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Steve, Pangur Bán • Cats have a way of seeping into the soul • Scribe, Graphic design

•• Published: Jun 4, 2014

Steve died last night. June 2nd 2014. We all fell asleep after 1:30am. this morning, he didn’t call out, for the dawn. All he wanted was to be held at the end. Steve was a gentle, blue eyed, short haired, all white cat. He wasn’t one of the 80% statistic. Though an Albino, he was not deaf nor blind. His eyes shone pink in low light. He did spend hours staring at the full moon in the night sky every month.

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Like the Cat ‘Pangúr Bán’ belonging to the ninth Century scribe &  monk, Steve was always close at hand. It was rumoured Steve was also an avid hunter. I met him years ago when Helen brought him to Parnell Street, he quietly made his presence felt. Years later he introduced Pennyworth, my black & white part Purrsian friend to the other cats, the hunt and general lying around, ‘cat things’. She adored him. Perhaps she was a little irritated when he came to stay with us while his family were abroad for 9 months. Pennyworth got over the upset quickly.

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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.

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.

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This poem was found in the margins of a manuscript in the Monastery of St Paul, Carinthia, Austria.

Messe [ocus] Pangúr bán,
cechtar nathar fria saindán;
bíth a menma-sam fri seilgg,
mu menma céin im saincheirdd

Caraim-se fós, ferr cach clú,
oc mu lebrán léir ingnu;
ní foirmtech frimm Pangúr bán,
caraid cesin a maccdán.

Ó ru-biam ­ scél cén scis ­
innar tegdias ar n-oéndis,
táithiunn ­ dichríchide clius ­
ní fris ‘tarddam ar n-áthius.

Gnáth-huaraib ar greassaib gal
glenaid luch ina lín-sam;
os me, du-fuit im lín chéin
dliged ndoraid cu n-dronchéill.

Fúachaid-sem fri freaga fál
a rosc a nglése comlán;
fúachimm chéin fri fégi fis
mu rosc réil, cesu imdis.

Fáelid-sem cu n-déne dul,
hi nglen luch ina gérchrub;
hi-tucu cheist n-doraid n-dil,
os mé chene am fáelid.

Cia beimini amin nach ré
ní derban cách a chéle;
mait le cechtar nár a dán
subaigthiud a óenurán.

Hé fesin as choimsid dáu
in muid du-n-gní cach óenláu;
do thabairt doraid du glé
for mumud céin am messe.

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Two more English translations of the Poem from the Old Irish Pangúr Bán by Frank O’Connor, “The Scholar and the Cat” & by Eavan Boland, “From the Irish of Pangur Ban” can be found on the Western Michigan University website



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