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Thursday, January 19, 2006


Beckett fact no. 19.

In Arsene's poem about his East India Rubber Duck he refers to the minor Old Testament prophet Habbakuk:

Oh high white brightly burning duck,
Cush's stones are crying yet
Forth from the wall to Habbakuk

Still in Watt, 'Habbakuk' is one of Mr Knott's nocturnal 'dactylic ejaculations'.

He also puts in an appearance in the early poem 'Dortmunder':

Then, as a scroll folded,
and the glory of her dissolution enlarged
in me, Habbakuk, mard of all sinners.

Why Habbakuk? Hard to say. His brief (three chapter) Old Testament has some weird stuff about 'let[ting] thy foreskin be uncovered' and the 'shameful spewing' that shall be on 'thy glory', which may or may not be germane to the poem, given its subject manner (visiting a prostitute).

No less important though is the fact that Habbakuk is not the name of the Old Testament prophet at all. It's Habakkuk. But Habbakuk was the proposed name of a WWII British battleship measuring 2,000 feet in length to be built entirely from ice, thus rendering it effectively unsinkable. Its walls were to be 50 feet thick and its displacement a staggering 2,000,000 tons. The project was never begun.

Its name derived from an Admiralty clerk's misspelling of Habakkuk. Had he been reading Echo's Bones and Beckett's work in progress on Watt? A rubber duck-shaped dreadnought, spewing shamefully and landing the sinners in the 'mard' (Die merde hat mich wieder, as Beckett also says in Watt): that'd've learn the Hun all right!

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