# Pangur Bán

From an article posted to MEDTEXTL, by James Marchand.

This being St. Paddy's day, I thought I would regale you with one of the finest poems ever written, Pangur ban. When Kate Campbell wrote her dissertation on "The Lyric Moment in Medieval Literature," we both decided that it had to begin with this poem. Like so much of Old Irish, it is found in German-speaking territory, in the Monastery of St. Paul up in Carinthia (no. sec. xxv. d. 86). The manuscript has four leaves, and this poem is on 1 verso. It is dated by Windisch 8th c., most people put it in the 9th, as the language seems to indicate. It is printed in Stokes and Strachan, 2.293 f. The meter is deibide, with seven syllables per line, with an unstressed final syllable in the off-verse rhyming with the on-verse. Alliteration is common. This may be the ancestor of scaldic meters. In fact, scald may come from sceal "tale, story", just as our scallowag comes from scealaige "story- teller; poet". The British of the 16th and 17th turned thumbs down on the poets, whom they thought incited the people. I translate Pangur as Felix, in honor of my cat; Pangur would have been recognized as a cat's name in those days. The Irish loved cats; there is a fine book, The Comical Celtic Cat, by Norah Golden (Mountrath, Portlaoise: The Dolmen Press, 1984; ISBN 0-85105- 901-5), and there are cats in the Book of Kells. Wayne Craft naturally called his book company Pangur Ban; many thought he must be Indian. If you want to read some grand _Early Irish Lyrics_ with translation, read the book by that name by Gerard Murphy (Oxford, 1956)....

My translation is my own, but it sounds like Murphy. St. Jerome once said: Cursed be those who said what we said before we said it. I could add grammatical remarks if you like. My text is from Stokes and Strachan, who have expanded 7 to ocus, as one usually does (e.g. in Old English), but done little else. I have done some punctuating and word-breaking. The apices are in the manuscript.

Pangur Bán

The Scholar and his Cat
(Murphy's title)

Messe ocus Pangur Bán,
cechtar nathar fria saindan:
bíth a menmasam fri seilgg,
mu memna céin im saincheirdd.
I and white Felix,
each of us two (keeps) at his specialty:
his mind is set on hunting,
my mind on my special subject.

Caraimse fos (ferr cach clu)
oc mu lebran, leir ingnu;
ni foirmtech frimm Pangur Bán:
caraid cesin a maccdán.
I love (it is better than all fame)
to be quiet beside my book, with persistent inquiry.
Not envious of me White Felix;
_he_ loves his childish art.

O ru biam (scél cen scís)
innar tegdais, ar n-oendís,
taithiunn, dichrichide clius,
ni fris tarddam ar n-áthius.
When we two are (tale without boredom)
alone in our house,
we have something to which we may apply our skill,
an endless sport.

Gnáth, huaraib, ar gressaib gal
glenaid luch inna línsam;
os mé, du-fuit im lín chéin
dliged ndoraid cu ndronchéill.
It is customary at times for a mouse to stick in his net,
as a result of warlike struggles (feats of valor).
For my part, into _my_ net falls
some difficult crux of hard meaning.

Fuachaidsem fri frega fál
a rosc, a nglése comlán;
fuachimm chein fri fegi fis
mu rosc reil, cesu imdis.
He directs his bright perfect eye
against an enclosing wall.
Though my (once) clear eye is very weak
I direct it against acuteness of knowledge.

Faelidsem cu ndene dul
hi nglen luch inna gerchrub;
hi tucu cheist ndoraid ndil
os me chene am faelid.
He is joyful with swift movement
when a mouse sticks in his sharp claw.
I too am joyful
when I understand a dearly loved difficult question.

Cia beimmi a-min nach ré
ni derban cách a chele:
maith la cechtar nár a dán;
subaigthius a óenurán.
Though we are always like this,
neither of us bothers the other:
each of us likes his craft,
rejoicing alone each in his.

He fesin as choimsid dáu
in muid du-ngni cach oenláu;
du thabairt doraid du glé
for mu mud cein am messe.
He it is who is master for himself
of the work which he does every day.
I can perform my own task,
directed toward understanding clearly that which is difficult.