Pangur Bán, Translation, Postmodernism, Paul Muldoon


  • Ruben Moi UiT Norges arktiske universitet



Paul Muldoon, Poetry, Translation, Pangur Bán, Ireland, Celtic


«Pangur Bán» is probably the best know poem in Celtic studies, and a poem that tends to become increasingly more popular to audiences outside of Ireland. However, the anonymous, medieval poem has been cherished throughout history for a wide range of poetic, philosophical, intellectual and educational reasons. To inquire into the longevity and popularity of a marginal gloss on his cat by an Irish monk in a German monastery in the ninth century seems appropriate at a time when contemporary literature and applied hermeneutics of all kinds tend to dominate the literary discourses. This essay relates the historical poem to its many translations, for example by Paul Muldoon and Seamus Heaney, and current literary discourses. Why has this enigmatic jeu d’esprit been translated so frequently and why are these translations important? This essay argues that «Anonymous: Myself and Pangur», Muldoon’s version of «Pangur Bán», can be read as a prismatic poem for postmodernist concerns, in his own poetry and in recent theories.


Anderson, Perry. 1998. The Origins of Postmodernity. London: Verso.

Barthes, Roland. 1989. «The Death of the Author». In Image Music Text, 142-148. New York: Noonday Press. Original edition, 1968.

Bogart, Jo Ellen, and Sydney Smith. 2016. The White Cat and the Monk. Toronto: Groundwood Books.

Boland, Eavan. 1995. Eavan Boland: Collected Poems. Manchester: Carcanet.

Brearton, Fran. 2003. «'Ploughing by the Tail': Longley, Muldoon and Anxiety of Influ-ence.» Nordic Irish Studies 2 (1): 1-16.

Cahill, Thomas 1995. How the Irish Saved Civilization. New York: Anchor Books.

Chapman, Jean, ed. 1986. Cat Will Rhyme with Hat. New York: Atheneum.

Corcoran, Neil. 1999. «A Languorous Cutting Edge: Muldoon versus Heaney?» In Poets of Modern Ireland, 121-137. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

Crane, Susan. 2013. In Animal Encounters: Contacts and Concepts in Medieval Britain, 11-24. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvanina Press.

Cronin, Michael. 1996. Translating Ireland. Cork: Cork University Press.

Cronin, Michael. 2003. Translation and Globalization. London and New York: Routledge.

Cronin, Michael. 2006. Translation and Identity. London and New York: Routledge.

Cronin, Michael. 2017. Eco-Translation: Translation and Ecology in the Age of the Anthropocene. London: Routledge.

Deane, Seamus, ed. 1991. The Field Day Anthology. 3 vols. Derry: Field Day Publications.

Derrida, Jacques. 1973. Speech and Phenomena. Translated by David Allison. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. 1967.

Derrida, Jacques. 1976. Of Grammatology. Translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1967.

Derrida, Jacques. 1981. Positions. Translated by Alan Bass. Chicago: Chicago Universitty Press. 1972.

Derrida, Jacques. 1982. Margins of Philosophy. Translated by Alan Bass. New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf. 1972.

Derrida, Jacques. 1992. Acts of Literature. London: Routledge.

Derrida, Jacques. 2001. «What is a 'Relevant' Translation?». Critical Inquiry 27 (2): 174-200.

Eagleton, Terry. 1996. The Illusions of Postmodernism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Felski, Rita. 2020. Hooked. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Flower, Robin. 1931. Poems and Translations. London: Constable & Company.

Flower, Robin. 2012. Poems and Translations. Dublin: The Lilliput Press. 1931.

Foucault, Michel. 1980. «What Is an Author?» In Textual Strategies, edited by Josué V. Harari, 141-160. London: Methuen. Original edition, 1969.

Friel, Brian. 1981. Translations.Faber. London: Faber & Faber.

Haffenden, John. 1981. Viewpoints. London: Faber and Faber.

Heaney, Seamus. 2006a. «Note.» Poetry Magazine 188 (1).

Heaney, Seamus. 2006b. «Pangur Bán.» Poetry 188 (1): 3-5.

Heaney, Seamus, and Ted Hughes, eds. 1982. The Rattle Bag. London: Faber and Faber.

Homem, Rui. 2009. Poetry and Translation in Northern Ireland. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Keenan, Celia. 2013. «The Hunt for 'Pangur Bán'.» In Children's Literature on the Move, edited by Nora Maguire and Beth Rodgers, 59-73. Dublin: Four Courts Press.

Kennedy-Andrews, Elmer. 2006. «Heaney and Muldoon: Omphalos and Diaspora.» In Paul Muldoon. Poetry, Prose, Drama, 101-127. Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe Limited.

Kilroy, Ian. 2003. «Transatlantic Poet. Paul Muldoon's Moy Sand and Gravel». The Irish Times, 19 April, 2003, 7.

King, David A. 2017. «Ninth-Century Irish Poem Embodies Deep Connection between People and Their Animals». The Georgia Bulletin. Accessed 26 September 2017.

Lyotard, Jean-Francois. 1979. The Postmodern Condition. Translated by Geoffrey Bennington and Brian Massuni. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

MacCana, Proinsias. 1991. «The Scholar and His Cat.» In The Field Day Anthology, 44. Derry: Field Day Publications.

MacDonagh, Thomas. 1996. Literature in Ireland. Tyone: Relay Books. 1916.

MacLean, Malcolm, and Theo Dorgan, eds. 2002. Leabhar Mor: The Great Book of Gaelic. Edinburgh: Canongate.

McCarthy, Conor. 2008. Seamus Heaney and Medieval Poetry. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer.

McGovern, Iggy. 2004. «Pangur Bán's Revenge.» In Something Beginning with P, edited by Seamus Cashman, 90-91. Dublin: The O'Brien Press.

Mehan, Paula. 2009. Painting Rain. Manchester: Carcanet.

Meyer, Kuno, ed. 1911. Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry. London: Constable & Company.

Moi, Ruben. 2007. «Transtextual Conceptualizations of Northern Ireland». In Readings of the Particular: The Postocolonial in the Postnational, edited by Anne Holden Rønning and Lene Johannesen, 217-229. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi.

Moi, Ruben. 2020. Paul Muldoon and the Language of Poetry. Leiden Boston: Brill Rodopi.

Moore, Toom, and Nora Twomey. 2009. The Secret of Kells.

Muldoon, Paul. 1983. Quoof. London: Faber and Faber.

Muldoon, Paul. 1985. «A Conversation with Paul Muldoon». In Chicago Review, edited by Michael Donaghy.

Muldoon, Paul. 1987. «An Interview with Paul Muldoon». edited by Clair Wills, Nick Jenkins and John Lanchester Oxford Poetry.

Muldoon, Paul. 1990. Madoc. London: Faber and Faber.

Muldoon, Paul. 1991. «Lunch with Paul Muldoon...» In Rhinoceros, edited by Kevin Smith.

Muldoon, Paul. 1992. «Canon and Colcannon: Review of The Rattle of the North by Patricia Craig.» Times Literary Supplement, 2 October, 1992, 22.

Muldoon, Paul. 1994a. The Annals of Chile. London: Faber and Faber.

Muldoon, Paul. 1994b. «Interview with Paul Muldoon». In Contemporary Literature, edited by Lynn Keller.

Muldoon, Paul. 1994c. The Prince of the Quotidian. Oldcastle: Gallery Press.

Muldoon, Paul. 1995. The Last Thesaurus. London: Faber and Faber.

Muldoon, Paul, ed. 1997a. The Faber Book of Beasts. London: Faber and Faber.

Muldoon, Paul. 1997b. The Noctuary of Narcissus Batt. London: Faber and Faber.

Muldoon, Paul. 1998a. «A cat to catch a mouse». edited by AA. The Observer Review of Books: The Observer.

Muldoon, Paul. 1998b. Hay. London: Faber and Faber.

Muldoon, Paul. 1999. The Birds. Loughcrew: Gallery Press.

Muldoon, Paul. 2006a. General Admission. Loughcrew: The Gallery Press.

Muldoon, Paul. 2006b. Horse Latitudes. London: Faber and Faber.

Muldoon, Paul. 2008. When the Pie Was Opened. Paris.

Muldoon, Paul. 2010. Maggot. London: Faber and Faber.

Muldoon, Paul. 2012. Songs and Sonnets. London: Enitharmon Press.

Muldoon, Paul. 2013. The Word on the Street. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Muldoon, Paul. 2017a. «Paul Muldoon.» Paul Muldoon. Accessed 29 September 2017.

Muldoon, Paul. 2017b. Sadie and the Sadist. London: Eyewear Publishing.

Murphy, Gerard, ed. 1956. Early Irish Lyrics. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Ní Chuilleanáin, Eiléan. 2001. The Girl Who Married The Reindeer. Loughcrew: Gallery Press.

Ni Dhomanaill, Nuala. 2007. The Fifty Minute Maid. Translated by Paul Muldoon. Loughcrew: The Gallery Press.

Ni Dhomnaill, Nuala. 1992. The Astrakhan Cloak. Translated by Paul Muldoon. Loughcrew: The Gallery Press.

Nussbaum, Martha. 2021. «Justice for Animals: Practical Progress through Philosophical Theory». Tuseday 8 June 2021, Bergen: The Holberg Prize.

O'Connor, Frank, ed. 1959. Kings, Lords and Commons. An Anthology from the Irish. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

O'Connor, Laura. 2011. «The Billingual Routes of Paul Muldoon / Pól Maoldúin.» Irish Studies Review 19 (2): 135-155.

Potts, Robert. 2001. «The poet at play.» The Guardian, 12.05., 2001. Accessed 09.07. 2016.

Sampson, Fay. 2002. Pangur Bán The White Cat. Oxford: Lion UK.

Stokes, Whitley, and John Strachan, eds. 1903. Thesuarus Paleohibernicus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sunstein, Cass R., and Martha C. Nussbaum. 2004. Animal Rights. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Svensson, Lars-Håkan. 2020. «Translation as Appropriation in the Work of Paul Muldoon.» Nordic Journal of English Studies 19 (4): 125-149.

Theinová, Daniela. 2018. «'Who Owns the Game': The Gallery Press and Poetry in Irish Now.» Litteraria Pragensia 28 (55): 11-29.

Traynor, Shaun, ed. 1997. The Poolbeg Book of irish Poetry for Children. Dublin: Poolbeg Press.

Tristram, Hildegard L. C. 1999. «Die irischen Gedichte im Reichenauer Schulheft.» In Studia Celtica and Indogermanica, edited by Peter Anreiter and Erzsebét Jerem, 503-529. Budapest: Archaeolingua.

Wheatley, David. 1999. «South of the Border.» The Irish Times, 10 February, 1999.

Wheatley, David. 2001. «The Aistriúchán Cloak: Paul Muldoon and the Irish Language.» New Hibernia Review 5 (4): 123-134.




How to Cite

Moi, Ruben. 2022. “Pangur Bán, Translation, Postmodernism, Paul Muldoon”. Nordlit 49 (1):1-15.