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This review is taken from PN Review 78, Volume 17 Number 4, March - April 1991.

DURCAN'S DADDIES Paul Durcan, Daddy, Daddy (Blackstaff), £5.95

On the cover of Daddy, Daddy, there is a reproduction of Hugo Simberg's painting 'The Wounded Angel', which depicts two small boys carrying an angel on a makeshift stretcher across a bare northern landscape. Wrapped around the angel's head is a cloth, half-bandage, half-blindfold. In 'The Children of Lir', in the book's eponymous final sequence, Durcan alludes to the painting as he asks after his father's immortality:

Daddy, Daddy - O Wounded Angel -
When will you deploy your wings?
When will you see that all your sons are
  brutes?
When we turn the next corner into Leeson
  Street
You will fly away, won't you?
Under a double-decker bus, under a bread
  van,
Under a milk lorry, under a dray,
Into the canal in whose still waters you will
Sit still for all eternity, ricocheting,
Protecting us:
Black eyes, white wings, orange beak,
  down, neck, soul.


This is a typical Durcan metempsychosis: a jaywalking angel turned into the immortal swan of the Lir myth, occupying a prosaic eternity on the waters of the Grand Canal. This swan may also occupy the stillness of Yeats's lake at Coole, or possess the wings of Leda's rapist, which are 'beating still'. It may also be a swan on Kavanagh's Grand Canal, whose water is so 'stilly/Greeny at the heart of Summer'.

Durcan's swan may 'sit still' on 'still waters', but it will ...


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