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FDV: "Watches of the night Twelve two eleven four ten six. eigh seven eight. Five three. Twelve." →
"Watches of the night Hark! Twelve two eleven cater ten
"a description of a postman travelling backwards in the night through the events already narrated"
"a via crucis of fourteen stations of the cross" (possibly reflected also in fourteen questions and answers
"a barrel of Guinness rolling down (or up) the river Liffey"
synopsis: the four old men counting midnight bells — over a sleeping pair?
realism would imply they know the approximate times of sunset and sunrise, and are confused here because it's pitch black, somewhere between 6pm and 6am (summer nights are shorter, winter nights are longer)
fdv: "watches of the night"
[wiki] 'The phrase 'watches of the night' has been used since at least the Book of Common Prayer (1662), and dates back further: "the watches of the night: the night-time; watch originally each of the three or four periods of time, during which a watch or guard was kept, into which the night was divided by the Jews and Romans. The phrase occurs in KJV-Psalms, and has also been used in several works of literature as a cliché for what is also called 'the wee small hours', or 'the early morning', often with connotations of blackness (both of night and of the spirits) and depression (eg, Longfellow (1879) "In the long, sleepless watches of the night"). 'Watches of the Night' is also an 1887 story by Rudyard Kipling. The title puns on two identical timepieces.'
cf opening of Hamlet?
"Hark! ...Hork!" A/O
Tolv two elf kater ten (it can't be) sax.
fdv: "Twelve two eleven four ten six." →
"Twelve two eleven cater ten
12-2-11-4-10-6 (conserved) 12-11-10 vs 2-4-6 (slow counterclockwise vs fast clockwise)
multiple bumbling half-asleep voices trying to count the striking of a clock
they use different (competing?) counting systems... some counting backwards???
for the 1st thru 3rd/4th/5th strikes it might be morning hours, but once it reaches six they know it's more like 9-12
Danish tolv: twelve
"two" and "ten" are unpunned
German elf: Dutch elf: eleven
Irish ceathair: four
they must have been asleep and lost track of when in the pitchblack night it is
hork/hock/hawk = cough up [wkt]
German horch: listen
Pedwar pemp foify tray (it must be) twelve!
fdv: "eigh seven eight. Five three. Twelve." →
8-7-8 5-3 12
4-5 (8-7-6 counterclockwise vs 4-5-6 clockwise?)
once the count reaches 5/6/7 they know it will continue
Welsh pedwar: four
Jespersen: Language, its Nature, Development and Origin 168 (IX.5): 'Welsh... pedwar = Ir. cathir, 'four''
ped- = foot, childWelsh pump: five
pimp (why pEmp?)
Swiss German feufi: five o'clock (Zurich dialect; pronounced 'foify') not a plausible interpretation of the strikes counted so far
fifty three? (not a plausible clockbelltime)
trey = 3 (playing cards)
Italian tre: three
tray with food?
are they breaking the 7/8/9/10/11 counts into smaller subsets?
"(it can't be)... (it must be)"
"Tolv... twelve!" (cycles around to start?)
"twelve" is unpunned
And low stole o'er the stillness the heartbeats of sleep.
(plain poetic English!?)
the heartbeats stole low over the stillness?
"stole o'er" goes back to 1762 [gbks]
cf 428.16 "pulse of our slumber"
the night was still even before the watchers fell asleep
(was it their duty to stay awake?)