Pangur Ban A Monk and His Cat Title

Photo Credit: hyper7pro via Flickr


The stories told of cats in Celtic Folklore on Monday painted cats as being mischievous and mysterious; Some of the tales even hinted that cats may be evil. From these stories, one might think that the Celtic people were very afraid of cats, but this is not entirely true.

Pangur Ban White Cat Obi Wan Sleeping

Obi Wan , the kitty that came before Cinco and Manna.

A Monk Finds His Muse

As with everything, there is another side to this story. Back in the 9th Century, long before most people would have considered cats to be companion animals,  an Irish monk penned a poem called Pangur Bàn about his relationship with his white cat named Pangur (bàn means white).   There is no fear or mystery at all in this monk’s view of cats, but rather love and admiration. It is a beautiful view of a man and his cat.

* If you would like to listen to Pangur Bàn in its original Old Irish (with English captions) click here. The english translation used with the recording is different than the one below. *

Pangur Ban/The Scholar and His Cat
Translated by Robin Flower

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.

Pangur Ban: A Monk and His cat - Kipling's Cat, Jeoffry, and Pangur Ban via Amazon

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‘Tis a merry task 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 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 task 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.

Pangur Ban: A Monk and His Cat: White Cat Pangur Ban in Reichenauer Schuleheft

The original document containing Pangur Ban.
Photo credit: DBachmann via Wikimedia

Old But Not Forgotten

This poem was written in Old Irish among the monk’s scholarly Latin writings. It was  left anonymous, so no one really knows who the exact author was. Many translations of Pangur Ban exist as it is a piece often used by students learning to speak Gaelic.

What we do know is that the author enjoyed having Pangur around and drew many parallels between himself and the cat. It seems that he spent a lot of time observing Pangur. He reminds me of the cat lovers of today!


Sources & Digging Deeper

Pangur Ban – Fish Eaters

Pangur Ban – Wikipedia

Pangur Ban – Irish Culture and Customs