The Panther is a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke written on 6 November 1902.
It describes a captured panther behind bars, as it was exhibited in the Ménagerie of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.
It is one of Rilke‘s most famous poems.
It has been translated into English many times, including by many distinguished translators of Rilke, like Stephen Mitchell, C. F. MacIntyre, J. B. Leishman and Walter Arndt, Jessie Lamont and poets like Robert Bly.
It is used in the film Awakenings (1990) by the protagonist Leonard Lowe as a metaphor for his physical disability.
The victims of an encephalitis epidemic many years ago have been catatonic ever since, but now a new drug offers the prospect of reviving them. Starring Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, Julie Kavner.
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.
translated by Stephen Mitchell