Pangur Bán (from Old Irish)

The poem translated here is of anonymous authorship, in that the author's name is unknown. But he was an Irish monk operating at or near Reichenau Abbey in what is today Germany in the 9th century. The poem is found in his notebook. The meter of the original is a loose seven-syllable deibide with the featural rhymes typical of Old Irish, in the alternating rinn/ardrinn style in which a stressed syllable is rhymed with an unstressed one. I have rendered it in English with seven-syllable trochaic tetrameter and mostly using full rhymes, which may be a bit sing-songy or clip-cloppy, but seems to fit the tone of the poem rather well. Compare this with my translation of Creide's lament where I used a syllabic approach to vary the rhythm a great deal more, and also used rhymes that — in English — would be judged imperfect but fit the featural criteria for what counts as a rhyme in Irish. 

Pangur Bán 
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Me and Pangur Bán at work:
He the cat, and I the clerk.
He is hunting mice to nip,
I am at my scholarship.

Fame's for fools. I'd rather rest
Studying my book with zest.
Happy for me, Pangur Bán
Plies his child-play all he can.

It's our never-boring tale.
We two, home alone, can't fail
To find everlasting sport
On which to fixate our art.

After berserk battle he
Nets a mouse in victory.
Me, I net a hard, dark line
Till I make its meaning shine.

His bright penetrating eye
Points toward the wall. While I 
Set my far less piercing sight
On a point more recondite.

He exults, getting a raw
Mouse impaled upon his claw.
When a dear yet difficult
Problem yields, I too exult.

That's us, ever at our art.
None bugging his counterpart, 
Each making a craft his own
To rejoice in it alone. 

Crafty Pangur, cat of prey,
Plies his trade by night and day.
I do monk's work, day and night,
Solving, bringing dark to light.

The Original:

Messe ocus Pangur Bán,
cechtar nathar fria saindán;
bíth a menma-sam fri seilgg,
mu menma céin im saincheirdd

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

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

Gnáth-húaraib ar gressaib gal
glenaid luch inna lín-sam;
os mé, du·fuit im lín chéin
dliged n-doraid cu n-dronchéill.

Fúachid-sem fri frega fál
a rosc anglése comlán;
fúachimm chéin fri fégi fis
mu rosc réil, cesu imdis,

Fáelid-sem cu n-déne dul
hi·n-glen luch inna gérchrub;
hi·tucu cheist n-doraid n-dil,
os mé chene am fáelid.

Cía beimmi amin nach ré,
ní·derban cách ar chéle.
Maith la cechtar nár a dán,
subaigthius a óenurán.

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

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