A Writer and His Cat…In Ireland

Confession…I don’t really like cats. I know, I know – how can I be a writer and not like cats? (It might have something to do with the fact that I’m allergic to them…) But I didn’t start writing this blog post to tell you about my favorite pets or my allergies – sorry, that’s just TMI from this author.

I’m writing to tell you about one of the oldest written poems in Ireland. Guess what? It’s about a cat! (And even though they’re not my favorite animals, I thought the poem was fun.)

Okay, we’ve covered a little history of St. Patrick and learned about the colors Orange and Green, so I think we’re all aware that Catholicism has played a major role in Ireland’s history. Well, around the 9th Century A.D. (that’s the 800’s) a monk in an Irish monastery  wrote this poem about his cat. The cat’s name was Pangur Bán, which means “white Pangur.”

Original Manuscript containing "Pangur Ban"

Original manuscript containing “Pangur Ban” – Public Domain

What I liked about this poem (other than it’s historical value) is how the writer compares himself and his cat as they work at their respective tasks: catching mice and writing.

The poetry was originally written in Gaelic, and this translation is by Robin Flower. (You can find the original Gaelic words here, but if you don’t know the language, good luck reading it!)

Pangur Bán

I and Pangur 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;

Pangur bears me no ill will,

He too plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry thing 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 Pangur’s way;

Oftentimes my keen thought set

Takes a meaning in its net.

‘Gainst the wall he set 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 tasks we ply,

Pangur Bán, my cat, and I:

In our arts we find our bliss,

I have mind and he has his.

Practice every day has made

Pangur perfect in his trade;

I get wisdom day and night

Turning darkness into light.

So there you have it…one of the oldest written poems in Ireland is about a writer and his cat! If you’re a writer, can you relate to the author’s thoughts?

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. This post is part of our “Week in Ireland on Gazette665” and it’s also the start of something new. Every Wednesday on my Facebook Page will be “Writer’s Wednesday” and I’ll share a quote, a thought, a fact about another author, or something encouraging to all of us writers out there. Come like the Facebook Page!

 

About Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, historian, living history enthusiast, and historical fiction writer. When sharing history, I try to keep the facts interesting and understandable. History is about real people, real actions, real effects and it should inspire us today.
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