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Poem: Priest's Leap

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:

https://durrushistory.com/2014/12/04/priests-leap-1612/


(Photo credits: M. Boyd) A plaque to commemorate the legend of the Priest's Leap, displayed in Bantry, opposite Lidls.

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