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Turning Darkness into Light

A week and a half ago, our computer, P.B., crashed. P.B. is a seven-year-old desktop Mac, one of the white gooseneck models. I usually call him Plastic Baby, but his formal name for company is Pangur Bán, Irish for "White Pangur." It's the title of a medieval poem written by an Irish monk to his cat some 1,200 years ago. (Wikipedia says that pangur means "waulker," but I've also come across the theory that "Pangur" was an Irish pronunciation of "Peter." Either way, it was apparently a common cat name.) When I first read the poem as a college student at Trinity, I was struck by its sweet simplicity. The last verse opens a little slit in time to that monk, hunched over an illuminated Gospel, patiently nursing his tiny light against the darkness. With his white cat by his side.

I'd like to say it's even better in the original Irish, but I've forgotten how to do anything in Irish beyond count to ten, and now I can't pronounce the original verses without getting my tongue caught in my larynx.

P.B. came back from the Powerbook Guy this afternoon, brand-new hard drive, data fully restored. Here's the poem for him.

Pangur Bán

I and Pangur Bán my cat,
Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will,
He too plies his simple skill.

Tis a merry thing to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur's way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Bán, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.