Pangur Bán

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The page of the Reichenau Primer on which Pangur Bán is written

"Pangur Bán" is an Old Irish poem, written about the 9th century at or around Reichenau Abbey. It was written by an Irish monk, and is about his cat. Pangur Bán, "White Pangur", is the cat's name, Pangur meaning a fuller. Although the poem is anonymous, it bears similarities to the poetry of Sedulius Scottus, prompting speculation that Sedulius is the author.[1] In 8 verses of four lines, the author compares the cat's happy hunting with his own scholarly pursuits.

The poem is preserved in the Reichenau Primer (Stift St. Paul Cod. 86b/1 fol 1v) and now kept in St. Paul's Abbey in the Lavanttal.

Modern use[edit]

A critical edition of the poem was published in 1903 by Whitley Stokes and John Strachan in the second volume of the Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus.[2] The most famous of the many English translations is that by Robin Flower. In W. H. Auden's translation, the poem was set by Samuel Barber as the eighth of his ten Hermit Songs (1952–53).

Fay Sampson wrote a series of books based on the poem. They follow the adventures of Pangur Bán, his friend, Niall the monk, and Finnglas, a Welsh princess.

In the 2009 animated movie The Secret of Kells, which is heavily inspired by Irish mythology, one of the supporting characters is a white cat named Pangur Bán who arrives in the company of a monk. A paraphrase of the poem in modern Irish is read out during the credit roll by actor and Irish speaker, Mick Lally.[3]

Irish-language singer Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin recorded the poem in her 2011 studio album Songs of the Scribe, featuring both the original text and a translation by collaborator, nobel laureate Seamus Heaney.

In 2016, Jo Ellen Bogart and Sydney Smith published a picture book called 'The White Cat and the Monk' based on the poem.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Greene and O'Connor, 1967
  2. ^ Stokes and Strachan, 1904, pp. 293–294
  3. ^
  4. ^ Kilidatis, Rosemary. "The White Cat and the Monk". The Children's Writer's Guild. 


  • Greene, David; Frank O'Connor (1967). A Golden Treasury of Irish Poetry, AD 600–1200. London: Macmillan. Reprinted 1990, Dingle: Brandon. ISBN 0-86322-113-0. 
  • Stokes, Whitley; John Strachan (1904). Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus: A Collection of Old-Irish Glosses, Scholia, Prose and Verse. II. Cambridge University Press. 
  • Tristram, Hildegard L. C. (1999). "Die irischen Gedichte im Reichenauer Schulheft". In Peter Anreiter and Erzsebet Jerem (eds.). Studia Celtica et Indogermanica: Festschrift für Wolfgang Meid zum 70. Geburtstag. Budapest: Archaeolingua. pp. 503–29. ISBN 963-8046-28-7. 

External links[edit]