Within ‘Rosie Joyce’ Durcan explores themes of new life, rebirth, family, and Ireland. The mood is consistently upbeat and positive throughout, even when the speaker is less celebratory and more contemplative.
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Summary of Rosie Joyce
The poem begins with the speaker expressing his joy over the birth of a child. At first, it’s unclear who this child is to him, but towards the end of the second section, he states that his daughter gave birth to her, making him her grandfather. Durcan’s speaker expresses his elation over the arrival of this new life and what it means for the world. He feels as though everything around him foretold her arrival. Later, he says, he understood her name to have always been “Rosie”. It never could’ve been anything else.
In the second section of the poem he uses the landscape of Ireland, the places he saw the day before and that morning to embody the joy he feels. On the morning of that May Sunday, the “first” plants were blooming. They stood as symbols of the new life that entered into the world that afternoon. The poem concludes with a wider consideration of Ireland and the diversity of opinion.
You can read the full poem here.
Structure of Rosie Joyce
‘Rosie Joyce’ by Paul Durcan is a three-part poem that is divided into uneven sets of stanzas. The first part of the poem contains seven stanzas, each with three lines (known as tercets). The second part of ‘Rosie Joyce’ has sixteen stanzas, all but one of which is a tercet. Then, the third and final part of the poem has three tercets and one quatrain or set of four lines. As is common in his poetry, this piece is written in free verse. This means that Durcan did not choose to give this piece a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern.
Despite the lack of a standard rhyme scheme, there are moments of rhyme within the text. Half-rhyme, also known as slant or partial rhyme, is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line or multiple lines of verse. For example, “west” and “east” in part one, line one, stanza two, or “Rosie” and “be” in stanza two of the second section.
Poetic Techniques in Rosie Joyce
Durcan makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Rosie Joyce’. These include alliteration, caesura, anaphora, repetition, and enjambment. The first, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For instance, the use of the “r” consonant sound in part I stanza five.
Caesura occurs when a line is split in half, sometimes with punctuation, sometimes not. The use of punctuation in these moments creates a very intentional pause in the text. A reader should consider how the pause influences the rhythm of one’s reading and how it might proceed an important turn or transition in the text. For example, line one of the sixth stanza in part one. It reads: “By-passing Swinford – Croagh Patrick in my rear-view mirror”.
Repetition is the use and reuse of a specific technique, word, tone or phrase within a poem. There are several examples in ‘Rosie Joyce’. They can be seen through the use of “Daymaker!” in part two as well as the reuse of natural imagery, specifically at the beginning of part two.
Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For example, the transition between lines two and three in the last stanza.
Durcan also makes use of anaphora, or the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. This can be seen through the use of “Daymaker!” as well as in stanzas two and three of the second part with “The first”.
Analysis of Rosie Joyce
Stanzas One and Two
That was that Sunday afternoon in May
When a hot sun pushed through the clouds
The sky blue-and-white china in the fields
In impromptu picnics of tartan rugs;
In the first stanzas of ‘Rosie Joyce,’ the speaker begins by setting the scene. He describes the day: it was May, a Sunday and the sun was making its way through the clouds in the afternoon. The use of enjambment between the second and third lines is quite impactful. The mundane detail is pushed away by the phrase “And you were born!”
The speaker addresses his own presence on that day and how he was traveling from west to east under a blue and white sky. The day seemed perfect.
Stanzas Three and Four
When neither words nor I
As I was when you were born that Sunday:
There was something about this birth, the child’s name, and the time she was born that seemed, later, predestined. Her name was Rosie and the speaker expresses the wish that one day she be as lucky as he was. Fifty-six years from the day of her birth, perhaps she will be “as lucky / As [he] was when [she was] born that Sunday”.
Stanzas Five and Six
To drive such side-roads, such main roads, such ramps, such
My cell phone rang and, stopping on the hard edge of P. Flynn’s highway,
I heard Mark your father say:
Durcan uses repetition in the next lines, as well as alliteration. The “r” consonant sound is used multiple times as is the word “roads” and “such”. He expresses his joy on the day of this child’s birth as well as his hope that she too will have “such” a day as he.
The reader gets moment by moment detail in the sixth stanza. He describes getting a phone call from Mark, the baby’s father. With enjambment, a reader is encouraged to move quickly to the seventh stanza, and the last of Part I, to hear the conclusion.
“A baby girl was born at 3.33 p.m.
Tough work, all well.”
The words Mark conveyed were straightforward and clear. He told the speaker the child’s weight and the location of her birth. It was “tough work” but all is now “well”.
Stanzas One and Two
That Sunday in May before daybreak
The first hawthorns powdering white the mainland;
Over the next stanzas of ‘Rosie Joyce,’ the speaker indulges in the beauty of the landscape. He depicts it on that May Sunday before the child’s birth. The first Arum Lily of the year had come through on that day as well as the “first rhododendrons / Purpling the golden camps of whins”. The scene was a gorgeous one and it heralded in new life.
Stanzas Three and Four
The first yellow irises flagging roadside streams;
First fuchsia, Queen Anne’s Lace, primrose.
The poem continues in this same way with the poet expressing his pleasure in this birth through the land. As if fated, the child was born on the same day as all these plants bloomed. They come one after another, and Durcan uses anaphora with the repetition of “The first” at the beginning of both of these stanzas and at the end of stanza two.
Stanzas Five and Six
I drove the Old Turlough Road, past Walter Durcan’s Farm,
Each canal bridge an old pewter brooch.
The mood, which had taken a detour into the contemplative and philosophical, comes back around to joyous and grateful. The speaker is truly happy to be a part of the events that are unfolding around him. He feels “fortunate” that he gets to go back to Dublin. Every bit of road, every bridge, and tree alongside the side of it, is special to him.
Stanzas Seven and Eight
I rode the waters and the roads of Ireland,
He slowed down also, as across the River Shannon
It was not until he got to “Tarmonbarry” that the speaker slowed down. His excitement was taking over. Durcan melds the present perspective of the speaker, and the future perspective together in these lines. When he finally meets the child, a reader becomes aware, his joy is sustained.
Stanzas Nine, Ten, and Eleven
We crashed, rattled and bounced on a Bailey bridge;
Daddy relishing his role as Moses,
And please God there never will be;
There is only the River Shannon and all her sister rivers
The ninth and tenth stanzas use an extended metaphor to depict “Daddy” like Moses. The speaker vaguely describes his actions, “Enunciating the name of the Great Divide” that exists between the “East and the West”. Despite the divide, the people move from west to east. This speaks to differences, but also an acceptance of differences.
In the eleventh stanza, the speaker starts praising Ireland and its diversity of people, or “rivers”. He hopes that there will never be a “Uniform Ireland” in which everyone thinks, believes, and acts the same. This is a thought he directs at Rosie who cannot at this present moment understand him. It is a technique known as apostrophe.
Stanzas Twelve, Thirteen, and Fourteen
And all her brother mountains and their family prospects.
There are higher powers than politics
And these we call wildflowers or, geologically, people.
From speaking about this child’s specific birth, the poet expands his attention to take in all of Ireland. He celebrates the “sister rivers” and the “brother mountains”. There are more important things in the world, he says, than politics and fighting over differences. He now speaks directly to Rosie Joyce. He celebrates the importance her birth held for him through the repetition of the laudatory term “Daymaker!”
Stanzas Fifteen and Sixteen
Popping out of my daughter, your mother –
Unable to distinguish one day from the next.
It’s in the fifteenth stanza that it’s finally revealed that the child is the speaker’s granddaughter. She was born to his daughter and had the ability to change everyone and everything around her.
In very clear language the speaker expresses his despair before her birth and the joy he was able to experience after it. He was, previously, Unable to distinguish one day from the next”. The alliterative use of the “d” consonant sound in this stanza is a great example of how this technique can influence the overall rhythmic feeling of a poem.
Stanzas One and Two
On the return journey from Dublin to Mayo
In Charlestown on Main Street
Of Dillon House in Ballaghadereen.
In the final stanzas of ‘Rosie Joyce’ the speaker briefly describes his journey back from “Dublin to Mayo.” On the way he met “John Normanly” who is apparently expecting a child in his life as well. The meeting of these two men speaks to a unifying force in human life, one that is much larger than politics.
Stanzas Three and Four
He crouches in his car, I waver in the street,
Thank You, O Lord, for the Descent of Rosie onto Earth.
The third stanza of this section refers to John Moriarty, an Irish writer, and philosopher. He is mentioned in amongst references to unity, expectation, and then in the fourth stanza, religion and thankfulness. The speaker expresses his gratitude for the “descent” from Heaven of his granddaughter, working her into a prayer on the Feast of Ascension.