How Many Lives Hath Pangur Bán?

Pangur Bán, or “white cat” originates in an Irish poem from the 9th century about a monk and his cat, narrated by the monk. The monk observes that each of them work: he in his studying and copying, the cat in his catching of mice. The original poem has been translated numerous times, including by W. H. Auden and Seamus Heaney. Composer Samuel Barber set Auden’s translation as part of his Hermit Songs, composed in 1952-3; you can listen to Leontyne Price sing it here. In the 2009 film The Secret of Kells, Pangur makes an appearance as a cat belonging to illuminator Brother Aidan. 

I came to know the text through Barber’s song setting and loved the depiction of the cat in The Secret of Kells. But it was mostly my friend R’s sweet, disabled kitty Rocket—memorialized here as “Little Cat”—who inspired me to write this prose poem, which has just been published by Disabled Tales

 

Pangur Bán in The Secret of Kells
Sweet Rocket J. Squirrel, the inspiration for the poem
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