Monday, June 11, 2018

Pangur Ban: Well Said AND Worth a Thousand Words

You don't have to be a cat lover to love this poem about writing and cats by an anonymous 9th century Irish monk. It's often thought that the monk was working on the Book of Kells when he made this poem.

He describes perfectly the striving and dedication all writers feel, as well our triumph at solving a problem in just the perfect way.

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.

Unknown 9th century Irish monk,
translation by Robin Flowers

Cat catching mouse, illustration from Book of Kells

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