Updated: Jun 5, 2019
Passing through Bantry, a shop-window poem sings to me -
written in 1612 of the Priest horse's bounded leap
as he dodged the soldiers and leapt through the cliff's
air – for ten miles the horse jumped like fire, watched by those
in shock until finally upon cold rock, the horse
struck down -
leaving wonder marks and signs – dints and holes
of the hoofs and knee grooves. The poet sings of temples
in ruin, an ancient race broken down, of powers lost.
I think of the Aos Sí, as I scan these words
heavy with bags of rice milk and organic spinach.
It is a real place – Priest's Leap – a great rocky mound
of presence surrounded by hills and boulders.
There a majesty lies hidden in glens of river, covered in jungles
of moss and raining jewels -
for in these unknown places,
the Fay retreated, fadó fadó.
* Aos Sí – a supernatural race in Irish mythology of a fairy- or elf-like description. Some say that they were the survivors of the main deities of pre-Christian Ireland, the Tuatha Dé Danann, who retreated into the Otherworld, known as Tír na nÓg (Land of Youth) in Irish legend.
**fadó is a Gaelic word meaning ‘long ago’ and it is often used to start a story – fadó fadó can be translated as ‘long, long ago.’
This is the poem as I found it, displayed in a shop window in Bantry - I've since tried to relocate the shop but the poem has been taken down and I cannot find any electronic copy of this poem. It is believed that the leap took place in 1612 (although a map dated 1589 by Francis Jobson includes 'Priest Leap.') A similar version of the poem can be found online - it was copied out by a student of Edward O'Connor, the master of a school at Dromore until he retired in 1951:
(Photo credits: M. Boyd) A plaque to commemorate the legend of the Priest's Leap, displayed in Bantry, opposite Lidls.