The Panther Poem by Rainer Maria Rilke

The Panther

Rating: 3.5

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly--. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

Jacques Van Damme 12 February 2010

A translation by Stephen Cohn: The bars which pass and strike across hisgaze have stunned his sight: the eyes have lost their hold. To him it seems there are athousand bars, a thousand bars, and nothing else. No World And pacing out that mean, constricted ground, so quiet, supple, powerful his stride is like a ritual dance performed around the centre where his baffled will survives. The silent shutter of his eye sometimes slides open to admit some thing outside; an image runs through each expectant limb and penetrates his heart and dies

46 11 Reply
Richard Tattershall 25 January 2012

How many millions of us have visited to a zoo and seen that same scene of an animal behind bars, felt a little unease or even a trace of empathy but then did nothing. It takes a very special genius to see what millions of others have seen and say something that while the others sensed it, themselves did nothing.

37 12 Reply
Andrew Hoellering 15 January 2010

Der Panther Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehn der Stäbe So müd geworden, daß er nichts mehr hält. Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt. Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte, Der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht, Ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte, In der betäubt ein großer Wille steht. Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille Sich lautlos auf. - Dann geht ein Bild hinein, geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille - Und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.

23 12 Reply
Eilonwe Shirotsume 02 August 2009

I prefer J.B. Leishman's translation: THE PANTHER His gaze those bars keep passing is so misted with tiredness, it can take in nothing more. He feels as though a thousand bars existed, and no more world beyond them than before. Those supply-powerful paddings, turning there in tiniest of circles, well might be the dance of forces round a center where some mighty will stands paralytically. Just now and then the pupil's noiseless shutter is lifted. - Then an image will indart, down through the limbs' intensive stillness flutter, and end it's being in the heart.

21 12 Reply
Michael Ryland 21 December 2021

Angelou knew why the caged bird sings. Rilke knew why the caged cat cries.

5 0 Reply
Smoky Hoss 09 May 2022

very true.

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Emil H. 03 September 2021

please the few last words in this poem: und er hört im herzen auf zu sein: mean: he first stop existing in our hearts- when we die, when no hope is left, we first stop dying in our hearts.

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Ruta Mohapatra 05 May 2018

The poet has a lot of empathy for the poor beast trapped behind bars. We all love our freedom!

2 3 Reply
Arun Bhatdwaj 07 December 2017

What a beautiful ecpression.

1 2 Reply
Jozef Neumann 27 August 2016

A very powerful poem. Great work, Rainer Maria.

4 4 Reply
Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke

Prague / Czech Republic
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