Rilke worked for the sculptor Rodin. Rumour has it Rilke could not write and grew frustrated. Rodin suggested he go to the zoo, observe and see one of the animals clearly, and write about those observations. The result was this poem which described the essence, from Rilke’s point of view, of this magnificent, trapped animal, a metaphor, in some ways for the sometimes trapped human essence and creative seat.
We, as humans, pace behind the bars that we construct for ourselves and have to look inside for power that allows escape. Our spirits reveal the power and beauty where ultimate personal and collective meaning are. In the quiet and stillness of being fully present to ourselves, much is revealed. Otherwise, the cages and bars of our own making capture us and refuse to let us go.
From seeing the bars, his seeing is so exhausted
that it no longer holds anything anymore.
To him the world is bars, a hundred thousand
bars, and behind the bars, nothing.
The lithe swinging of that rhythmical easy stride
which circles down to the tiniest hub
is like a dance of energy around a point
in which a great will stands stunned and numb.
Only at times the curtains of the pupil rise
without a sound … then a shape enters,
slips through the tightened silence of the shoulders,
reaches the heart, and dies.