Monday, 4 April 2016

Anon: Pangur Bán (Fair Pangur)



Myself and Pangur, cat and sage
Go each about our business;
I harass my beloved page,
He his mouse.

Fame comes second to the peace
Of study, a still day
Unenvying, Pangur's choice
Is child's play.

Neither bored, both hone
At home a separate skill
Moving after hours alone
To the kill

When at last his net wraps
After a sly fight
Around a mouse; mine traps
Sudden insight.

On my cell wall here,
His sight fixes, burning,
Searching; my old eyes peer
At new learning,

And his delight when his claws
Close on his prey
Equals mine when sudden clues
Light my way.

So we find by degrees
Peace in solitude,
Both of us, solitaries,
Have each the trade

He loves: Pangur, never idle
Day or night
Hunts mice; I hunt each riddle
From dark to light.


Written in Old Irish in the 9th century by an unknown Irish monk studying in southern Germany, possibly at an abbey on Lake Constance. This translation is by Eavan Boland; there are several others including a fairly close one by Seamus Heaney and a loose version by W.H.Auden.