Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ana Discovers One of the World's First Cat Poems!

Ana is an enthusiastic student of ancient history, which makes sense, given the ancient people she comes from. Unfortunately, they left no record of themselves, being nomads and illiterate, but since her people's language has been tied to both the Germanic and Slavic branches of the Indo-European language family, she has taken special interest in the most ancient histories of both groups.

She was fascinated by a documentary about the Book of Kells, the gorgeous eighth century illuminated book of hours that is the treasure of Trinity College in Dublin. The book is one of the world's greatest works of art, but Ana was especially interested in the part of the documentary that described how the monks had gone about creating it. It mentioned in passing an early Irish penman who, in some idle moments, wrote a poem comparing his own work to those of his cat, Pangur Ban. ("Pangur" was a not uncommon cat name. "Ban" is thought to be ancient Gaelic for "white.")

Later, after a little research, Matt was able to present her with a translation of the entire poem. Ana carefully added it to the poetry notebook she keeps with her volumes of favorite poetry.

(Anyone wishing to know more could do worse than to start with the Wikipedia article on the Book of Kells.)

Pangur Ban

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.'

(See more of the poems that Ana loves in the column on the right, under the picture of the LOVE sculpture.)

Meet Ana Darcy!

No comments: