‘I longed to see them gone’, Beckett’s Molloy says of his testicles, ‘from the old stand where they bore false witness, for and against, in the lifelong charge against me’. Paul Muldoon too has been getting testicular in When the Pie Was Opened (Sylph Editions):
I swear as a Roman supposedly swore an oath
on his balls and went through some Roman rigmarole
to ward off the behemoth
and its tail that stiffened like a cedar-pole
in the Book of Job.
Gore Vidal’s father had three balls, as GV likes to recount (‘I’m in all the textbooks’, he told his wife). The Muldoon poem describes what might appear to be a third ball lolloping onto the scene before being downgraded to a mere ‘spermatocele’ and removed altogether.
Further, ‘While both are inclined to be standoffish, /the left ball hangs lower than the right as a general rule.’ A rule of thumb, or of ball-bag, flouted by Rodin’s Thinker, I seem to remember.Remember enervate (ballsless) ‘Origen’ and give small thanks, spermatoceles and all.
Elsewhere in the pamphlet Muldoon translates from Welsh, Old English, Latin, Greek and the Irish folk song ‘An Spailpín Fánach’:
No more to Cashel I’ll repair
To sell myself at auction
Nor loiter at a hiring fair,
A roadside wall at my station.
When a gentleman on his high horse
Asks if I’m hired already,
‘One fine day,’ says I, ‘You’ll finish the course
Behind the Irish navvy.’
Caithfidh mé a rá áfach gur scannall é staid an téics i nGaeilge. Cé chomh deacair an rud é síneadh fada a chur san áit ceart? (= Some of the Irish accents have gone missing.) In fact, the Irish fada mutates on two occasions into the double slanting line of a Hungarian diacritic. Perhaps the spailpín followed Art O’Leary into the Hungarian hussars:
Go deo deo arís ní rachad go Caiseal
Ag díol nó reic mo shláinte,
No ar margadh na saoire i mo shuí cois balla
I mo scaoinse ar leataobh sráide.
Bodairí na tíre ag teacht ar a gcapaill
Ag fiafraigh an bhuilim híreálta.
Ó téan aim chun siúil, tá an cúrsa fada,
Seo ar siúl an Spailpín Fánach.