Pangur Bán

Pangur Bán (Pangur blanc) est probablement le poème le plus célèbre de la vieille langue irlandaise. Composé par un moine irlandais (ou un étudiant?) autour du 9ème siècle, le texte compare le travail de l’érudit avec les activités de son chat, Pangur Bán.
Bien que le poème soit anonyme, il ressemble à la poésie de l’Irlandais Sedulius Scottus (IXe siècle – à Liège et en France), ce qui laisse supposer que Sedulius en est l’auteur. Le poème est maintenant conservé dans le Reichnenau Primer (Stift St. Paul Cod 86b / 1 fol 1v) à l’abbaye Saint-Paul dans le Lavanttal, en Autriche.

pangur mss

Dans les ms ci-dessus chaque section de 2 lignes fait une strophe de 4 vers.
(exception: la première ligne + les mots ci-dessus font une strophe)

Messe & Pangur Bán, / cechtar nathar fri saindán:
. . . . . bíth a menma-sam fri seilgg, / ^mu menma céin im saincheirdd^
Caraim-se fos, ferr cach clú, / oc mu lebrān, lēir ingnu;
. . . . . nī foirmtech frimm Pangur Bán: / caraid cesin a maccdán.
Ó ru biam, scél cen scís, / innar tegdais, ar n-ōendís,
. . . . . tāithiunn, dīchrīchide clius, / nī fris tarddam ar n-áthius.
Gnáth, h-ūaraib, ar gressaib gal / glenaid luch inna línsam;
. . . . . os mé, du-fuit im lín chéin / dliged n-doraid cu n-dronchéill.
Fūaichaid-sem fri frega fál / a rosc, a n-glése comlán;
. . . . . fūachimm chēin fri fēgi fis / mu rosc rēil, cesu imdis.
Fāelid-sem cu n-déne dul / hi n-glen luch inna gērchrub;
. . . . . hi tucu cheist n-doraid n-dil / os mē chene am fāelid.
Cia beimmi a-min nach ré / nī derban cách a chēle:
. . . . . maith la cechtar nár a dán; / subaigthius a óenurán.
h-Ē fesin as choimsid dáu / in muid du-ngní cach ōenláu;
. . . . . du thabairt doraid du glé / for mo mud cēin am messe.

Messe ocus Pangur bán

Lu par Professeur Tomás Ó Cathasaigh
Novembre 2013 – à l’Université de Harvard

1. I and Pangur Bán, each of us two at his special art:
his mind is at hunting (mice), my own mind is in my special craft.

2. I love to rest—better than any fame—at my booklet with diligent science:
not envious of me is Pangur Bán: he himself loves his childish art.

3. When we are—tale without tedium—in our house, we two alone,
we have—unlimited (is) feat-sport—something to which to apply our acuteness.

4. It is customary at times by feats of valour, that a mouse sticks in his net,
and for me there falls into my net a difficult dictum with hard meaning.

5. His eye, this glancing full one, he points against the wall-fence:
I myself against the keenness of science point my clear eye, though it is very feeble.

6. He is joyous with speedy going where a mouse sticks in his sharp claw:
I too am joyous, where I understand a difficult dear question.

7. Though we are thus always, neither hinders the other:
each of us two likes his art, amuses himself alone.

8. He himself is master of the work which he does every day:
while I am at my own work, (which is) to bring difficulty to clearness

Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus (1903) Whitley Stokes and John Strachan, eds.

1. Messe ocus Pangur Bán,
cechtar nathar fria saindan
bíth a menmasam fri seilgg
mu menma céin im saincheirdd.
2. Caraimse fos ferr cach clú
oc mu lebran leir ingnu
ni foirmtech frimm Pangur Bán
caraid cesin a maccdán.
3. Orubiam scél cen scís
innar tegdais ar noendís
taithiunn dichrichide clius
ni fristarddam arnáthius.
4. Gnáth huaraib ar gressaib gal
glenaid luch inna línsam
os mé dufuit im lín chéin
dliged ndoraid cu ndronchéill.
5. Fuachaidsem fri frega fál
a rosc anglése comlán
fuachimm chein fri fegi fis
mu rosc reil cesu imdis.
6. Faelidsem cu ndene dul
hinglen luch inna gerchrub
hi tucu cheist ndoraid ndil
os me chene am faelid.
7. Cia beimmi amin nach ré,
ni derban cách a chele
maith la cechtar nár a dán,
subaigthius a óenurán.
8. He fesin as choimsid dáu
in muid dungní cach oenláu
du thabairt doraid du glé
for mu mud cein am messe.

Traduction par Séamus Heaney

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.

Translation from: Gerard Murphy,
Early Irish Lyrics (Oxford, 1956), p. 3

I and white Pangur
practise each of us his special art:
his mind is set on hunting,
my mind on my special craft.

I love (it is better than all fame) to be quiet
beside my book, diligently pursuing knowledge.
White Pangur does not envy me:
he loves his childish craft.

When the two of us (this tale never wearies us) are
alone together in our house,
we have something to which we may apply our skill,
an endless sport.

It is usual, at times, as a result of warlike battlings,
for a mouse to stick in his net.
For my part, into my net
falls some difficult rule of hard meaning.

He directs his bright 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 understand a dearly loved difficult problem.

Thought we be thus at any time,
neither of us hinders the other:
each of us likes his craft,
severally rejoicing in them.

He it is who is master for himself
of the work which he does every day.
I can perform my own work
directed at understanding clearly what is difficult.


Par infrench

Moi et mon chat Pangur blanc,
chacun de nous deux reste à sa spécialité:
Son esprit est fixé sur la chasse,
mon esprit sur mon metier spécial.

Je l’aime mieux que toute la renommée
tranquille à mon livre, enquête persistante.
Pangur blanc n’est pas envieux;
il aime son art enfantin.

Quand nous sommes sans ennui
tous deux ensembles mais seul chez nous,
Nous appliquons nos compétences,
un bon passé temps j’avoue.

Parfois, une souris dans son filet,
une lutte guerrière, prouesse de valeur.
Pour moi, qui me fait siffler
une énigme bien compliquée.

Il dirige son œil parfait brillant
contre un mur d’enceinte.
Mon œil clair devient très faible
Je dirige contre un livre sur table.

Son mouvement rapide joyeux
avec une souris dans sa griffe acérée.
Moi aussi je suis si heureux
si je comprends un énigme de longue durée.

C’est lui qui est maître pour lui-même
du travail qu’il fait tous les temps.
Je peux effectuer ma propre tâche,
comprendre des choses avec panache.


The Monk and his Cat

I and my white Pangur
Have each his special art:
His mind is set on hunting mice,
Mine is upon my special craft.

I love to rest—better than any fame!
With close study at my little book:
White Pangur does not envy me:
He loves his childish play.

When in our house we two are all alone
A tale without tedium!
We have—sport never-ending!
Something to exercise our wit.

At times by feats of derring-do
A mouse sticks in his net,
While into my net there drops
A difficult problem of hard meaning.

He points his full shining eye
Against the fence of the wall:
I point my clear though feeble eye
Against the keenness of science.

He rejoices with quick leaps
When in his sharp claw sticks a mouse:
I too rejoice when I have grasped
A problem difficult and dearly loved.

Though we are thus at all times,
Neither hinders the other,
Each of us pleased with his own art
Amuses himself alone.

He is a master of the work
Which every day he does:
While I am at my own work
To bring difficulty to clearness.

Translated by Kuno Meyer


Adaptation by W. H. Auden

Pangur, white Pangur,
How happy we are
Alone together, Scholar and cat.
Each has his own work to do daily;
For you it is hunting, for me, study.
Your shining eye watches the wall;
My feeble eye is fixed on a book.
You rejoice when your claws entrap a mouse;
I rejoice when my mind fathoms a problem.
Pleased with his own art
Neither hinders the other;
Thus we live ever
Without tedium and envy.
Pangur, white Pangur,
How happy we are,
Alone together, Scholar and cat.
Pangur, white Pangur,
How happy we are.

Perhaps the best-loved of Barber’s Hermit Songs, based on a poem famous in cat literature . . . Here the lazy flowing rhythm, the piano’s mewing crushed seconds, and the bluesy harmony conjure up a warm impression of perfect human-feline contentment.

Placed on You Tube by GilPiotr 2014

It begins at 10m39s

Barber, Samuel (1910-81) -composer
Barbara Bonney -soprano
André Previn -piano

Commentaire par infrench :

Le poète était étudiant, probablement un moine. Il a noté ce poème dans un cahier de grammaire grecque – une petite pose sans doute, la poésie était plus intéressante !

Les éléments des anciennes formes poétiques irlandaises dans ce poème sont:

1.Les strophes sont des quatrains composés de 2 couplets. Chaque strophe est complète et capable de se tenir seule.

2.Quantitative: la versification utilise les vers de 7 syllabes avec une terminaison de 1 syllabe dans le mot final de chaque vers et une terminaison de 2 syllabes dans le mot final de chaque couplet. Messe & Pangur Bán, / cechtar nathar fri saindán:

3.Écrit avec l’harmonie du son – allitération, fos, ferr / cach clú, assonance Caraim . . . cach et consonance foirmtech frimm.

4.Le poème commence et se termine par la même mot. Messe

5.Rimé : Diverses rimes s’appliquent et comprennent souvent la rime de fin a-a b-b, (ou au moin assonance seilgg . . . saincheirdd), la rime légère clú . . .ingnu (syllabe accentuée d’un mot avec une syllabe non accentuée), la rime interne cechtar nathar, la rime consonne dliged n-doraid.

Note : La rime a une longue histoire de développement sophistiqué en Irlande. Ce n’était pas une caractéristique du vers classique grec ou latin. Il y a des raisons de croire que l’Irlande a introduit des formes développées de rimes dans d’autres cultures européennes grâce à l’influence des moines lettrés et des monastères créés par eux en Europe du Nord. [A Grammar of the Irish Language: Pub. for the Use of the Senior … John O’Donovan – 1845]


Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry by Kuno Meyer

In Ireland itself most old books were destroyed during the Viking terror which burst upon the island at the end of the eighth century. But, from the eleventh century onward, we have an almost unbroken series of hundreds of MSS. in which all that had escaped destruction was collected and arranged. Many of the tales and poems thus preserved were undoubtedly originally composed in the eighth century . . .

Whatever may be its intrinsic merit, its importance as the earliest voice from the dawn of West European civilisation cannot be denied. . .

Those among them who underwent the Roman conquest lost early, together with their liberty, their most precious national possession, their native language and with it their vernacular literature. Less than a [Pg viii]century after the slaughter of Vercingetorix Romanised Gauls were carrying off the palm of Roman eloquence. By the fifth century the Gaulish language was everywhere extinct, without having left behind a single record of its literature. The same fate was shared by all Celtic nationalities of the Continent, . .

It is not till the end of the eleventh century that we find the beginnings of a national literature in France and Germany. In Ireland, on the other hand, which had received her Christianity not direct from Rome but from Britain and Gaul, and where the Church, far removed from the centre of Roman influence and cut off from the rest of Christendom, was developing on national lines, vernacular literature received a fresh impulse from the new faith. A flourishing primitive Christian literature arose. The national language was employed not only for the purposes of instruction and devotion, in tombstone or other inscriptions, but also in religious prose and poetry, and, still more remarkable, in learned writings . . .

A word on the metrical system of Irish poetry may conclude this rapid sketch. The original type from which the great variety of Irish metres has sprung is the catalectic trochaic tetrameter of Latin poetry . . .

The commonest stanza is a quatrain consisting of four heptasyllabic lines with the rhyme at the end of the couplet. In my renderings I have made no attempt at either rhythm or rhyme ; but I have printed the stanzas so as to show the structure of the poem. For merely practical reasons I have, in some cases, printed them in the form of couplets, in others in that of verse-lines.

Accessed Oct 2017 :


. . . intricate rules of prosody and rigid and complicated verse forms, the most popular of which was the debide (modern Irish deibide, “cut in two”), a quatrain composed of two couplets, linked by the rhyme of a stressed syllable with an unstressed one.
By the 12th century filid were composing lyrical nature poetry and personal poems that praised the human qualities of their patrons, especially their generosity, rather than the patrons’ heroic exploits or ancestors. They no longer strictly adhered to set rules of prosody.


It is, however, undisputed that Irish possesses a wonderful body of early literature comprising lyric poetry, mythological tales, warrior tales and sagas, voyages and Ossianic tales (stories about Fionn and the Fianna) which continue to influence our literary traditions to this day. . .

Early Irish lyric poetry is among the most delightful in all our literature. The earliest date from the Old Irish period and were written by monastic scribes in the margins of Latin manuscripts. The most famous is probably Pangur Bán or White Pangur where the scribe describes the affinity between his own task and that of his cat. It was translated into English by Frank O’Connor as The Scholar and his Cat:

Other lyrics extol the beauties of nature and the simplicity of the hermit’s life. A selection of this poetry from the 8th to the 12th century was published in bilingual form in Early Irish Lyrics by the scholar Gerard Murphy.

The most famous of the literature preserved in the manuscripts are perhaps the stories about Cú Chulainn and the other warriors of the Ulster Cycle, and in particular the Táin Bó Cuailnge. The ‘Táin’ has become to be seen as Ireland’s national epic. Set in a warrior society in pre-Christian times, the Táin tells the story of the bloodshed and mayhem that follows the decision of Queen MaeveMaeb agus Ailill of Connaught to steal the brown bull of Cooley in order to match her husband in prize possessions.The Táin culminates in the death of the Ulster hero Cú Chulainn.

In the later Middle Ages these stories were supplanted in popularity by tales of Fionn Mac Cumhail and the Fianna. Among the most important of these were Agallamh na Seanórach (The Colloquy, Discourse of the Ancients) a delightful mixture of prose and poetry and Tóraíocht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinnne (The pursuit of Diarmaid and Gráinne).


Poetry in Irish represents the oldest vernacular poetry in Europe. The earliest examples date from the 6th century, and are generally short lyrics on themes from religion or the world of nature. They were frequently written by their scribe authors in the margins of the illuminated manuscripts that they were copying. The best known example is Pangur Bán . . .

. . . they used complicated rhyme schemes that would render a poem nonsensical if any of the key words were changed from the original version. In an oral culture, Irish poetry had many uses. A poem could be used to immortalize both the poet and the subject of the poem; oftentimes kings would commission poets to create a piece about them.

Oral poetry, because it was in the vernacular, was often used for entertainment. Poems that were entertaining could also be informative, teaching people lessons or offering them wisdom of experience for dealing with situations they would encounter in their everyday lives. Finally, poems, especially those featured in the sagas, were thought to be an instrument of the supernatural: certain poems could enchant people or objects. . .

Unlike many other European epic cycles, the Irish sagas were written in prose, with verse interpolations at moments of heightened tension or emotion . . .

Irish bards formed a professional hereditary caste of highly trained, learned poets. The bards were steeped in the history and traditions of clan and country, as well as in the technical requirements of a verse technique that was syllabic and used assonance, half rhyme and alliteration known as Dán Díreach. . .

The Metrical Dindshenchas, or Lore of Places, is probably the major surviving monument of Irish bardic verse.. .
Verse tales of Fionn and the Fianna, sometimes known as Ossianic poetry, were extremely common in Ireland and Scotland throughout this period. They represent a move from earlier prose tales with verse interludes to stories told completely in verse. There is also a notable shift in tone, with the Fionn poems being much closer to the Romance tradition as opposed to the epic nature of the sagas. The Fionn poems form one of the key Celtic sources for the Arthurian legends.

British Library Manuscript, Harley 913, is a group of poems written in Ireland in the early 14th century. They are usually called the Kildare Poems because of their association with that county. Both poems and manuscript have strong Franciscan associations and are full of ideas from the wider Western European Christian tradition. They also represent the early stages of the second tradition of Irish poetry, that of poetry in the English language, as they were written in Middle English.


Liens :

  • Exploring the Craft of Writing Poetry From Around the World :
    by Judi Van Gorder AKA Tinker

  • A Grammar of the Irish Language: Pub. for the Use of the Senior …
    John O’Donovan – 1845 – ‎Irish language
  • See also
  • See also
    Traditional Irish Quatrain Forms I and II
  • One online source for modern specs to most of the forms discussed herein is: