Pangur Bán

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
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 eight verses of four lines each, 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.


Original text at Cambridge University website.

English translation by W. H. Auden:

Pangur, white Pangur, How happy we are
Alone 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 ever without tedium and envy.

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 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]

Dutch band Twigs & Twine used parts of the poem in their song Messe ocus Pangur Bán. [5]

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.
  5. ^


External links[edit]