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The Panther — In Jardin des Plantes, Paris

His gaze, going past those bars, has got 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 supple powerful paddings, turning there
in tiniest of circles, well might be
the dance of forces round a centre where
some mighty will stands paralyticly.

Just now and then the pupils’ noiseless shutter
is lifted.—Then an image will indart,
down through the limbs’ intensive stillness flutter,
and end its being in the heart.

Germany, 20th century
Translation. J.B. Fleishman



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.

Paris, November 6, 1902
Rainer Maria Rilke (René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke)

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“The earth laughs in flowers.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Origin, other sources and thanks for this Brew News bedtime story, “The Panther — In Jardin des Plantes, Paris”:

  • Written on 6 November 1902, “The Panther — In Jardin des Plantes”, describes a captured panther behind bars as it was exhibited in the Menagerie of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris at the time. We featured Paris and France, last month (July 2016) here at Brew News but Rilke was a Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist and that’s all it took to qualify him for the September in Austria bedtime story.
  • “Cage aux lions” is a 1967 contemporary realism painting by Gilles Aillaud.
  • “Space Unbounded” is a 1941 Abstract Expressionist piece by Austrian-Mexican painter and theorist, Wolfgang Paalen.

Editor’s note:

  1. This is a bedtime story, which we think means it’s okay if the graphics show lions rather than panthers.
  2. It’s a complete coincidence (we hope) that bars were featured in July’s bedtime story, “To Paint the Portrait of a Bird.”
  3. “paralyticly” was spelled thus by translator J.B. Fleishman in “a flock of words — an anthology of poetry for children and others” ergo it didn’t seem right to correct it — maybe it’s one of those “British things.”
  4. We chose Fleishman’s translation because it has more cadence to it than others, two of which you can find at Wikipedia.

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