As to “The Ballad
of Persse O’Reilly” itself, the name, according to McHugh’s Annotations
to Finnegans Wake, refers simultaneously to “Pearse & O’Rahilly,”
figures in Dublin’s Easter Rising against the British in 1916, and
to the French word perce-oreille, “earwig,” a small elongate
insect with a pair of pincerlike appendages protruding from the rear
of its abdomen. 
Folklore has it that earwigs can enter the head through an ear
and feed on the brain. I believe that Joyce may be connecting the
earwig with Duchamp, and also with Alfred Jarry, a writer who meant
a great deal to both of them. To some extent all geniuses “feed,”
as it were, on the brains of earlier geniuses, but Jarry and to a
lesser degree Duchamp made a point of mentioning their progenitors.
A close reading
of Finnegans Wake shows Joyce doing likewise: the pincerlike
appendages protruding from the earwig’s rear may relate both to Jarry’s
homosexual braggadocio and to Duchamp’s notorious phrase “Elle
a chaud au cul” (She has a hot ass), the French pronunciation
of L.H.O.O.Q. (Fig. 11), the title carefully lettered
at the bottom of Duchamp’s mustachioed and goateed Mona Lisa
of 1919. Like many works from this period in Duchamp’s work, L.H.O.O.Q.
was credited to, and signed by, his alter ego, Rrose Sélavy, a character
who was, according to her creator, an old whore. A calling card that
Duchamp designed for her advertised that she was an Expert in precision
ass and glass work. For Joyce, of course, the earwig is also a
reference to H. C. Earwicker, the “hero” of Finnegans Wake.(Still
again on the subject of parallels, Duchamp used one of the world's
most famous works of visual art as the point of departure with L.H.O.O.Q.;
Joyce used one of the world's most famous works of literary art as
the point of departure with Ulysses.)
Have you heard of one Humpty Dumpty / How he fell with a roll
and a rumble / And curled up
draft has “lay low” instead of "curled up"
old Lord Olofa “Crumple / By the butt.
draft has “back” instead of “butt.”
the Magazine Wall, / (Chorus) Of the Magazine Wall, / Hump,
helmet and all?
helmet and all? inserted in 1927.
was one time our King of the Castle
was a chess fanatic, at one time considered the strongest player
in France. He played constantly with Joyce’s friend Beckett.
Now he’s kicked about like a rotten old parsnip. / And from
Green street he’ll be sent by order of His Worship /
be sent” is missing from the first draft.
was inserted in 1927.
of Mountjoy / (Chorus) To the jail of mountjoy!/Jail him and joy.
Duchamp made a “Wanted” poster picturing his own face, both
in full and in profile.
fafafather of all schemes for to bother us
first draft of this section, written in 1923, Joyce wrote here
“He had schemes in his head for to bother us.” In making this
change Joyce may have had in mind the many letters Duchamp sent
between 1924 and 1927 (Joyce could have heard about them from
Reynolds) trying to sell, at 500 francs each, copies of his
Monte Carlo Bond (Fig. 12), “a standard
financial document . . . so heavily doctored that it could hardly
be called a readymade.” Thirty were issued, hand-signed by Duchamp
and his fictional alter ego Rrose Sélavy; prospective purchasers
were offered an annual dividend of 20 percent on their investment.
Gestures like these made Breton and others worry about Duchamp’s
mental condition: “How could a man so intelligent”—for Breton
the most profoundly original mind of the century—“devote his
time and energy to such trivialities?”
coaches and immaculate contraceptives
in The Virgin and the Mannekin-Pis; (references to the
famous Mannekin-Pis statue in Brussels appear regularly in the
Wake), speaks of Father Prout’s “magnificent canonical
invention: the Suppository Virgin.” In the same section he describes
“various hydraulic and intimate mechanisms guaranteeing to devout
ladies the birth of male offspring, or if so desired their nonbirth." 
populace, / Mare’s milk for the sick,
writes, “There are, furthermore, those who drink that [miraculous]
water”—the pilgrims taken by “special trains” to “Lourdes water”
for “poorer people.” 
dry Sundays a week, / Openair love and religious reform, / (Chorus)
And religious reform, / Hideous in form.
why, says you, couldn’t he manage it?/ I’ll go bail,
a reference to Duchamp’s Wanted: $2,000 Reward poster.
fine dairyman darling, / Like the bumping bull of the Cassidys
/ All your butter is in your horns.
brother of Caseous.
(Chorus) His butter is in his horns. / Butter his horns!
Hurrah there, Hosty, frosty Hosty, change that shirt on ye,
/ Rhyme the rann, the king of all ranns!
verse was an addition of 1927. McHugh: “It balbo: stuttering
/ It –accio: pejorative suffix / It –uccio: diminutive
suffix.”  Joyce is obviously
calling someone a no-good little stutterer, a possible
reference to Duchamp’s notes and puns.
chaw chaw chops,
“chow chow chop: last lighter containing the sundry small packages
to fill up a ship.”
 This may refer
to the sundry items that Duchamp by 1927 had dubbed his Readymade
works of art, which he was continually trying to sell; or to
Duchamp’s and Lydie’s wedding gifts, “a daunting assortment
of lamps, vases, and tableware” that filled several long tables. 
Joyce could have heard about this elaborate and very public
church wedding from more than one source: his friend Reynolds
was still in love with Duchamp, and Man Ray, who had photographed
Joyce in 1922, was in attendance with his movie camera to film
the happy couple, and was with them socially on a regular basis
in the period after their marriage.
chewing gum, the chickenpox and china chambers
Fountain, 1917, was a urinal made of china—large cousin
to a chamberpot?
provided by this soffsoaping salesman.
was trying to sell copies of his Monte Carlo Bond, with
its Man Ray portrait of him with shaving-soap horns and beard.
wonder He’ll Cheat E’erawan
first of all a reference to HCE—H. C. Earwicker, father
of Annalivia and of Shem and Shaun, who are also known as Burrus
and Caseous, in Finnegans Wake. If this interpretation
is correct, “He’ll cheat everyone” would fit Duchamp and his Monte
Carlo Bond scheme.
lads nicknamed him / When Chimpden first took the floor / (Chorus)
With his bucketshop store
McHugh: “U.S. Sl[ang] bucketshop: unauthorized stockbroker’s
The text on Duchamp’s 1923 Wanted/$2,000 Reward (Fig.
13) poster reads: “For information leading to the arrest
of George W. Welch, alias Bull, alias Pickens etcetry, etcetry.
Operated Bucket Shop in New York under name HOOKE, LYON and
CINQUER. Height about 5 feet 9 inches. Weight about 180 pounds.
Complexion medium, eyes same. Known also under name RROSE SELAVY.”
snug he was in his hotel premises sumptuous
This entire verse was an addition of 1927. Within weeks of his
marriage, Duchamp rented a hotel room to work in. “He began spending
more and more time in his hotel room. At home he was often lost
in silent meditation, looking out the window and smoking his pipe.” 
we’ll bonfire all this trash, tricks and trumpery
McHugh: “Sl[ang] trash & trumpery: rubbish.” 
This may again be a reference to Duchamp’s Readymades, or to
the gifts he received at his wedding.
short till sheriff Clancy’ll be winding up his unlimited company
A description of Duchamp’s Monte Carlo Bond, published
in The Little Review in the winter of 1924–25, begins,
“Marcel Duchamp has formed a stock company of which he is the
administrator, etc. Shares are being sold at 500 francs. The
money will be used to play a system in Monte Carlo. Stockholders
to receive 20 per cent interest, etc.” Duchamp scholar Arturo
Schwarz writes, “Actually, the system did not work out. In fact,
[Duchamp] admitted to James Johnson Sweeney, “I never won anything.” 
the bailiff’s bom at the door, / (Chorus) Bimbam at the door.
/ Then he’ll bum no more.
perfectly fits Joyce’s view of Duchamp, and perhaps of himself
as well: both men had to do plenty of hustling, and both were
reliant on wealthy women.
|. . .
Lift it, Hosty, lift it, ye devil ye! Up with the rann, the rhyming
a reference to Duchamp with two horns and a pointy beard in the
photograph on Monte Carlo Bond.
Duchamp, Monte Carlo Bond,
and Joyce are indebted to the eccentric turn-of-the-century poet and
playwright Jarry. As mentioned, Breton summed up that writer’s contribution
with this remark: “We maintain that beginning with Jarry . . . the
differentiation long considered necessary between art and life has
been challenged, to wind up annihilated as a principle.”
 The references to
Duchamp in the Wake repeatedly seem intermingled with references
to Jarry, who, like Duchamp in his Rrose Sélavy persona, was known
to wear women’s clothes. He also boasted of both homosexual and heterosexual
in “The Ballad of Persse O’Reilly” that may refer to Rrose, with her
calling card boasting “Specialist in precision ass and glass work,”
and to Jarry, include “Our rotorious [Duchamp’s “rotoreliefs”?] hippopopotamuns
[“G[erman] Popo: buttocks”  ] / When some bugger
let down the backdrop of the omnibus / And he caught his death of
fusiliers, / (Chorus) With his rent in his rears. / Give him six years.”
Roland McHugh, Annotations to Finnegans Wake, p. 44.
 Breton, quoted in Tomkins, Duchamp, p. 261.
 Alfred Jarry, “The Virgin and the Mannekin-Pis,” in:
Selected Works of Alfred Jarry (New York: Grove Press,
1965), p. 127.
McHugh, Annotations to Finnegans Wake, p. 45.
Tomkins, Duchamp, p. 280.
 McHugh, Annotations to Finnegans Wake, p. 46.
Tomkins, Duchamp, p. 281.
 McHugh, Annotations to Finnegans Wake, p. 46.
 Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp,
Breton, quoted in Shattuck, The Banquet Years: The Origins
of the Avant-Garde in France, 1885 to World War I, p. 217.
 McHugh, Annotations to Finnegans Wake, p. 47.
©2003 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris.
All rights reserved.