Paul Durcan: The Girl With The Keys To Pearse's Cottage

The Girl With The Keys To Pearse's Cottage

Subject matter: Ireland, emigration, a love interest
Imagery: metaphor, precise descriptions, reference to art

When I was sixteen I met a dark girl;
Her dark hair was darker because her smile was so bright;
She was the girl with the keys to Pearse’s Cottage;
And her name was Cáit Killann.
The Cottage was built into the side of a hill

The language is very clear, almost explanatory at times. The speaker is referring to the cottage that Padraig Pearse owned. It was once used an Irish school. The keys to Pearse’s cottage could be a symbol for the Irish language, or perhaps something else related to Ireland.

I recall two windows and cosmic peace
Of bare brown rooms and on whitewashed walls
Photographs of the passionate pale Pearse.


The Girl With The Keys To Pearse's Cottage Leaving Cert Notes

Here the language is very descriptive. The adjectives, brown, pale, whitewashed create the image of an old photograph and further attention is drawn to this image through alliteration. [Alliteration is the repetition of the first consonant in a series of multiple words.]

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I used to sit in the rushes with ledger-book and pencil
Compiling poems of passion for Cáit Killann.

Poems of passion is juxtaposed with a nonchalant image of sitting in the rushes. [Juxtaposition is where two things are placed close together with contrasting effect].

Often she used linger on the sill of a window;
Hands by her side and brown legs akimbo;
In sun-red skirt and moon-black blazer;
Looking toward our strange world wide-eyed.

Our world was strange because it had no future;
She was America-bound at summer’s end.
She had no choice but to leave her home -
The girl with the keys to Pearse’s Cottage.
O Cáit Killann, O Cáit Killann,
You have gone with your keys from your own native place.
Yet here in this dark - El Greco eyes blaze back
From your Connemara postman’s daughter’s proudly mortal face.

The reference to El Greco (a quintessential Spanish painter), Pádraig Pearse as well the use of the lady’s full name elevates the style of the poem, even though the language doesn’t appear that complicated, making it all the more appealing.
The eyes!
The saddened tone referring to her leaving for America is emphasised by the repetition of her name. The speaker is also reflecting bleakly on this emigration: they had no future, she had no choice but to leave her home, her native place. She is gone with the keys. Whatever it is the keys symbolise, it sounds like the speaker feels he is losing something. The experience is described very realistically and resonates with the Irish audience all too well.
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Leaving Cert English Sample Essay and Notes



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