Poet on a Hill

Wednesday, 30 September 2009


Puck Fair
Killorglin, Co Kerry, Ireland

Where in August, on The Gathering day, the 12-year-old Puck Queen crowns a wild mountain goat, ‘King Puck.’ Then, as the Gaelic-tongued travelling people move into town with a thousand horses for the sales, the king is hauled to his pedestal above the town-square.

For three days now the streets are filled with music and dancers, entertainers and tumblers; bars open till three in the morning; air full of the wistfully beguiling lilt of the fiddle and pit-of-the-tummy-pulping beating of the bodhran.

Through it all, King Puck reigns over his subjects from a luxurious cage at the top of the 30-foot tower as, on day two, the horse sales give way to the cattle sales – and day three, The Scattering day, he is dethroned and the people depart. And this is:

                              The Goat's Tale

‘There's magic in the Coolroe-stream, or pucks
weave herb into the browse to make me dream ...

In Killorglin-town I bowed before a
virgin-queen, who gave a crown to make me
king with vision over everything. Our
match remained unconsummate, for I was
hailed on-high, engaged, though caged, in things of
state. There, phantoms clad in cap and boot, waved
crooked-sticks and mumbled-strange in ancient-
tongue – then bought and sold the living-soul of
sullen-ox and horse and colt. While, at my
feet, the men danced women down the street, like
spectres borne on haunting-notes of lonely
songs that sang of sorrows in the years – how
wanton-maids, with torment-eyes, as wild and
green as Lough Lean's isles, and ringlets wrought in
purest gold, like wavelets caught in sunset's
mould, were, by their beauty, thus condemned to
birthing-pain and living-drudge. While boys, like
bumble-bees, beguiled by nectar spilled by
girls, were led along a lane of toil and
grudge ...

                       Now I wake-up in the glen, running
free of 'Orglin-men, to gambol up the
giddy-scree into the cloud where Mother
Earth becomes the sky; and sense a life set
out for me, of butting he and tupping
she. Then see the visions of my dream; hear
the laughing of the stream; and wonder – why?’

Charlie Gregory
Puck Fair
County Kerry