In ‘’Windfall’, 8 Parnell Hill, Cork’ Paul Durcan explores personal memories of home, loss, marriage, and family. These themes are the most prevalent in the text and help to create a mood that alternates between warm and uplifting, and solemn and downtrodden. The overall tone of the text is direct but there are several moments that are more celebratory and desperate as seen through the use of punctuation and the length of lines.
Explore Windfall, 8 Parnell Hill, Cork
Summary of Windfall, 8 Parnell Hill
The poem takes the reader through the poet’s memories of this particular home and the joy he took in spending time there. He and his family were together within its walls, doing whatever they wanted to. Durcan would sit at the window, stare out at the landscape, and marvel over his luck that they found such a place.
This all changes towards the end as Durcan’s marriage breaks up and he’s suddenly homeless in Dublin.
You can read the full poem here.
Structure of Windfall, 8 Parnell Hill
‘‘Windfall’, 8 Parnell Hill, Cork’ by Paul Durcan is a 137 line-long poem, divided into uneven sets of lines. These range from eleven up to thirty-eight. Durcan did not choose to use a specific rhyme scheme in this poem or a consistent metrical pattern. The lines are very different in length, some as short as three words, others closer to twenty.
Poetic Techniques in ‘Windfall’, 8 Parnell Hill, Cork
Durcan makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Windfall’, 8 Parnell Hill, Cork’ these include alliteration, enjambment, epistrophe, anaphora, and similes. The latter, a simile, is a comparison between two unlike things that uses the words “like” or “as”. A poet uses this kind of figurative language to say that one thing is similar to another, not like metaphor, that it “is” another. For example, in lines thirteen and fourteen of the fourth stanza where Durcan compares the habitual ease of moving through one’s home. The lines read: “In which climbing the walls is as natural / As making love on the stairs”.
Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For example, in line seven of the first stanza with “winged” and “window” or line two of the second stanza with “Being borne” and “busy”.
Durcan also makes use of anaphora, or the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. The third stanza provides the best example with “Mammy and Daddy” starting three lines in a row.
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. There are examples throughout the poem. Despite the frequent use of punctuation, Durcan refrains from using very many periods, especially in the opening stanzas. Examples include the transitions between lines seven and eight of the second stanza.
Epistrophe is the repetition of the same word, or a phrase, at the end of multiple lines or sentences. For instance, at the beginning of ‘‘Windfall’, 8 Parnell Hill, Cork’ Durcan uses “say” and “home” at the end of lines one through four.
Analysis of Windfall, 8 Parnell Hill
But, then, at the end of day I could always say –
Well, now, I am going home.
I felt elected, steeped, sovereign to be able to say –
The river a reflection of itself in its own waters,
Goya sketching Goya among the smokey mirrors.
The industrial vista was my Mont Sainte-Victoire.
In the first stanza of ‘‘Windfall’, 8 Parnell Hill, Cork’ the speaker, who is the poet himself, begins by revealing in the pleasure of going home. He thinks back to a time “then” when he could always say “now, I am going home”. It gave him pleasure and made him feel as though he was in control of his life.
The word “home” is repeated several times in these lines, solidifying its importance within the speaker’s mind. He expresses the joy he got from staying at home and spending time in “a winged chair by the window”. These are all peaceful memories and the mood in these lines is wistful. Outside the window was nothing beautiful, in fact, it was quite industrial.
It didn’t matter what was outside his window though. He was still able to sit there and dream about his life, enjoy the present moment and take in the “industrial vista” as though it was his “Mount Sainte-Victoire”. This is a reference to the setting for many of French impressionist painter Paul Cézanne’s masterpieces. Today, visitors can explore the same trails the artist walked on.
While my children sat on my knees watching TV
I closed my eyes and breathed in and breathed out.
In the last lines of this stanza the speaker acknowledges that around him, inside the home, there is a whole other world. His children and his wife are there. They all engage themselves with various pursuits and the speaker is able to breathe in and out and relax. This depiction of his home feels like his own personal utopia.
It is ecstacy to breathe if you are at home in the world.
What a windfall! A home of our own!
Which I dreamed was known only to Buddhist Monks
In lotus monasteries high up in the Hindu Kush.
The word “breathe” is continued into the second stanza where the speaker celebrates his ability to breathe in his own home “in the world”. His home, which he says is named “Windfall” is surrounded by other homes with foreign, French, and Italian sounding names. The word “windfall” expresses the couple’s pleasure and surprise at being able to find such a place for their family to live.
There is a very evocative metaphor in the seventh line of this stanza in which he speaks about the “gut of his head”. This is the most instinctual part of his mind, related to the “gut” instinct one attributes to their stomach. In this part of his head, he experiences “the leaf of tranquillity”. He knows a peace there that allows him to compare the landscape of Cork to that of the Hindu Kush mountains.
Down here in the dark depths of Ireland,
Below sea level in the city of Cork,
Having a home of your own can give to a family
A chance in a lifetime to transcend death.
The second half of the stanza of ‘‘Windfall’, 8 Parnell Hill, Cork’ alludes to the difference between the referenced mountain range and Ireland. He’s in the “dark depths of Ireland / Below sea level”. But, despite this fact, he’s happy. The city is “intimate” allowing him to feel as if he’s part of his own world, but it is also “homicidal”. There is a danger to be avoided there, just as there is in almost every city around the world.
Durcan also addresses the state of the country as a whole. Not everyone is treated or valued equally and there are many who “go homeless”. He draws attention to the good people who have little and the bad who have so much. The last line turns the narrative to the concept and importance of the home.
At the high window, shipping from all over the world
Being borne up and down the busy, yet contemplative, river;
A lighthouse in the sky flashing green to white to green;
Our black-and-white cat snoozing in the corner of a chair;
The third stanza of ‘‘Windfall’, 8 Parnell Hill, Cork’ is the longest of the poem at thirty-eight lines. He turns his view back outside his window and takes note of the busy ships, people, and industry all around him. Things are being lifted and loaded. The river carries commerce but manages to do so in a quiet, contemplative sort of way.
In amongst the industrial language, the poet adds in references to the clouds, valley, the “Firelight at dusk” and other peaceful moments of relaxation amongst the busy city life. These images come one after another in one long run-on sentence without end punctuation for many lines. He jumps back into his home once more, acknowledging the cat sleeping “in the corner of a chair”.
Pastels and etchings on the four walls, and over the mantelpiece
‘Van Gogh’s Grave’ and ‘Lovers in Water’;
A room wallpapered in books and family photograph albums
Sipping on an orangé presse through a straw on the roof of the Beaubourg;
Dancing in Pere Lachaise, weeping at Auvers.
Year in, year out, I pored over these albums accumulating,
The poet also recalls the possessions in the family home. There were impressionist style paintings, books and photographs. The space was covered with and contained memories and signs of their family relationships. In the next series of lines, the poet goes through what some of the photographs depict. There are images of their children growing up, being baptized.
There are also other family members and images of the poet and his wife. These lines of ‘‘Windfall’, 8 Parnell Hill, Cork’ are less ecstatic and more wistful, alluding to the possibility that things aren’t now as they were then. These images represent memories. They are happy moments, staged moments, and long-forgotten occasions.
My children looking over my shoulder, exhilarated as I was,
Whose turn is it tonight to put the children to bed?
The speaker remembers how for years he looked at these images. They only grew in number as time passed. He did take pleasure in them, as did his children. The last lines of this long stanza of ‘‘Windfall’, 8 Parnell Hill, Cork’ are mundane and simple as he inquires about who is going to put the children to bed.
Our children swam about our home
As if it were their private sea,
Their own unique, symbiotic fluid
Their parents at play, jumping up and down in support,
Race back to bed, gesticulating wordlessly:
The most subversive unit in society is the human family.
In the fourth stanza of ‘Windfall, 8 Parnell Hill’ the speaker depicts the way his family spent time together in their home. He uses an extended metaphor to compare it to the sea. It is a place of safety and security. It is a ‘sea of your own” where one is surrounded by memories of the past.
Moving through the home is a very natural thing to do. This is emphasized in lines eleven through fifteen where the speaker talks about the walls, stairs, and the freedom to do what you want where you want. They can make the choice not to answer the phone if they don’t want to. The parents can engage intimately with one another without considering the outside world.
In what may or not be a metaphorical moment, the speaker recalls the children “jumping up and down in support” of their parent’s play. Together everyone supports everyone else. The last line of this stanza is interesting, it reads: “The most subversive unit in society is the human family”. Society cannot influence their behaviour.
We’re almost home, pet, almost home…
Our home is at…
I’ll be home…
What time will you be coming home at?…
If I’m not home by six at the latest, I’ll phone…
We’re nearly home, don’t worry, we’re nearly home…
The fifth stanza of ‘‘Windfall’, 8 Parnell Hill, Cork’ is visually quite different than those which have come before it. Durcan makes use of ellipses at the ends of every line, and most of these lines are under six words long. Each line is a memory of how home was spoken about by different family members. He remembers his wife or children saying phrases like “Our home is at…” and “I can’t wait to get home…”
The love he has for this place is clear, but there is a very obvious sadness in these lines as well. He’s recalling a past way of being that doesn’t exist anymore.
But then with good reason
I was put out of my home:
By a keen wind felled.
Bed-and-breakfast to bed-and-breakfast;
Hostels, centres, one-night hotels.
There is a turn in the sixth stanza of ‘Windfall, 8 Parnell Hill’. The speaker explains that suddenly he was “put out of [his] home”. This was done for a “good reason” and he was forced to wander homeless. When speaking about his own history, Durcan explained that this was the time, 1984, when his marriage ended.
He went to Dublin, an “alien, foreign city” and experienced a new kind of homesickness that was different than anything he felt before. It was knowing that one missed home but could never go back.
This feeling is one that’s beyond “all ornithological analysis,” referring to the study of birds. He is without a nest or any place of safety. He drifts from lodging to lodging, an expression of dislocation and disorientation.
Homeless in Dublin,
Blown about the suburban streets at evening,
Peering in the windows of other people’s homes,
Windfall to Windfall – can you hear me?
Windfall to Windfall…
We’re almost home, pet, don’t worry anymore, we’re almost home.
In the final stanza, Durcan expresses the solitude of his life in Dublin and the loss he felt seeing other people in their homes, and him being without one. He knows that homes are the same for everyone, n matter who they are or where they come from. Their crucial, unifying, and provide a human warmth necessary for sustained happiness.
The last lines of ‘Windfall, 8 Parnell Hill’ make use of anaphora as the speaker recalls the past and very solemnly calls out for it without response.