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Nessa by Paul Durcan (Poem & Annotated Analysis)

February 26, 2018

Annotated Analysis


Take off your pants, she said to me, (confirms sexual implications of the metaphor in stanza one)
And I very nearly didn't; (the speaker was either reluctant or afraid to do as he was told; did he think it was too soon?)

Would you care to swim? she said to me, (again, this metaphor seems a sexual one)
And I hopped into the Irish Sea. (suggests that the speaker agreed to Nessa’s request)
And that was a whirlpool, that was a whirlpool,

And I very nearly drowned. (refrain from stanza one; a summary of the speaker’s feelings towards their entire relationship?)

On the way back I fell in the field (another simple, realistic image; connotations of Van Morrison’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl’?)
And she fell down beside me. (suggests their relationship has developed since the first two stanzas; they are now together)
I'd have lain in the grass with her all my life
With Nessa:
 (speaker is/was committed to the relationship at this point of the poem/story)
She was a whirlpool, she was a whirlpool, (‘the whirlpool’ has transitioned from the early courtship/sex to being Nessa herself)
And I very nearly drowned. (reader needs to reach a conclusion here: why does the speaker nearly drown? What about her makes him feel like this?)

Oh Nessa my dear, Nessa my dear, (repetition emphasises his depth of feeling for her)
Will you stay with me on the rocks? (‘on the rocks’ associated with being in danger/at risk; a hint at the nature of their relationship, i.e. being close to breaking up?)
Will you come for me into the Irish Sea
And for me let your red hair down? (repetition of ‘will you’ and ‘for me’; seems as if the speaker is pleading with his lover); (‘let your…’ is a metaphor for relaxing and/or being one’s true self; does the speaker mean, ‘be open/honest with me’ – as in a true relationship?)
And then we will ride into Dublin City
 (if she agrees/says yes to his requests)
In a taxi-cab wrapped-up in dust. (image evocative/unclear; does everything else appear ‘wrapped-up in dust’ to the speaker, bar their love?)
Oh you are a whirlpool, you are a whirlpool,
And I am very nearly drowned. (the speaker is consumed by his lover, is in love with her, and cannot see himself parting from her; love imagery remains somewhat negative, however; drowning is not a healthy image for love)


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