Friday, March 14, 2008

A very dear friend of mine

    The Panther

    His tired gaze - from passing endless bars -
    has turned into a vacant stare which nothing holds.
    To him there seem to be a thousand bars,
    and out beyond these bars exists no world.

    His supple gait, the smoothness of strong strides
    that gently turn in ever smaller circles
    perform a dance of strength, centered deep within
    a will, stunned, but untamed, indomitable.

    But sometimes the curtains of his eyelids part,
    the pupils of his eyes dilate as images
    of past encounters enter while through his limbs
    a tension strains in silence
    only to cease to be, to die within his heart.

    Translated by
    Albert Ernest Flemming

    Der Panther [Original]

    Im Jardin des Plantes, Paris

    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.

    Rainer Maria Rilke


  1. One is quite torn by this image which is so sad. I love to visit zoos and do so often but I am realize that these animals might be better in the wild.
    That said, many have been saved from extinction by man's intervention and zoo breeding programs.

  2. That is so powerful Sean. I must read more Rilke - in translation sadly as my German is non existent

  3. jmb,
    yes. In many zoos many people do good.
    Having ackknowleged this, let me come to the poem. Why would I call 'The Panther' a very good friend of mine? - 'cause whenever the poem enters my mind I do think: It could be me . :)
    Rilke wrote this poem when exhibits of human beings were a great attraction to many of his contemporaries.
    By the way, Gracchi some time ago wrote a good article about the Elephant Man.

  4. Jams,
    yes! Nothing against translators. But most translations would (could) not be congenial.
    Look at me: I am slightly often wondering why I'd be blogging in English; all these lacks of vocabulary; all these mistakes; it would be 'such easy' in German.
    But: Without 'taking this risk', I'd not 'met' you, jmb and lots of others who don't speak 'my' language.
    Good to have you (all), my friend(s). :)

  5. Naturally I was not aware of the underlying sentiment of this poem and of course you are right. Many "different" people were exhibited to the public in former times. I'm sure they had no choice often for they were pre-social service days.

    I did read Gracchi's post on the Elephant Man and it made me remember the film, with the great actor John Hurt as the Elephant Man, which I saw many years ago.