Yes, we have reached that famous line as of yesterday evening. Ed obliged by rendering the verse in his best imitation of a gull, as apparently that's who's speaking. He said he was lucky not to have to go too much further with it as it was a bit painful.
We find ourselves pretty deep in the tale of Tristan and Isolde and spent some time getting a grip on what the story is or was, as there seems to be more than one version. In any case, the archetypal nature of the relationship was seized upon, as apparently it descends from or at least echoes an an old Persian tale, and also bears a resemblance to the doomed love triangle of King Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot. We talked a bit about the identities and differences. As Wikipedia tells it, unlike Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde unknowingly are dosed with a love potion, so that their falling for each other is not of their own volition but due to circumstances beyond their control. One version of the story has it that the potion wears off fairly soon and they must choose again of their own free will.
The parallel with the Arthur/ Guinevere/ Lancelot love triangle is that they really are triangles--there is, at least initially, love and respect on all sides. Everyone feels for the others and understands his or her motives. But goodwill isn't apparently enough to prevent tragedy.
In John P. Anderson's book Joyce's Finnegans Wake: The Curse of the Kaballah he says that King Mark, bridegroom-to-be, is older than Isolde's own father, and that their marriage is a mere business transaction--her father has promised her to anyone who could slay a particularly evil serpent for him. In this light, Tristan and Isolde's love is presented as spontaneous and real, while her marriage to Mark is seen as debased.
Anyway, it's high time I read the Tristan and Isolde legend. I even have a copy of the Joseph Bédier retelling on hand.
I think it's got to be the women troubles that makes Joyce throw Boucicault in, at least in part. Boucicault married his third wife while not yet divorced from the second, and at least the folks at the Townhouse Dublin speculate that it was the scandal that made him pass into obscurity. The Townhouse bio speculates that he isn't more well-known today because he was ostracized later in life and that had an impact on his future reputation as well. However, it may be that his success was more just a thing of the moment. By chance I found a reviewer talk about his play, The Colleen Bawn, also mentioned in this section of our text, twenty-five years after its London debut:
I fear me this present notice is erring a little on the score of reminiscences of the past, but, after all, is there much save reminiscence to be written upon such a subject as The Colleen Bawn? I am tempted even to continue in the same tone, and to recall the deep sensation created a quarter of a century ago on the first production of the piece. How all London flocked to witness the "sensation header" in the water cave scene, and how ladies during the ensuing winter took their walks abroad in scarlet cloaks modelled on those worn by the heroine. Irish domestic drama could hardly be said to be quite unknown to us, but this development of it came upon us as a revelation. Experience has shown that Mr. Boucicault has a certain number of stock Irish characters, including the loving peasant girl, the humoursome yet heroic "boy," the old woman, and the pettifogging lawyer, and these he has since served up to us in several other plays. But then they were all new, and who can forget the charm and grace of Mrs. Dion Boucicault, the life and soul of the piece, as Eily, and the artistic merit with which the author invested the part of Myles.
At any rate, references to Boucicault's plays liberally sprinkle our current text, The Colleen Bawn being one of his most famous. And surprisingly, Joyce mentions "Arrah-na-poghue" three times in two pages, and doesn't alter the spelling once. The Irish words translate as "Anna of the Kiss", and is referring to the title character Arrah Meelish who turns out to be in love with none other than Shaun the Postman. Yep--you read that right. Kisses especially of the secret variety figure heavily in this section too. Two-tongue Common was a group favorite.
They play, though, is actually called Arrah-na-pogue, so of course some industrious soul may well want to find out why Joyce put in that extra "h".