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by Gordon Kingston, Heritage Action

"Three candles they lit, of indescribable light,.." - Image by Bawn79

Have you sometimes woken up,
So, with your heart leaping,
Like the last dying thrashing
Of a fish out of water,
And then realised that
It was only a dream?

There is a terrible lightness to life. Did you dream the first few lines of that Irish Times report, that no port would be built at Bremore and then realise that it would still go ahead, only be moved to Gormanston instead? Our hearts become sore, both for what we once held and for what we never held at all. 

Centuries ago, an Irish poet, Aogán Ó Rathaille, wrote of his own longing, for the return of a time before dispossession – for the return of a Jacobite King to the throne of England – and set his ‘aisling’, or ‘vision’, on the heights of Limerick’s Cnoc Fírinne, the ‘Hill of Truth’. It was not to be. He woke “soft, sudden” and within moments his dream had gone;

The Vision

One morning ere Titan had thought to stir his feet,
On the top of a fine high hill I had laboured up,
I chanced on a pleasant flock of joyous girls,
A troop from Sídh Seanadh’s bright mansions to the north.

A film of enchantment spread, of aspect bright,
From the shining boulders of Galway to Cork of the harbours:
Clusters of fruit appearing in every treetop,
Acorns in woods, pure honey upon the stones.

Three candles they lit, of indescribable light,
On Cnoc Fírinne’s lofty summit in Conallach Rua.
Then I followed the flock of cloaked women as far as Thomond
And questioned them on their diligent round of tasks.

Then answered the lady Aoibhill, of aspect bright,
They had cause to light three candles above the harbours:
In the name of the faithful king who is soon to come
To rule and defend the triple realm for ever.

I started up – soft, sudden – out of my dream
Believing the good news Aoibhill told me was true,
But found that I was nerve-shaken, downcast and morose
That morning ere Titan had thought to stir his feet.

Cnoc Fírinne - Image by Bawn79


March 2010

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