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The Panther

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.


About ivonprefontaine

I completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Previously, I taught for 20 years and taught for 15 years in a wonderful hybrid school. My dissertation topic and research were how certain teachers experience becoming who teachers. In teaching and leanring, I am a boundary-crosser who understands moving ahead is a leap of faith. Teaching is a calling and vocation to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what calls me next. I am an educator, phenomenologist, scholar, boundary-crosser, published poet, author, parent, grandparent, and spouse.

16 responses »

  1. I loved this poem in my German literature/poetry class!

  2. A really heart wrenching poem. I see caged animals different now.

  3. I became familiar with Rilke 1980’s. I liked it because it has imagery, depth and actually goes somewhere as opposed to the nonsense called contemporary poetry.

  4. Beautiful, but what a deeply sad chord it strikes.

  5. world seen through special eyes

  6. I love this metaphor… beautiful and so glad I came to see your blog… I hope we can enjoy each others journey awakening to who we truly are… and not living in our limited world… Barbara

  7. Pingback: Cages | Teacher as Transformer

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