The Monk and His Cat (op. 29, no. 8)

(1954)

"The Monk and his Cat" is the eighth song of Samuel Barber's song cycle Hermit Songs. The cycle was composed in 1953 and published in 1954. The premiere was sung by soprano Leontyne Price.

The poem is a translation of a text by an anonymous Irish monk who lived sometime between the 8th and 13th centuries. The English translation used by Barber is by W. H. Auden. In the song, the monk talks to his cat, Pangur, about their daily lives.

The Monk and His Cat
adapted by W. H. Auden from an 8th or 9th century anonymous Irish text


Pangur, white Pangur,
How happy we are
Alone together, Scholar and cat.
Each has his own work to do daily;
For you it is hunting, for me, study.
Your shining eye watches the wall;
My feeble eye is fixed on a book.
You rejoice when your claws entrap a mouse;
I rejoice when my mind fathoms a problem.
Pleased with his own art
Neither hinders the other;
Thus we live ever
Without tedium and envy.
Pangur, white Pangur,
How happy we are,
Alone together, Scholar and cat.


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