Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Scholar and the Cat, a poem

The Scholar and the Cat

                                       Each of us pursues his trade,
                                       I and Pangur my comrade,
                                      His whole fancy on the hunt,
                                      And mine for learning ardent.
                                      More than fame I love to be
                                      Among my books and study,                   
                                      Pangur does not grudge me it,
                                      Content with his own merit.

                                      When--a heavenly time!-we are
                                      In our small room together
                                      Each of us has his own sport
                                      And asks no greater comfort.

                                     While he sets his round sharp eye
                                     On the walls of my study
                                      I turn mine, though lost its edge
                                     On the great wall of knowledge.

                                     Now a mouse drops in his net
                                     after some mighty onset
                                    While into my bag I cram
                                    Some difficult darksome problem.

                                    When a mouse comes to the kill
                                     Pangur exults, a marvel!
                                     I have when some secret's won
                                    My hour of exultation.

                                     Though we worked for days and years
                                     Neither the other hinders;         
                                     Each is competent and hence
                                     Enjoys his skill in silence.

                                     Master of the death of mice,
                                     He keeps in daily practice
                                     I too, making dark things clear,
                                    Am of my trade a master. 

-- Anonymous --
Irish/Gaelic,  circa 850 AD
translated by Frank O'Conner
from World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time
Editors:  Katherine Washburn and John R. Major

I too have a cat, but it doesn't work exactly as it does with this scholar and Pangur.  While I'm reading or on the computer, Dusky is not out there seeking prey.  Instead, she is usually curled up on the bed, sofa, chair, window sill,  etc. catching up on her beauty sleep.  Of course, what goes on in her dreams, I have no idea.


  1. But do cats (or other animals) dream, and how could we possibly know? While I ponder that question, I will also ponder your posted poem. And I leave you with this observation: we have a very wary itinerant cat who refuses human contacts -- we cannot get within ten feet of it, and we have been unable to live-trap it so that we could get it "fixed" at the vet's office -- but it (she? he?) does stop by late every evening for a 1/2 cup of cat food. We put the food next to the St. Francis of Assisi statue in our front garden. Some sort of karma is working in all of our offerings.

    1. R.T.,

      I can't say for sure, but she does move her paws and twitch her whiskers and meows or whimpers at times in deep sleep. I prefer to think she is dreaming then. But, that is an arguable point. I don't know if any psychologists have tested cats for REM yet.

      You can try the slow accommodation technique with the cat. If the cat isn't completely feral, then that might work, but it will take time.

    2. I suppose I could look it up, but I defer to you for the explanation: slow accommodation technique. It sounds like a B. F. Skinner scheme.

    3. R.T.,

      Yes, it's a behaviorist technique. It might work, depending upon how long you are willing to work at it and whether the cat was ever handled by humans as a kitten. If the cat had no contact at all with humans while growing up, it won't work. Some recent research suggests that kittens must be handled by humans within the first six months, or perhaps even earlier (been a while so I don't remember the "window.") for them to become domesticated, or as domesticated as they ever will become. Some animal researchers believe that cats are still not completely domesticated and probably will require more time before they reach the same level as dogs and farm critters.

      Find the cat's comfort zone, how close you can get to it and not disturb it. Stay there for a week or so, and then move a little bit closer and remain there until the cat is comfortable. Then, move a little bit closer and wait. . . Keep repeating this slowly and patiently--no sudden movements.

      Eventually you may be able to have the food dish next to you and the cat will come to eat.

    4. R.T.,

      Sorry I should have said that the comfort zone refers to the distance between you and the food dish. You should be out there when the cat comes to eat. At first, stay a considerable distance away. Then after a while, move closer and when the cat refuses to approach the food dish, move back a bit until the cat moves in. There will be a point when the cat is uneasy but will still come to the dish. Stay at that distance until the cat is comfortable once more. Then move slightly closer........Repeat

      The length of time this will take depends upon the cat's past history with humans.

  2. At least Dusky's chosen sleeping arrangement isn't on your keyboard. Does she sometimes move her feet while sleeping. I've seen dogs that do and always thought they were dreaming. I heard something about it years ago, but can't remember what it was - whether they were dreaming or if it was just random involuntary muscle movement.

    1. madamevauquer,

      Sometimes though she does nod off on the mouse pad. In the past she would doze off on top of the computer or the monitor, but the new one is too small, and she took one look at the new flat screen and wandered off, not a happy camper.

      See my reply above to R.T. She is not completely inactive while sleeping, so something is going on inside, though whether that's a dream or an involuntary movement is the question. I prefer to think she's dreaming..

  3. Random: I have something for you: http://www.boredpanda.com/funny-cats-violate-personal-space/

    1. Di,

      Thanks for the link. Many of those photos I can testify to being part of my life with Dusky, especially when I'm trying to read, work at my desk, or work on the computer. Molly, the one before her, was a very different cat.

  4. I agree with you about our cats! Lucky & Phoebe are not hunters for which I'm very grateful. They'd rather be sleeping.

  5. Lyn,

    The same was true of Dusky; she'd go out occasionally but mainly to check out her territory and make sure no one had invaded her space.