Note: Lucky's Thought as presented here is a variant of the Grove Press version that was "translated from his original French text by the author".
LUCKY: (monotone sales-pitch) Being given the existence such (débit monotone) — Étant donné l’existence telle
that it gushes forth from the recent public works ofqu’elle jaillit des récents travaux publics de
Poinçon and Wattman1 of a personal God quaquaquaquaPoinçon et Wattman d’un Dieu personnel quaquaquaqua
with a white beard quaqua outside of the time ofà barbe blanche quaqua hors du temps de
the extent that from high of its divine apathia2 its divinel’étendue qui du haut de sa divine apathie sa divine
athambia3 its divine aphasia4 [who] loves us well withathambie sa divine aphasie nous aime bien à
some near exceptions one knows not why butquelques exceptions près on ne sai pourquoi mais
it will come and suffers as in the divineça viendra et souffre à l’instar de la divine
Miranda5 with those who are one knows not whyMiranda avec ceux qui sont on ne sait pourquoi
but one has [the ] time in the torment inmais on a le temps dans le tourment dans
the fires whereof the fires the flames for littleles feux dont les feux les flammes pour peu
that it endures a little more and that can whileque ça dure encore un peu et qui peut en
doubting will put in the end the fire in thedouter mettront à la fin le feu aux
beams [whereas they are] known [that they] will carry uppoutres assavoir porteront
hell of the naked [ones] so blue by instancesl’enfer aux nues si bleues par moments
still today and calm so calm of aencore aujourd’hui et calmes si calmes d’un
calme that can be intermittent [but] within which iscalme qui peut être intermittent n’en est
not less welcome but let us anticipate notpas moins le bienvenu mais n’anticipons pas
and anticipated on the other hand according toet attendu d’autre part qu’à la suite
the unfinished research let us anticipate not of thedes recherches inachevées n’anticipons pas des
unfinished research but nevertheless crowned (celebrated)recherches inachevées mais néanmoins couronées
by the Acacacacademy of Anthropopopometry of Berne-en-par l’Acacacacadémie d’Anthropopopométrie de Berne-en-
Bresse6 of Testu7 and Conard it is established withoutBresse de Testu et Conard il est établi sans
further possibility of error that this afferent to theautre possibilité d’erreur que celle afférente aux
human basis8 that according to the research unfinishedcalcus humains qu’à la suite des recherches inachevées
unfinished of Testu and Conard it is established tabled9inachevées de Testu et Conard il est établie tabli
tabled that which follows which follows whichtabli ce qui suit qui suit qui
follows [whereas it is] known but let us anticipate notsuit assavoir mais n’anticipons pas
one knows not why according to the works ofon ne sait pourquoi à la suite des travaux de
Poinçon10 and Wattmann it appears as clearly [as] so [as]Poinçon et Wattmann il apparaît aussi clairement si
clearly that in view of the labours of Fartov andclairement qu’en vue des labours de Fartov et
Belcher unfinished11 unfinished one knows not whyBelcher inachevés inachevés on ne sait pourquoi
[that] of Testu and Conard unfinished unfinished itde Testu et Conard inachevés inachevés il
appears that man contrary to the opinionapparaît que l’homme contrairement à l’opinion
contrary [opposing] that man in Bresse of Testucontraire que l’homme en Bresse de Testu
and Conard that man finally in brief thatet Conard que l’homme enfin bref que
man in brief finally despite the progress ofl’homme en bref enfin malgré les progrès de
alimentation and of elimination of waste isl’alimentation et de l’élimination des déchets est
in the process of growing thin and at the same parallel timeen train de maigrir et en meme temps parallèlement
one knows not why despite the strides ofon ne sait pourquoi malgré l’essor de
physical culture of the practise of sports such asla culture physique de la pratique des sports tels
such as such as tennis football racing and (both)tels tels le tennis le football la course et
on foot and on bicycle swimming ridingà pied et à bicyclette la natation l’équitation
flying conation12 tennis camogie skatingl’aviation la conation le tennis le camogie le patinage
and (both) on ice and on asphalt tennis flyinget sur glace et sur asphalte le tennis l’aviation
sports sports of Winter of Summer of Autumnles sports les sports d’hiver d’été d’automne
of Autumn tennis on grass on wood and ond’automne le tennis sur gazon sur sapin et sur
clay flying tennis hockey on the groundterre battue l’aviation le tennis le hockey sur terre
on the sea and in the air penicillin13 andsur mer et dans les airs la pénicilline et
substitutes in brief I reiterate at the same parallel timesuccédanés bref je reprends en même temps parallèlement
to shorten [make a long story short]14 one knows not whyde rapetisser on ne sait pourquoi
despite the tennis I reiterate flying golf bothmalgré le tennis je reprends l’aviation le golf tant à
nine and eighteen holes tennis on ice in brief oneneuf qu’à dix-huit trous le tennis sur glace bref on
knows not why in Seine15 Seine-et-Oise Seine-et-Marnene sait pourquoi en Seine Seine-et-Oise Seine-et-Marne
Marne-et-Oise [whereas it is] known at the same parallel timeMarne-et-Oise assavoir en même temps parallèlement
one knows not why to grow thin to narrow [it] downon ne sait pourquoi de maigrir rétrécir
I reiterate Oise16 Marne in brief the dry loss by theje reprends Oise Marne bref la perte sèche par
head of the pipe17 since the death of Voltaire18 being ontête de pipe depuis la mort de Voltaire étant de
the order of two fingers 100 grams per head ofl’ordre de deux doigts cent grammes par tête de
pipe19 thereabouts on average about nearly round figurespipe environ en moyenne à peu près chiffres ronds
well weighed20 undressed in Normandy one knows notbon poids déshabillé en Normandie on ne sait
why in brief finally [of] little import the facts arepourquoi bref enfin peu importe les faits sont
there and considering on the other hand that which islà et considérant d’autre part ce qui est
yet more serious that it stands out that which isencore plus grave qu’il ressort ce qui est
yet more serious as to the light the lightencore plus grave qu’à la lumière la lumière
of the experiments in progress of Steinweg21 anddes expériences en cours de Steinweg et
Petermann it stands out that which is yet morePetermann il ressort ce qui est encore plus
serious that it stands out that which is yet moregrave qu’il ressort ce qui est encore plus
serious [as] to the light the light of thegrave à la lumière la lumière des
abandoned experimentation of Steinweg and Petermannexpériences abandonnées de Steinweg et Petermann
that [of] the countryside the mountains and byqu’à la campagne à la montagne et au bord de
the sea and by the rivers and (both) of water and of firela mer et des cours et d’eau et de feu
the air is the same and the earth [as it is] known the airl’air est le même et la terre assavoir l’air
and the earth by the great coldness [of] air and [of]et la terre par les grands froids l’air et
the earth made for the stones by the greatla terre faits pour les pierres par les grands
coldness alas in the seventh [century]22 of their erafroids hélas au septième de leur ère
the ethereal the earth the sea for the stones froml’éthere la terre la mer pour les pierres par
the great depths the great coldness on the seales grands fonds les grands froids sur mer
on earth and in the precious air I reiterate onesur terre et dans les air peuchère je reprends on
knows not why despite the tennis the factsne sait pourquoi malgré le tennis les faits
are there one knows not why I reiteratesont là on ne sait pourquoi je reprends
it follows in brief finally alas it follows for theau suivant bref enfin hélas au suivant pour les
stones who can doubt it I reiterate but let us anticipatepierres qui peut en douter je reprends mais n’anticipons
not I reiterate the head at the same parallel time onepas je reprends la tête en meme temps parallèlement on
knows not why despite the tennis it follows thene sait pourquoi malgré le tennis au suivant la
beard the flames the tears the stones so blue sobarbe les flammes les pleurs les pierres si bleues si
calm alas the head the head the head the headcalmes hélas la tête la tête la tête la tête
in Normandy despite the tennis the laboursen Normandie malgré le tennis les labours
abandoned unfinished more serious the stones in briefabandonnés inachevés plus grave les pierres bref
I reiterate alas alas abandoned unfinished the headje reprends hélas hélas abandonnés inachevés la tête
the head in Normandy despite the tennis the headla tête en Normandie malgré le tennis la tête
alas the stones Conard Conard (Mêlée. Lucky pushes onhélas les pierres Conard Conard...(Mêlée. Lucky pousse encore
with a few more shouts.) Tennis The stones so calmquelques vociférations.) Tennis! ... Les pierres! ... Si calmes!
Conard Unfinished... Conard! ... Inachevés! ...
2 Apathy 3 Imperturbability 4 Muteness 5 Daughter of Prospero; the name means "admirable" 8 calcus related to Latin root for rock. In this case, "calcus" roughly means bedrock. Foreshadowing of repeated use of the word "stone". 9 French pun. By omitting the first syllable of établie, established, Lucky echoes the final two syllables tabli, tabled; e.g., to put aside (like the work of Testu and Conard). 11 Sexual pun on the inability to achieve orgasm. 12 conation—word coined by Beckett, using his favourite word con (stupid asshole) as a root; in this context, it refers to being a dumb asshole for sport. 13 Cure for syphilis 14 Sexual pun, referring to post-coital penis. 15 Satiric names for French départements (roughly equivalent to counties), all centred around the confluence of the Seine, Oise and Marne rivers in Paris. There actually exists a département called Seine-et-Marne, but the other names are takeoffs on this. 16 These départements do exist and were regions in which a number of WWI battles took place. 17 Another sexual pun. 18 Continuation of previous pun: Voltaire was impotent. 19 Further continuation—reference to masturbation. 20 Another sexual pun; in this case, well-hung. 22 The century in which St Augustine produced his writings. Didi quotes Augustine’s meditation on the two thieves earlier in the play.
SPECIFIC LINE REFERENCES
. . . No doubt the most striking loss of this kind to the English reader is the humour Beckett derives from a mixture of real and invented proper names in Lucky’s speech in the French Waiting for Godot, where the punning is dazzlingly rich.
. . . the English "Acacacacademy of Anthropopometry of Essy-in-Possy" had been that of Berne-en-Bresse in French, an amusingly obscure or provincial-sounding town which in fact doesn’t exist. It recalls Bourg-en-Bresse, a centre not of learning but of gastronomy, and Beckett’s replacement of Bourg by the Swiss Berne is probably to be explained by the association with the verb berner, to hoodwink or hoax.
Similar resonances are present in the names of most of the "scholars" Lucky mentions. Puncher and Wattman in the English text are a rather lacklustre Anglicisation of the French Poinçon et Wattman— a wattman in French being a tramdriver, so that Poinçon (poinçon=ticket punch) is his conductor. This helps to explain the "public works" they are involved in, whilst both names are vaguely reminiscent of those of actual authorities such as James Watt or the French mathematician Louis Poinsot.
The range of suggestion of the English Testew and Cunard is limited when compared to the vistas opened up, for the amateur of puns, by the Rabelaisian French names they are derived from: Testu et Conard. The most obvious association here is with têtu et conard: mulish and (in coarse slang) stupid. There are also the echoes , given the context of French words for testicle (testicule) and vagina (again in slang: con) . Finally the names are also those of real people in the world of learning: Testu, author of an Histoire universelle des théâtres de toutes les nations (1779-81) or Jean-Léo Testut, author of a standard medical textbook, Précis d’anatomie descriptive , which has appeared in many editions since 1926—and Conard, the eminently respectable Paris publishing house responsible for standard editions of numerous French authors.
Finally Steinweg et Petermann (Steinweg and Peterman in the English text) are slightly more recondite because of the German element. For an English audience familiar with underworld slang (peterman=cracksman) the second of these two names could seem absurdly humorous. For a French audience it would be amusing in a different way (péter=to fart). It seems likely, however, that the joke is even more intricate and characteristically Beckettian in that it brings in a knowledge of German and of elementary etymology : these two German authorities are as dry (or as dense?) as stone, since stein=stone and Peter=Greek petros=stone. This would also account for the fact that in the remainder of Lucky’s speech stones are mentioned seven times.
One last type of humour present in French but less noticeable in English is that of Beckett’s jokes about his French style, which reveal him as somewhat self-conscious in his use of French. Lucky’s false start to his speech: "D’autre part, pour ce qui est . . . " (in the English: "On the other hand, with regard to . . . ") is a parody of learned prose and also a piece of self-parody by Beckett, since . . . the use of this expression is one of his mannerisms.
Harry Cockerham Bilingual Playwright
The most striking speech in the whole play, Lucky’s monologue when ordered to think, rivets our attention at first by its shocking mixture of seeming sense and evident nonsense, mingling reflections on "this existence . . . of a personal God . . . with white beard. . . . outside time without extension . . " (If God is without extension, how can he be said to have a white beard?).
But as an audience loses the thread of the progressively more disrupted sentence, it ceases to try to understand and is swept away by the verbal torrent which, in English, breaks down into the heavily accented dimeters already noted in Beckett’s free verse:/ /the air the earth/ /the sea the earth/ /abode of stones/ /in the great deeps/ /the great cold/ /on sea on land/ /and in the air/I resume/ /for reasons unknown/ /in spite of the tennis/ /the facts are there/ /but time will tell. . . .
Vivian Mercier Beckett/Beckett
Biblical or theological and religious references in the play serve similar ironic functions: the well-known biblical injunction "Seek and ye shall find" is garbled to "When you seek you hear. . . . That prevents you from finding" ; Pozzo, condescension and punitive, seems at time a parody of God the Father, though "not particularly human", happy to meet "the meanest creature", "of the same species as Pozzo! Made in God’s image ", "even when the likeness is an imperfect one"; Vladimir and Estragon seem parodies of humankind, Estragon giving his name as Adam and Vladimir sententiously concluding that " all mankind is us "; Godot seems a parody of popular images of God, having a significant white beard, little boys for messengers (angels) and a nasty tendency to punish those who refuse to wait on him. The irony of these references keeps alive in the play what the story of the two thieves had suggested, that there is no happy salvation for Vladimir and Estragon.
Lucky’s monologue also sounds the note of blighted hope. . . . [a] paraphrase of Lucky’s argument: Despite the supposed existence of a personal God—both popular (with white beard) and philosophical (God qua God)—who supposedly loves humankind (while at the same time having neither sensitivity to human suffering nor power to relieve that suffering and sometimes even causing torment) and despite supposed intellectual and physical progress, humankind wastes and pines: No distractions of physical activity or mental contrivance can hide the fact that humankind is only a "skull", fading, dying, only a skull that has been abandoned unfinished. . . . The discourse is unfinished; humankind, that mere skull, is unfinished.
In a play where the word saved is used frequently and desperately, in a play that virtually begins with a "sacred" but untrustworthy story about salvation, it can be unsettling to hear even chaotic denial of the main hope of Western thought concerning the relationship between God and human beings. The word skull climaxes that denial. Not only does skull obviously suggest death and disintegration, but to those who know their Bible it also suggests the name "Golgotha", that place of the skull (as the name signifies [Matthew 27:33]) where the two thieves were crucified. If, as Lucky’s monologue indicates, humankind is only a skull, then special places like Golgotha and special salvations from dying Gods or delaying Godots are the mere delusion Vladimir uneasily fears they may be. Lucky’s "discourse" thus becomes one more story to put beside Vladimir’s story of the two thieves, both ironic commentaries on the present situation of blighted hope.Kristin Morrison Biblical Allusions in Waiting for Godotfrom June Schlueter and Enoch Brater Approaches to Teaching Beckett's Waiting for Godot
Philosophical issues such as freedom form part of Godot, but they are discussed to comically and inconclusively for us to be able to say that any philosophy has been done. Even in Lucky’s speech philosophy is used and not done . What he delivers is a pastiche of an academic lecture, with its references to learned authorities ("Puncher and Wattmann", "Fartov and Belcher") and its absurdly calm "I resume"s. The subject of the lecture is the diminution of the human species in physical size. Not only is the delivery of this lecture hopelessly garbled, but the audience’s attention is diverted by the actions of the other three characters onstage, who groan, protest and finally attack Lucky to silence him. Most audience members cannot get more than a few shreds of the speech, but the impression of complete senselessness is slightly modified by its philosophical scraps. The God mentioned at the outset is "without extension", as in Descartes for whom the mental-spiritual world of God (and res cogitans is not "extended" in space (as opposed to the material world, which is res extensa). From Descartes, too, comes the method of systematic doubt in philosophical inquiry: "all other doubt than that which clings to the labours of men". "Essy" and "Possy" are English pronunciations of esse and posse—"being" and "being able". Taken from the Scholastic philosophy of the Middle Ages , the words appear courtesy of "Testew and Cunard". Bishop Berkeley, for whom the existence of things was a philosophical question (for whom "essy" was "being perceived") also makes a brief and enigmatic appearance.
These ill-heard and unconnected scraps do not mean that Lucky’s speech is a farrago of nonsensical elements. His inability to "think" properly reflects a desperation that is not merely satiric. He balances the labours of scholars and the hope that they offer ("God", "beyond all doubt", "penicilline") with the despair of ignorance and uncertainty ("quaquaquaqua", "the labours unfinished", "for reasons unknown"), and he places particular emphasis on "man", about whom it is hard to say anything at all: "it is established what many deny that man in Possy of Testew and Cunard that man in Essy that man in short that man in brief in spite of the strides of alimentation and defecation . . . " We are left with King Lear’s "unaccommodated man", to whom philosophy seems hopelessly irrelevant or even threatening in that it asks unanswerable questions and leaves us to the "labour unfinished" of waiting for Godot.Lance St John Butler Waiting for Godot and Philosophyfrom June Schlueter and Enoch Brater Approaches to Teaching Beckett's Waiting for Godot
The centerpiece of Beckett’s theme of reading and recitation is, of course, Lucky’s speech near the end of Act I. It is the single time in the play when, for Lucky, words suspend physical action but do not supplant it. The speech is itself physical action, as Beckett’s stage directions indicate: Pozzo’s first instruction, " Think, pig !" results in a dance since Lucky cannot remember what think means (he subsequently "remembers" better than any of the other characters do). Think here means "language", and its manifestation is a ritualised recitation. . . . Camus, in The Myth of Sisyphus, argues that the absurd is precisely the suspense and tension, the abyss, in the human being, instigated by the thought of being caught between the arbitrary irrationality of the world and the rage for order in the mind. Just such a rage for order lies behind both Lucky’s speech and Beckett’s structure of reading and recitation in Godot. For Camus, as for Beckett, meaning must be lived to be significant. In the order of the recitation, of Lucky’s speech as lecture, meaning is arbitrary, certainly not the product of "lived" thought. The monologue does not break through to a lived meaning for Lucky or anyone else, since his worlds do not express any kind of conscious or intellectual conviction.
The speech is a vast compendium of hidden texts, of philosophy, religion, scholarship, scepticism and more. . . . [It] is a self-immolation for Lucky, who presents himself as a ritual sacrifice to interpretation (or to meaning); . . . But interpretation is impossible. . . . During his lecture, Lucky’s control (ordering) of his language is absurdly disordered and Pozzo’s control of Lucky disintegrates; Pozzo becomes more and more agitated. Finally, all three attack Lucky and drag him to the ground, enervated, on his last word, which is, appropriately, "Unfinished". After Pozzo’s instruction to nab Lucky’s hat, with which Didi complies, Beckett indicates in stage direction, " Silence of Lucky . He falls. Silence. Panting of the victors". Beckett’s use of vainqueurs is telling here. Lucky has radically altered his identity in this speech, outdoing Pozzo, Gogo and Didi in his verbal energy . . . Lucky demonstrates that repetition is not order, though it is not necessarily disorder ; he enacts the rending or sacrifice or order to disembodied language. In this [manner] Lucky challenged Pozzo, Gogo and Didi to suppress him. In the play, they are "victorious" over Lucky’s speech and, more important, over his violent manifestation of the slippage of language. To Lucky’s suppression, Gogo asserts, "Avenged!", and Lucky is treated as a figure of contempt. For his part, Lucky, conquered, collapses into a comatose apathy ("divine aphathia"?), as though his force has been utterly drained. He must, indeed, be taught to feel again.Stephen Barker Lecture and Lecture: Recitation and Reading in Waiting for Godotfrom June Schlueter and Enoch Brater Approaches to Teaching Beckett's Waiting for Godot
The usual view [of Lucky’s speech] is that it is a definition, in garbled syllogistic form, of the human predicament as the play itself acts it out; given the existence of a person God, it is established beyond all doubt that man is plunged in torment, wastes and pines, the skull fading, fading. And it ends in a corruption of Christ’s last words on the cross which gives rise to the idea that Lucky, like Estragon, sees life as a perverted ongoing Crucifixion.
There is little doubt that the speech is spun out on some such bleak axis. What this view sacrifices, however, is the sheer pictorial density of its mass. What happens as the speech proceeds is that this frenzied attempt to "establish" as basic proposition, or certainty, about man in the world becomes hopelessly engulfed in the variety in which the world asserts itself. In short, the speech may be a parody of academic "thinking", but it is also a great verbal frieze, or the ruin of one, depicting a whole world bound on one side by the processes of life (labour, physical culture, alimentation, defecation, etc) and on the other by the processes of nature. For all this, it is not a real world because it lacks connective tissue, contingency; but something like a logic emerges. In fact, the salient dramatic feature of the speech is that it simulates an explosion: as it builds, the human world of Fulham and Clapham gradually "fades" and is overwhelmed by a catastrophe that sounds suspiciously like the death of a star ("the rivers running water running fire . . . and then the earth in the great cold the great dark the air and the earth abode of stones in the great cold"). At the centre one somehow sees a group of busy scholars labouring the big questions of God, man and matter in the Academy; and outside, on the fields and lakes and lawns, the rest of humanity is making great strides in sports of all kinds; all this against the backdrop of the world of the elements churning away—in spite of the tennis—toward entropy or toward some sort of apocalypse. So we end with something like a rewriting of Montaigne’s dictum: " . . . there is no constant existence, either of our own being, or of that of what we observe. Both we and our judgement and all mortal things are incessantly flowing and rolling on."
All in all, it is an excellent example of a "containing" speech: it reaches out toward essential matters (man in Essy), the idea being that if a dramatist would examine man thoroughly, he must put him in some sort of a universe, not merely in a locale. And one might say that Beckett’s main purpose in giving Lucky this speech, carefully "cured" in his long silence preceding it, was to expand the implications of waiting into final realms: tennis and thought in the context of the firmament.
Bert O States The Shape of Paradox: An Essay on Waiting for Godot
Pozzo’s rhetoric on the subject of the approach of night in Act I is clearly an exercise in bathos, but his sudden outburst in the second act is rhetoric of a different order. Part of it would make acceptable free verse in the original French:Un jour,ça ne vous suffit pas,un jour pareil aux autresil est devenu muet,un jourje suis devenu aveugle,un journous deviendrons sourds,un journous sommes nés,un journous mourrons,le même jour,le même instant,ça ne vous suffit pas?[One day,