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Rainer Maria Rilke

tumblr_od0sw2imwj1qf6wbmo1_r1_400René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke (4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926)—better known as Rainer Maria Rilke, was a Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist, “widely recognized as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets”, writing in both verse and highly lyrical prose. Several critics have described Rilke’s work as inherently “mystical”. His writings include one novel, several collections of poetry, and several volumes of correspondence in which he invokes haunting images that focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety (italics MINE!). These deeply existential themes tend to position him as a transitional figure between the traditional and the modernist writers.
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I stumbled across a reference to this poem by Rilke in a comment over on Douglas Branson’s blog Specks and Fragments. I found it, read it, and read it again very slowly trying to become that panther, and it made me all teary. Teary because sometimes I feel like that, too. It became an instant favorite. 

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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.

– English translation by Stephen Mitchell

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Note: Douglas Branson is a terrific author himself. He has published a new flip-book, Reclaim. You can see it here. Do have a look!

Picture Credits:
Rilke — Tumblr
Panther — Panther Nation

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