Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Pangur Ban (White Cat)

Pangur Ban also known as "The Monk and his Cat", is one of my all time favorite poems. I first saw it at the Book Of Kells Exhibit while visiting Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. http://www.tcd.ie/Library/ It is a 9th century poem written by an Irish monk in St. Gallen, Switzerland or possibly in Austria, that is up for debate. No one knows his name but every poet knows his cat!

I have always been able to imagine the Monk who wrote it sitting by candle light writing with a feather quill while a little cat playing at his feet. In the exhibit it is written on a huge panel in a spiral which makes for fun reading.

Ban=white Pangur=kitty

I and Pangur Ban, 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 task how glad are we,

When at home we sit and find

Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray

Into the hero Pangur’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 tasks we ply,

Pangur Ban, my cat and I;

In our arts we find our bliss,

I have mine, and he has his.

Practice every day has made

Pangur perfect in his trade ;

I get wisdom day and night,

Turning Darkness into light.’

In the course of researching I also found this version or possibly a different poem all together..


Pangur, white Pangur,

How happy we areAlone 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 everwithout tedium and envy.

Pangur, white Pangur,

How happy we areAlone together,

Scholar and cat.

anonymous Irish text, tr. W.H. Auden


  1. Ginger,
    Years ago I came across these poems too and the name Pangur Ban. It was so much fun for me to reread them here. You know my cat Panga. She was named after the Monk cat. Panga Bat. If you go to my Poetry Blog, you will find the poem I wrote about a cat name that, not our Miss Duchess, the poem came before her, but I've always like the Monk and his cat tales.
    Thanks for sharing that.

  2. I love your Panga! She is beautiful and friendly. A perfect book store adornment!

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  4. as young as I may be, I was taught this poem in hgh school, way back 2002. Since then I have loved it. Tanks for sharing it