Pangur Bán

Messe agus Pangur bán,
cechtar nathar fria ṡaindán:
bíth a menmasam fri seilgg,
mu menma céin im ṡaincheirdd.

Caraimse fos, ferr cach clú,
oc mu lebrán, léir ingnu;
ní foirmtech frimm Pangur bán
caraid cesin a maccdán.

Ó ru biam, scél gan scís
innar tegdais, ar n-óendís,
táithiunn, díchríchide clius,
ní fris-tarddam ar n-áthius.

Gnáth, húaraib, ar gressaib gal,
glenaid luch inna línsam;
os mé, du-fuit im lín chéin
dliged ndoraid cu ndronchéill.

Fúachaidsem fri frega fál
a rosc, a nglése comlán;
fúachimm chéin fri fégi fis
mu rosc réil, cesu imdis.

Fáelidsem cu ndéne dul
hi-nglen luch inna gérchrub;
hi-tucu cheist ndoraid ndil
os mé chene, am fáelid.

Cia beimmi a-min nach ré,
ní-derban cách a chéile:
maith la cechtar nár a dán;
subaigthius a óenurán.

Hé fesin as choimsid dáu
in muid du-ngní cach óenláu;
du thabairt doraid du glé
for mu muid céin am messe.

White Pangur

I and white Pangur are
each of us focused upon our special art;
his mind toward hunting;
my mind on my special craft.

I love it, it is better than all fame, at my
little book, diligently seeking knowledge;
white Pangur does not envy me:
he loves his boyish craft.

When possible (this story never wearies!)
our one two-ness alone in our house,
there is for us something to which
we may apply our skill; an endless game.

It is usual at times for a mouse to
stick in his net because of warlike battles;
for my part into my own net
falls a difficult law of hard meaning.

He directs his bright perfect eye
against an enclosing wall;
though my clear eye is very weak,
I direct it against keenness of knowledge.

He is joyful with swift movement
when a mouse sticks in his sharp paw;
I too am joyful, when
I grasp a dearly loved difficult problem.

Though we be thin at any time
Neither hinders his fellow:
Each of us enjoys his craft;
rejoices in his little own.

He is [his own] master, who is that
of the work which he does every day;
to bring the difficult to clarity,
I am upon my own work.

This is one of my favourite pieces in any language. A scholar sits quietly at his desk, working on difficult legal codes, while in the shadows his small white cat plays at catching mice. A sweet image, conveyed in the beautiful (if difficult) Old Irish.

Pangur Bán dates from the 8th century; it is found in the Reichenau Primer, which itself dates from the 9th. The curious may see the manuscript here.

This translation was constructed from work done in class during 2009 and therefore owes far more to Professor A.A. than it does to me. I am restraining myself with difficulty from discussing some of the more intriguing bits of wordplay in the poem; please, ask in the comments if you would indulge me.