Tuesday, 8 January 2008

pangur ban

there is another well known translation of pangur ban (and here's another two) but this one by seamus heaney in poetry magazine is, i think better. i'm not really convinced that it was created in a haze of jameson's but i like the story....

Pangur Ban

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.


i wasn't familiar with poetry magazine until recently, with andrew's reference to pound, but not that i am i find i'm rather taken with it. not only the above but what with the talk of silence in various places adam kirsch's essay on heidegger in the current edition caught my eye. particularly liked the end quote, which is why pangur ban has made his appearance


"At bottom, the ordinary is not ordinary; it is extraordinary."

1 comment:

Sorlil said...

I prefer Heaney's version too but I really like Frank O'connor's first two lines.