🎤POEM: “Pangur Ban” Anonymous 9th c. Irish

“Pangur Ban” a 9th Century anonymous poem, translated by Robin Flower

A page from The Book of Kells

Three hundred years before this anonymous poem was written, monasteries sprung up around Ireland. Clonard, Clonmacnois, and Clonfert, the most famous monasteries, became important centers of learning where Irish men and foreigners trained to be artists, thinkers, educators, and scribes. The monks were the first to research and write the history of Ireland. They also used their skills and talents to celebrate God in poetry and song. Before the advent of the printing press, monks created illuminated manuscripts, based on the scriptures, all drawn and written by hand. These sacred manuscripts required advanced literacy and artistry, many of them taking years to complete. The most famous surviving manuscripts are The Book of Kells, The Book of Durrow, and The Book of Armagh. Some of the greatest metal workers, sculptors, and bookbinders of the period worked at the Irish monasteries.

Here is an example of another poem from 8th-9th c. Ireland

The Scribe

A hedge of trees surrounds me.

A blackbird’s lay sings to me.

Above my lined booklet

The trilling birds chant to me.

In a grey mantle from the top of bushes

The cuckoo sings.

Verily – may the Lord shield me! –

Well do I write under the greenwood.

Translated by Kuno Meyer

A page from the Book of Durrow ca. 660-680

During these European Dark Ages, the Irish monks traveled through Ireland, England, and Europe, spreading Christianity, sharing their knowledge, teaching people to read and write, and “turning darkness into light.”  Ireland became known as the land of Saints and Scholars.

Did you enjoy listening to this poem?  Do you have a favorite poem about a family pet?  I would value your opinion in the comment box.  Thank you.

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Sarah M. Fredericks (c) 2015

Carpe Librum📚Seize the Book…and let the page-turning begin!


Filed under AUDIO🎤, Ireland, POEM

6 responses to “🎤POEM: “Pangur Ban” Anonymous 9th c. Irish

  1. sue

    Your website is always entertaining. You do such a great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Delightful little interlude!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Stephen.

      “Pangur Ban” is one of my favorite Irish poems. Although it appears light-hearted, the poet wrote these words during s time when Viking raiders pillaged the Irish monasteries for gold and other treasures. I can imagaine our scribe sprinting to the nearest round tower for safety, his little white cat under one arm, and his treasured manuscript under the other.
      Here is another verse written between the 7th and 8th century, translated from the Gaelic language by F. N. Robinson.

      The Viking Terror
      Fierce is the wind tonight.
      It ploughs up the white hair of the sea.
      I have no fear that the Viking hosts
      Will come over the water to me.

      Warmest regards


  3. Richard

    I enjoyed this post, as I love anything to do with those earlier times. The first thing I thought of was Umberto Eco’s book The Name of the Rose. Eco mentions some Monasteries in Ireland. Great book and great post!
    Thank you ☺

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Richard,

      Thank you for your comment. I remember reading Umberto Eco’s novel in the 80’s. His historical murder mystery takes place in an Italian Benedictine Monastery almost 500 years after our anonymous Irish monk wrote “Pangur Ban.” It is the perfect book to read during the dark winter months (to get into a Medieval frame of mind). I love the investigative skills of the hero, Franciscan friar William of Baskerville, and the innocence of his novice, Adso. I enjoyed the movie adaptation of Eco’s novel, starring Sean Connery. Oh Dear! Now I have to find my paperback and read it again. Here is one of my favorite quotes:
      “Books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told.”
      Umberto Eco
      The Name of the Rose

      Warmest regards


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