religion it was Fit
To match his learning and wit;
‘Twas Presbyterian true blue
Due to this history, the phrase “true blue” is associated with conservative (tory) politics in the UK to this day (as in this headline from 2018). Mr. Deasy, a self-described old fogey and old tory, aligns tidily with the phrase “true blue” in Stephen’s thoughts.
Croppies lie down.
“Croppy” was the name given to rebels from County Wexford in southeastern Ireland during the 1798 rebellion. The name derives from their close-cropped hairstyle. In later times, the name “croppy” was applied to any Irish rebel. The song “The Croppy Boy” performed by Simon Dedalus in “Sirens” is about a doomed rebel from Wexford in 1798.
Oh, croppies ye’d better be quiet and still
Ye shan’t have your liberty, do what ye will
As long as salt water is formed in the deep
A foot on the necks of the croppy we’ll keep
Needless to say, “lie down” doesn’t mean “take a nap.” Stephen continues to reflect on the fact that radical unionists from the North (as opposed to bourgeois unionists from Dublin like Mr. Deasy) would prefer to see Catholic rebels dead. It highlights how of out-of-touch Mr. Deasy’s views really are.
A concise history of the Orange Order. (2014, Jul. 5). The Irish Times. Retrieved from https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/a-concise-history-of-the-orange-order-1.1855664
Orange Order superhero Dan in copyright row. (2008, Jul. 19). The Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved from https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/orange-order-superhero-dan-in-copyright-row-28442079.html
Who are the Orangmen? (2012, Jul. 11). The BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-18769781
Gifford, D., & Seidman, R. J. (1988). Ulysses annotated: Notes for James Joyce’s Ulysses. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Joyce, P.W. (1910). A concise history of Ireland. Retrieved from https://www.libraryireland.com/JoyceHistory/Ulster.php
Tohall, P. (1958). The Diamond Fight of 1795 and the Resultant Expulsions. Seanchas Ardmhacha: Journal of the Armagh Diocesan Historical Society, 3(1), 17-50. doi:10.2307/29740669. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/29740669?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3Ac5c157762ce76d62baf004cf0172d7f9&seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
Orange Order banner: http://100objects.qahn.org/content/victoria-loyal-orange-lodge-no-69-banner-1860s