Pangur Bán

By Anonymous Anonymous

Translated By Seamus Heaney Read the translator's notes

From the ninth-century Irish poem

Pangur Bán and I at work,
Adepts, equals, cat and clerk:
       His whole instinct is to hunt,
       Mine to free the meaning pent.

More than loud acclaim, I love
Books, silence, thought, my alcove.
       Happy for me, Pangur Bán
       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 Bán has learned his trade.
       Day and night, my own hard work
       Solves the cruxes, makes a mark.

Source: Poetry (April 2006).

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

This poem originally appeared in the April 2006 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2006

Report a problem with this poem


Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.