And its old and old it’s sad and old and it’s sad and weary I go back to you, my cold father, my cold mad father, my cold mad feary father, till the near sight of the mere size of him, the moyles and moyles of it, moananoaning, makes me seasilt saltsick and I rush, my only, into your arms.
James Joyce, (1992 ) Finnegan’s Wake London, UK: Penguin. p.627-28
This is one of the finest passages of writing I know of. I’ve barely managed to penetrate the surface of Finnegan’s Wake, but the opening (“riverrun, past Adam and Eve’s…”) and the closing (Away a lone a last a loved a long the”) are imprinted in my textual consciousness. The sense of the river’s exhaustion as it returns to the ocean (from whence to cycle back to its beginning) is palpable, mixed with the fear of the ocean as a cold father, and the longing for it as a lover. Drawing to the close of a lecture series that has been exploring the condition of ‘thrownness’ into the world, this passage has a resonance for me. The vastness of a strange, active world opens up in front of us like the expanding grey of the sea. As fluids ourselves running through the countryside and city, we could be forgiven for thinking of ourselves as the animate ones passing through a static world. But at the end of our journey, after a moment of seasilt saltsickness, the banks peel back, and we spill into the ‘moananoaning’ ocean.