I daresay the soil would be quite fat with corpsemanure, bones, flesh, nails. Charnelhouses. Dreadful. Turning green and pink decomposing. Rot quick in damp earth. The lean old ones tougher. Then a kind of a tallowy kind of a cheesy. Then begin to get black, black treacle oozing out of them. Then dried up. Deathmoths. Of course the cells or whatever they are go on living. Changing about. Live for ever practically. Nothing to feed on feed on themselves.
But they must breed a devil of a lot of maggots. Soil must be simply swirling with them. Your head it simply swurls. Those pretty little seaside gurls. He looks cheerful enough over it. Gives him a sense of power seeing all the others go under first. Wonder how he looks at life. Cracking his jokes too: warms the cockles of his heart. The one about the bulletin. Spurgeon went to heaven 4 a.m. this morning. 11 p.m. (closing time). Not arrived yet. Peter. The dead themselves the men anyhow would like to hear an odd joke or the women to know what’s in fashion. A juicy pear or ladies’ punch, hot, strong and sweet. Keep out the damp. You must laugh sometimes so better do it that way. Gravediggers in Hamlet. Shows the profound knowledge of the human heart. Daren’t joke about the dead for two years at least. De mortuis nil nisi prius. Go out of mourning first. Hard to imagine his funeral. Seems a sort of a joke. Read your own obituary notice they say you live longer. Gives you second wind. New lease of life.
—How many have you for tomorrow? the caretaker asked.
—Two, Corny Kelleher said. Half ten and eleven.
The caretaker put the papers in his pocket. The barrow had ceased to trundle. The mourners split and moved to each side of the hole, stepping with care round the graves. The gravediggers bore the coffin and set its nose on the brink, looping the bands round it.
Burying him. We come to bury Cæsar. His ides of March or June. He doesn’t know who is here nor care. Now who is that lankylooking galoot over there in the macintosh? Now who is he I’d like to know? Now I’d give a trifle to know who he is. Always someone turns up you never dreamt of. A fellow could live on his lonesome all his life. Yes, he could. Still he’d have to get someone to sod him after he died though he could dig his own grave. We all do. Only man buries. No, ants too. First thing strikes anybody. Bury the dead. Say Robinson Crusoe was true to life. Well then Friday buried him. Every Friday buries a Thursday if you come to look at it.
O, poor Robinson Crusoe! How could you possibly do so?
Joyce is clearly drawing parallels between Deathmoths and the people of Ireland. He says that they have nothing to feed on so they feed on themselves, and that they breed a lot of maggots. That may be a reference to “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift, in which Swift satirically advocates that the starving children of Ireland could be used to feed their starving parents. I remember studying it in high school and a crazy as it sounds it really wasn’t any worse than what the British ruling class believed at the time, that starvation was the natural state of Irish people. ( wiki )
I looked up De mortuis nil nisi prius and according to wikibooks.org Bloom i misquoting the Latin apothegm De mortuis nil nisi bonum which basically means never speak ill of the dead. (source)