1. peepswitch:

(via Twitter / erik_kwakkel: Wow, 1500 followers: thank …)
Ink cat pawprints in a 15th c. book. I was just wondering today if calligraphers of the past had problems with cats walking across wet ink and ruining things.

This reminds me of the 9th century Old Irish poem, “Pangur Bán,” about a monk working in a scriptorium and his cat, the eponymous Pangur Bán. Translation here is Seamus Heaney’s:


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.

    peepswitch:

    (via Twitter / erik_kwakkel: Wow, 1500 followers: thank …)

    Ink cat pawprints in a 15th c. book. I was just wondering today if calligraphers of the past had problems with cats walking across wet ink and ruining things.

    This reminds me of the 9th century Old Irish poem, “Pangur Bán,” about a monk working in a scriptorium and his cat, the eponymous Pangur Bán. Translation here is Seamus Heaney’s:

    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.

  2. Seamus Heaney reads his translation of Beowulf for BBC Radio. Lovely to hear him say aloud:

Grendel was the name of this grim demon, haunting the marches, marauding round the heath and the desolate fens.

    Seamus Heaney reads his translation of Beowulf for BBC Radio. Lovely to hear him say aloud:

    Grendel was the name of this grim demon, haunting the marches, marauding round the heath and the desolate fens.

  3. Another poem, for kicks.

    The Skunk

    by Seamus Heaney

    Up, black, striped and demasked like the chasuble
    At a funeral mass, the skunk's tail
    Paraded the skunk. Night after night
    I expected her like a visitor.
    
    The refrigerator whinnied into silence.
    My desk light softened beyond the verandah.
    Small oranges loomed in the orange tree.
    I began to be tense as a voyeur.
    
    After eleven years I was composing
    Love-letters again, broaching the 'wife'
    Like a stored cask, as if its slender vowel
    Had mutated into the night earth and air
    
    Of California. The beautiful, useless
    Tang of eucalyptus spelt your absense.
    The aftermath of a mouthful of wine
    Was like inhaling you off a cold pillow.
    
    And there she was, the intent and glamorous,
    Ordinary, mysterious skunk,
    Mythologized, demythologized,
    Snuffing the boards five feet beyond me.
    
    It all came back to me last night, stirred
    By the sootfall of your things at bedtime,
    Your head-down, tail-up hunt in a bottom drawer
    For the black plunge-line nightdress.