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Pangur Ban and early Irish monks


This poem by an Irish scholar is one of my favorites, and brings to life the tasks of those who worked on Psalters such as the Book of Kells. Pangúr Bán is probably the most famous surviving poem from Early Ireland. Composed by an Irish monk sometime around the 9th century AD, the text compares the scholar’s work with the activities of a pet cat, Pangúr Bán. It is now preserved in the Reichnenau Primer at St. Paul’s Abbey in the Lavanttal, Austria. The version detailed below is Robin Flower‘s translation of the poem from Old Irish.Thanks to Irish Archaeology for this material.


I and Pangúr 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;
Pangúr bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry task 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 Pangúr’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 task we ply,
Pangúr Bán, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

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

 The original poem text in the Reichenau Primer

 The poem is written in Old Irish and was probably composed by an Irish monk who was studying at a continental  European monastery.

 Image Source


If you hop to this link by Irish Archaeology, you can read more about this lovely piece of Irish History

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