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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

RILKE                                         193

is vitalized by personality. If, for instance, in Rilke's Panther there"
is Rilke himself, then the poem is intensely personal; that is, it is a
true lyric, and not a careful Parnassian elaboration; what matters is
the feeling, not the picture or the cosmic sense of the picture. It is
true that though the symbolism is highly personal the person of the
poet symbolizes the higher intelligence of man; and thus we get
what we might call an intellectualized cosmic symbolism. Rilke
projects himself, if only as depersonalized intelligence, into his
object; and it may be wrong to say that in Der Panther  which
may serve as a type - he reflects the inner nature of his object. He
is perhaps only impersonal in so far as he says 'panther' instead
of T. We know how this particular poem came into being. Rodin
in his bluff way had said to the poet: 'You can't see, go to the
Jardin des Plantes'; and Rilke had obeyed, had watched, and tried
to pierce into the inner life of the animals behind the bars. The
result was a poem as poignant, from the animal point of view, as
Ralph Hodgson's famous poem; but cruelty to animals is not
Rilke's subject. The picture of the caged animal is the object of
the poem, the panther is the type, and the symbol is man cribbed,
cabined, and confined in the torment of irrealizable creative desire:

Sein Elick ist vom Vorubergehn der Stabe
so mud geworden, dass er nichts mehr halt.
Ihm r/, als ob es tausend Stabe gdbe
mid hinter tausend Stdben kerne Welt.

Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte^
der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise drehty
ist me ein Tan^ von Kraft urn erne Mitte,
in der betdubt ein grosser Wille steht

Nur einmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
sich lautlos auf- . Dann geht ein "Bild hinein^
geht durtb der Glieder angespannte Stille -
und hort im Her^en auf^u sein.

The 'Kongruen^ von Objekt^ RJytbmus und Atmosphdrf is obtained by
the regularity of the rhythm, as regular as the pacing of the animal
in his confined space; and the fatigue and despair is indicated by
the slow monosyllables and the truncation of the kst line, while
the passing of bar by bar before the panther's eyes is suggested by