Treasure Island

Rainer Maria Rilke

(4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926 / Prague / Czech Republic)

The Panther


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.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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Comments about this poem (The Panther by Rainer Maria Rilke )

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  • Michael Morgan (8/9/2014 11:40:00 AM)

    Shows what can be gained by focusing beyond the limits of the individual ego- a prison cell, after all. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Morgan (8/9/2014 11:36:00 AM)

    Must really be read in the original. 'Ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte' is beyond translation, despite many attempts. Achieving the true goal of poetry, the line translates the gist of a great idea into the rhythms of felicitous phrasing and word sonics.. (Report) Reply

  • Lanka Vsrao. (11/29/2012 7:31:00 AM)

    Once in a great while you read something that bypasses the brain and goes straight to the heart. well narrated. Beautiful. (Report) Reply

  • Richard Tattershall (1/25/2012 11:02:00 AM)

    How many millions of us have visited to a zoo and seen that same scene of an animal behind bars, felt a little unease or even a trace of empathy but then did nothing. It takes a very special genius to see what millions of others have seen and say something that while the others sensed it, themselves did nothing. (Report) Reply

  • Jacques Van Damme (2/12/2010 11:51:00 AM)

    A translation by Stephen Cohn:

    The bars which pass and strike across hisgaze
    have stunned his sight: the eyes have lost their hold.
    To him it seems there are athousand bars,
    a thousand bars, and nothing else. No World
    And pacing out that mean, constricted ground,
    so quiet, supple, powerful his stride
    is like a ritual dance performed around
    the centre where his baffled will survives.

    The silent shutter of his eye sometimes
    slides open to admit some thing outside;
    an image runs through each expectant limb
    and penetrates his heart and dies (Report) Reply

  • Andrew Hoellering (1/15/2010 5:52:00 AM)

    Der Panther

    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. (Report) Reply

  • Eilonwe Shirotsume (8/2/2009 4:51:00 AM)

    I prefer J.B. Leishman's translation:

    THE PANTHER
    His gaze those bars keep passing is so misted
    with tiredness, it can take in nothing more.
    He feels as though a thousand bars existed,
    and no more world beyond them than before.

    Those supply-powerful paddings, turning there
    in tiniest of circles, well might be
    the dance of forces round a center where
    some mighty will stands paralytically.

    Just now and then the pupil's noiseless shutter
    is lifted. - Then an image will indart,
    down through the limbs' intensive stillness flutter,
    and end it's being in the heart. (Report) Reply

  • James Al-kassab (2/20/2006 3:59:00 AM)

    I love this poem. Only this and 'The Highwayman' are the only two written pieces that saddens me so, even after constant rereading. (Report) Reply

  • Sinnaminsun Sinnaminsun (7/15/2005 12:35:00 PM)

    I become so emotional whenever I read this poem. It is the most beautifully written poem I have ever read. It is wonderfully descriptive in a very unique way. (Report) Reply

Read all 10 comments »

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