Speak Irish

When Haines' "loud voice" bids the milkwoman be silent, her "wondering unsteady eyes" gaze on him as he declaims phrases in some unfamiliar language. She asks him, "Is it French you are talking, sir?" But no, it is the language of her own people: "Irish," also known as "Gaelic." (There are Irish and Scots versions of Gaelic.) It is, of course, massively ironic that the old woman who has been symbolically identified with Ireland should have no understanding of its native speech, which was approaching extinction, preserved only in certain remote areas known collectively as the Gaeltacht. And more ironic still that Haines is not "from the west," where most of these areas were, but an Englishman come from the east to proclaim that "we ought to speak Irish in Ireland."

JH 2011

The Gaeltacht in 1926. Source: en.wikipedia.org.

Official Gaeltacht regions in 2007. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Penguin paperback edition of Finnegans Wake.