Monday, July 25, 2011

Pangur Bán

Translated from the ninth-century Irish poem by Seamus 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment