Friday, January 21, 2011

Pangur Bán, an old Irish poem.

Post 593 - This poem was written in the 8th century by an unknown Irish Monk, a student at the Monastery of St. Paul on Reichenau Island in Lake Constance where Germany meets with Carinthia, Austria. Little did he know that 1,200 years later, others like me would fall in love with Pangur Bán, too.
This poem bears similarities to the poetry of Sedulius Scottus, leading to speculation that he might have been the author. The Irish loved cats; there's a fine book, The Comical Celtic Cat, by Norah Golden (Mountrath, Portlaoise: The Dolmen Press, 1984). By the way, Bán means white in Gaelic. This translation is by Robin Flower.

Pangur Bán

I and Pangur Bán, my cat
'Tis a like task we are at;
Hunting mice is his delight
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
'Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will,
He too plies his simple skill.

'Tis a merry thing to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur's way:
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Bán, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

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