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Poems for Kids

The Arrow and the Song

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


I shot an arrow into the air,

It fell to earth, I knew not where;

For, so swiftly it flew, the sight

Could not follow it in its flight.


I breathed a song into the air,

It fell to earth, I knew not where;

For who has sight so keen and strong,

That it can follow the flight of song?


Long, long afterward, in an oak

I found the arrow, still unbroke;

And the song, from beginning to end,

I found again in the heart of a friend.




Pangur Bán - Translation by Robin Flowers, Copyright 1931


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.


Sometimes called "The Monk and his Cat", the poem Pangur Bán was written by an Irish monk, in the 9th or late 8th Century. It details the similarities between the scribe hunting appropriate words and solutions, and his pet cat hunting mice.  The poem was originally in a form of Gaelic, and the most common translation is by the scholar Robin Flowers. It has kept much of the poetry of the original - other translators have simply translated into prose or very bad verse. Flowers stayed fairly close to the meaning of the text, and indeed to the metre of the original - a herculean task. 

The name of the cat; Pangur Bán, means simply "white Pangur" or white cat. Pangur is a very common cat's name, and would have been recognized as such in 9th century Ireland. Roughly, it could be compared to the English "Kitty". Some legends involve Pangur Bán and Pangur Dubh - the white cat andthe black cat. 




Autumn Song

A good stay-at-home season is Autumn; then there's work to be done by all

Speckled fawns, where the branches make covert, range away undetected.

And stags that were seen upon hillocks, now give head to the call

To the bellowing call of the hinds, and they draw back to the herd.

A good stay-at-home season is Autumn; the brown world's marked into fields;

The corn is up to its growth; the acorns teem in the wood;

By the side of the down-fallen fort even the thornbush yields

A crop, and there by the rath the hazelnuts drop from a load.



Manuscript: Book of Leinster

Translation: Padraic Colum. The Silver Branch, ed. Sean O'Faolain. 1938.



Winter has Come

Scel lem duib: Here's a song -

dordaid dam, stag's give tongue

snigid gaim, winter snows

ro-faith sam; summer goes


gaeth ard uar, High cold blow

isel grian, sun is low

gair a rith, brief his day

ruirthech rian; seas give spray


roruad rath, Fern clumps redden

ro-cleth cruth, shapes are hidden

ro-gab gnath wild geese raise

gingrann guth; wonted cries.


ro-gab uacht Cold now girds

etti en, wings of birds

aigre re: icy time -

e mo scel. that's my rhyme.


From: A Celtic Miscellany: Translations from the Celtic Literatures

by Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson (Translator)




A Song of Winter

Mac Lesc, son of Ladan, a fat loon who was of Finn's household, 'tis he that

sang these quatrains below. It happened one night that he and Finn were

separated from the war-band at Colt's standing-stone on Slieve Guillion when

Finn sent him to seek water for them. 'Tis then he said, so that he might not

have to go forth to seek the water:


  Cold, cold!

  Cold to-night is broad Moylurg,

  Higher the snow than the mountain-range,

  The deer cannot get at their food.


  Cold till Doom!

  The storm has spread over all,

  A river is each furrow upon the slope,

  Each ford a full pool.


  A great tidal sea is each loch,

  A full loch is each pool:

  Horses cannot get over the ford of Ross,

  No more can two feet get there.


  The fish of Ireland are a-roaming,

  There is no strand which the wave does not pound,

  Not a town there is in the land,

  Nor a bell is heard, no crane talks.


  The wolves of Cuan-wood get

  Neither rest nor sleep in their lair,

  The little wren cannot find

  Shelter in her nest on the slope of Lon.


  Keen wind and cold ice

  Have burst upon the little company of birds,

  The blackbird cannot get a lee to her liking,

  Shelter for its side in Cuan-wood.


  Cosy our pot on its hook,

  Crazy the hut on the slope of Lon:

  The snow has crushed the wood here,

  Toilsome to climb up Ben-bo.

  Glenn Rye's ancient bird

  From the bitter wind gets grief;

  Great her misery and her pain,

  The ice will get into her mouth.


  From flock and from down to rise -

  Take it to heart! - were folly for thee:

  Ice in heaps on every ford -

  That is why I say 'cold'.



Manuscript: Unidentified

Translation: Meyer, Kuno. Four Old-Irish Songs of Summer and Winter. London,

1903. reprinted from Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry. London, 1911.


Summer Has Come


Summer has come, healthy and free,

Whence the brown wood is aslope;

The slender nimble deer leap,

And the path of seals is smooth.


The cuckoo sings sweet music,

Whence there is smooth restful sleep;

Gentle birds leap upon the hill,

And swift grey stags.


Heat has laid hold of the rest of the deer-

The lovely cry of curly packs!

The white extent of the strand smiles,

There the swift sea is.


A sound of playful breezes in the tops

Of a black oakwood is Druim Daill,

The noble hornless herd runs,

To whom Cuan-wood is a shelter.


Green bursts out on every herb,

The top of the green oakwood is bushy,

Summer has come, winter has gone,

Twisted hollies wound the hound.


The blackbird sings a loud strain,

To him the live wood is a heritage,

The sad angry sea is fallen asleep,

The speckled salmon leaps.


The sun smiles over every land,

A parting for me from the brood of cares:

Hounds bark, stags tryst,

Ravens flourish, summer has come!



Manuscript: Unidentified

Translation: Meyer, Kuno. Four Old-Irish Songs of Summer and Winter. London,

1903. reprinted from Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry. London, 1911.



The following is a poem attributed to one of the greatest Irish heroes, 

Fionn Mac Cumhaill, said to have been composed by him shortly after gaining 

the gift of poetry from the salmon of wisdom.

Summer-time, season supreme!

Splendid is colour then.

Blackbirds sing a full lay

If there be a slender shaft of day.


The dust-coloured cuckoo calls aloud:

Welcome, splendid summer!

The bitterness of bad weather is past,

The boughs of the wood are a thicket.


Panic startles the heart of the deer,

The smooth sea runs apace -

Season when ocean sinks asleep,

Blosson covers the world.


Bees with puny strength carry

A goodly burden, the harvest of blossoms;

Up the mountain-side kine take with them mud,

The ant makes a rich meal.


The harp of the forest sounds music,

The sail-gathers - perfect peace;

Colour has settled on every height,

Haze on the lake of full waters.


The corncrake, a strenuous bird, discourses,

The lofty cold waterfall sings

A welcome to the warm pool -

The talk of the rushes has come.


Light swallows dart aloft,

Loud melody encircles the hill,

The soft rich mast buds,

The stuttering quagmire prattles.


The peat-bog is as the raven's coat,

The loud cuckoo bids welcome,

The speckled fish leaps -

Strong is the bound of the swift warrior.


Man flourishes, the maiden buds

In her fair strong pride.

Perfect each forest from top to ground,

Perfect each great stately plain.


Delightful is the season's splendour,

Rough winter has gone:

Every fruitful wood shines white,

A joyous peace is summer.


A flock of birds settles

In the midst of meadows,

The green field rustles,

Wherein is a brawling white stream.


A wild longing is on you to race horses,

The ranked host is ranged around:

A bright shaft has been shot into the land,

So that the water-flag is gold beneath it.


A timorous, tiny, persistent little fellow

Sings at the top of his voice,

The lark sings clear tidings:

Surpassing summer-time of delicate hues!




Manuscript: Bodleian MS Laud 610. 

Translation: Meyer, Kuno. Four Old-Irish Songs of Summer and Winter. London, 1903. reprinted from Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry. London, 1911.

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