Der Panter

A poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. I think I posted this here before, but I cannot find it. In 1967, my father’s colleague Hazard Adams was working on an anthology of literature in translation. He was after a translation of this poem but couldn’t find a decent English version. My dad said “Let me take a look”, and took the poem home for the evening. The next day he produced this, which is the one Adams used. Edit: Two typos fixed courtesy ch and fimmtiu. Thanks guys. Those typos have been there for years, too. Wow.

THE PANTHER

Jardin des Plantes, Paris

The bars go by, and watching them his sight
grows tired and fails to grasp what eyes are for.
There are a thousand bars, it seems to him;
behind the thousand bars there’s nothing more.

The supple gait of swift and powerful steps
pacing out its circle on the ground
is like a dance of strength around a center
in which a great bewildered mind is bound.
Yet now and then the curtain of the pupil
silently parts: a picture goes inside,
slips through the tightened limbs, and in the heart
ceases to be, like something that has died.

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