Irish: Pangur Ban

Nunty

Senior Member
Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
I think this is Irish. Does Pangur Ban mean "white cat"?

I was given some lovely calligraphy, a long poem entitled "Pangur Ban". The rest is in English. I don't know if it's a joke or real, but the attribution at the bottom is "A marginal poem on Codex S. Pauli by a student of the monastery of Carinthia 8th/9th century". It is longish, but the first four lines give the sense:

I and my white Pangur
Each has his special art
His mind is set on hunting mice
Mine is on my special craft


Is my "white cat" guess correct?

Thanks. :)
 
  • Hermocrates

    Senior Member
    Italian & British English (bilingual)
    I studied the original poem at university as part of my Celtic philology class, so perhaps I can help. :)

    The version you quoted in English is actually one of many translations of a rather long, exquisitely written Irish poem dating back to the IX century. This poem is scribbled on the margins of a manuscript currently held in the Monastery of St. Paul (Austria). Here's the original text.

    Pangur Bán is the monk's cat. While "Bán" clearly means "white" (in reference possibly to the cat's coat) Pangur isn't an Irish word. It's actually the cat's name and could be of Welsh origin (pannwr).

    Rye
     

    purplebroccoli

    Member
    English, Swedish
    White cat = cat bán. [cutt bawn] :) In case you wanted to know.

    The poem itself is written in Old Irish, I'm not sure about the word "Pangur". I think it's the cat's name but I read somewhere it means "waulker". Therefore the cat is actually called "white waulker".

    Grá,
    Ebba.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    The hidden treasures among my WordReference colleagues never cease to amaze me. Warm thanks to both of you. :)
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    ...Pangur Bán is the monk's cat. While "Bán" clearly means "white" (in reference possibly to the cat's coat) Pangur isn't an Irish word. It's actually the cat's name and could be of Welsh origin (pannwr).

    Rye
    Dia anseo isteach,
    I had this poem for my Leaving cert, didn't find it quite so interesting way back then. I would like to suggest a better/another translation of the name Pangur. (It's a bit 'round-about, so please bear with me.)

    Following on from Rye's suggestion ; the welsh name pannwr appearantly translates as fuller in English; as in 'Hen grefft y pannwr' = 'The ancient craft of the fuller'
    Note : A fuller then was a workman who fulls freshly woven cloth for a living. Fuller Etymology: ME < OE fullere < L fullo, prob. < IE *bheld-, to strike >
    To full was to press or scour cloth (to thicken & clean by beating, if you prefer) in a mill, which is an art of great antiquity, mentioned several times in the Bible.
    *For example ; Mention is made of "fuller's soap" (Mal. 3:2), and of "the fuller's field" (2 Kings 18:17).
    At his transfiguration our Lord's rainment is said (in the Greek version) to have been white "so as no fuller on earth could white them" (Mark 9:3)
    This makes it quite a suitable name for a Monk's cat, don't you think? :)
    Let me lead you on a little more down this path - Fuller's lane in Cork city (Bandon Road area) was known as Lána Mhic an Úcaire.
    I found confirmation of this translation of "Fuller" on another site in the context of this very poem:
    Deirtear gur ón bhfocal Breatnaise "pannwr" a tháinig sé, focal a chiallaíonn fuller nó "úcaire". Bhain na húcairí úsáid as borrchré (nó cré an úcaire, fuller's earth), púdar atá bán, agus bhídís bán freisin dá bharr le linn a gcuid oibre. Ainm oiriúnach do chat bán mar sin é!
    :idea: Perhaps their Miller was of Welsh origin. :~ We'll never know! Pangur bàn = Úcaire bàn, so maybe the cat could be called "Fuller white" in English, I imagine nowadays he be called "Dazzling white", or simply "Dazzler".
     
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    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    ...The poem itself is written in Old Irish, I'm not sure about the word "Pangur". I think it's the cat's name but I read somewhere it means "waulker". Therefore the cat is actually called "white waulker".

    Grá,
    Ebba.
    Hey Ebba,
    You are quite correct with this suggestion ; in Elberfelder's 1871 German translation, of the New Testament, we find the following lines
    Markus 9:3 said:
    und seine Kleider wurden glänzend, sehr weiß wie Schnee , wie kein Walker auf der Erde weiß machen kann.
    In this case walker = fuller = pannwr, one and the same job, in various tongues.
    Swedish said:
    och hans kläder blevo glänsande och mycket vita, så att ingen valkare på jorden kan göra kläder så vita. :)
    Visit the Benedictine Monastery of St.Paul in the Lavant Valley website.
     
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