The Panther (subtitled: In Jardin des Plantes, Paris) 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 Jardin des Plantes in Paris. It is one of Rilke's most famous poems and 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, and poets like Robert Bly.
What's your interpretation?
His gaze against the sweeping of the bars
has grown so weary, it can hold no more.
To him, there seem to be a thousand bars
and back behind those thousand 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.