Tag: goat

The Year of the Caprinae

Thursday, 19 February, 2015 0 Comments

Hundreds of millions of Chinese people are celebrating the Lunar New Year holiday with their families. Today, they’re bidding farewell to the Year of the Horse but we’re not quite sure what it is that they’re welcoming. The New Year’s name is defined by the character 羊, which can mean either sheep or goat. Thing is, the goat is a member of the Bovidae family and is closely related to the sheep as both are members of the subfamily Caprinae. That being the case, we’re going with sheep. For the occasion, then, this is from Songs of Innocence by William Blake.

The Shepherd

How sweet is the shepherd’s sweet lot!
From the morn to the evening he strays;
He shall follow his sheep all the day,
And his tongue shall be filled with praise.

For he hears the lambs’ innocent call,
And he hears the ewes’ tender reply;
He is watchful while they are in peace,
For they know when their shepherd is nigh.

William Blake (1757 — 1827)

Year of the Sheep


Friday, 7 June, 2013 3 Comments

Travelling through West Kerry in August 1906, John Millington Synge wrote: “On the main roads, for many days past, I have been falling in with tramps and trick characters of all kinds, sometimes single and sometimes in parties of four or five… A crowd is as exciting as champagne to these lonely people, who live in long glens among the mountains… At the foot of the platform, where the crowd was thickest, a young ballad-singer was howling in honour of Puck, making one think of the early Greek festivals, since the time of which, it is possible, the goat has been exalted yearly in Killorglin.”

Synge was describing Puck Fair, an event that stretches back to pagan times and which revolves around the crowning of a wild goat that reigns as King Puck from atop a three-story high platform in the middle of Killorglin town. In her wonderful 1965 travelogue, The Orgy, American poet Muriel Rukeyser offers a Synge-similar description of her pilgrimage to Puck Fair, which she declared to be a carnival of debauchery:

“Killorglin looks like a drab little Victorian town. And is, except for three days of the year, in August… All this time people from all over are converging on the town — all over Kerry, of course, all over the country, and from Persia, they say, and Spain, and Europe, and cops in New York save up all year to go to Puck. The night before the Fair, all the little shops around the square, that sell all the things little shops sell — they close, and in the morning when they open, each one is a pub. The goat is crowned king — they say the tinkers choose their king there, too, but that of course is done in secret. The town is wide open, they say. It’s the last of the goat festivals: Greece, Spain, Scotland, England — the last.”

Last night, Kevin Barry’s City of Bohane, a thriller set in a futuristic west of Ireland, won the Impac literary award and €100,000. The final chapter is titled “On the Night of the August Fair”, an event that resembles Puck Fair.

Puck Fair