The Panther – Life in Captivity

Dear Oscar,
I could tell something about wild animals, exotic species in circuses and zoos, – creatures who have been hounded, trapped, caught, exposed and humiliated just for the selfish purpose of men’s amusement.
Instead I like to share a poem that often comes into my mind when I am thinking about you. Rainer Maria Rilke, a Bohemian-Austrian poet who lived at the turn of the last century, put these thoughts down in writing.

pic © wikipedia (L’Illustration, 1902)

pic © wikipedia (L’Illustration, 1902)

Der Panther
Im ‚Jardin des Plantes‘, Paris (1902/03)
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.

The Panther
In the ‚Jardin des plantes’, Paris
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.

(Stephen Mitchell)

I imagine that even life under house arrest is not always easy.

Still in your support,
Deborah (Germany)

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