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Monthly Archives: August 2019

Mouser and Monk

gray cat books

International Cat Day was this past week, but of course every day is Cat Day at my house.

Here is a delightful ninth century Irish poem, newly translated by Seamus Heaney, written by a monk about his cat.

Pangur Ban


Pangur Ban and I at work,

Adepts, equals, cat and clerk:

His whole instinct is to hunt,

Mine to free the meaning pent.


Moe than loud acclaim, I love

Books, silence, thought, my alcove.

Happy for me, Pangur Ban

Child-plays round some mouse’s den.


Truth to tell, just being here,

Housed alone, housed together,

Adds up to its own reward:

Concentration, stealthy art.


Next thing an unwary mouse

Bares his flank: Pangur pounces.

Next thing lines that held and held

Meaning back begin to yield.


All the while, his round bright eye

Fixes on the wall, while I

Focus my less piercing gaze

On the challenge of the page.


With his unsheathed, perfect nails

Pangur springs, exults and kills.

When the longed-for, difficult

Answers come, I too exult.


So it goes.  To each his own.

No vying.  No vexation.

Taking pleasure, taking pains,

Kindred spirits, veterans.


Day and night, soft purr, soft pad,

Pangur Ban has learned his trade.

Day and night, my own hard work

Solves the cruxes, makes a mark.