Paul Durcan: Nessa


Subject matter: love, falling in love, developing a relationship
Imagery: falling in love is like falling into a whirlpool; direct speech; realistic familiar images

I met her on the first of August
In the Shangri-La Hotel,
She took my by the index finger
And dropped me in her well.

The two first met and developed instant chemistry. The mention of a hotel paints a real life common image. (We will delicately avoid the elaborate sensual metaphor to spare the poor examiner the blushing.)

Take off your pants, she said to me,
And I very nearly didn’t;
Would you care to swim? she said to me,
And I hopped into the Irish Sea.

The image of hopping into the Irish sea seems to accessible: those of us that don’t jump off the Forty Foot on Christmas day read about it in the media. The image is appealing and comfortably close to home.

I’d have lain in the grass with her all my life
With Nessa:

The relationship evolves, and the speaker goes from just meeting this lady to wanting to spend the rest of his life with her.

O Nessa my dear, Nessa my dear,

The direct speech and the repeated mention of her name makes the poetry intense in a way that resonates with the experience of being head over heels in love.

Will you stay with me on the rocks?
Will you come for me into the Irish Sea
And for me let your red hair down?

The questions also add a persuasive element to this intensity. The image of him inviting her to go with him and let her hair down (i.e. unveil her innermost feelings) appears so unreserved and honest, it certainly exposes the human experience of delving deeper into a serious relationship.

And then we will ride into Dublin City
In a taxi-cab wrapped up in dust.

Just like the image of hopping into the Irish sea, this is a familiar picture.

The repetition of the whirlpool/drowning lines is dynamic: the speaker is swept deeper and deeper into this relationship. Sibilance adds to this image through onomatopoeia, reminding the reader of a whirlpool. It may also mean that it was turbulent and perhaps difficult at times, once again making it so human. Lastly, the changing of the pronoun from that to she to you shows that deepening of the relationship and moving the focus from that, a fleeting romance, to her, that girl, to you, the apple of his eye.

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