9th century Irish monk’s poem about his beloved cat discovered in manuscript

By July 17, 2019 News, Poetry

A poem about a white cat was discovered in a 9th century manuscript, apparently written by an Irish monk.

Viking raids of their homeland meant many monks fled to far off countries, with this particular monk ending up in Reichenau, on Lake Constance. While he was there, the monk befriended a cat and was prompted to write a poem about his companion.

The poem, Pangur Bán, meaning White Pangur (a traditional name meaning ‘a fuller‘) has been translated multiple times, with one of the most popular and accurate by W.H. Auden.

Pangur Bán translation by W.H. Auden

Pangur, white Pangur, How happy we are
Alone together, scholar and cat
Each has his own work to do daily;
For you it is hunting, for me study.
Your shining eye watches the wall;
My feeble eye is fixed on a book.
You rejoice, when your claws entrap a mouse;
I rejoice when my mind fathoms a problem.
Pleased with his own art, neither hinders the other;
Thus we live ever without tedium and envy.

The manuscript containing the original poem Pangur Bán is now kept safe in St Paul’s Abbey in Carinthia, Austria. 

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