A panther is a black cat that is associated with power, strength, and courage. In Rilke’s poem, the panther is caged behind bars. The animal sees the same thing day in and day out: “a thousand bars.” Being held captive, the panther feels hopeless there is “no world” inside the cage. His world is outside the cage, in the wilderness where he can roam freely. The human has been able to bring this beautiful creature with “powerful soft strides” under their control and in turn suppress his power. But, at moments hope springs up into the animal’s eyes: “the curtain of the pupils lifts, quietly.” The power within the panther is so strong that it “rushes down through the tensed arrested muscles,” but unfortunately it is overcome by the hopeless of being caged. Because the great power that resides within the panther is not released, but rather stays inside of him, it “plunges into the heart and is gone.” Can it be inferred that the animal symbolically dies due to it being caged and taken away from its natural element?
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