Cats in the 19th Century (Part 19-Rainer Maria Rilke)

Rainer Maria Rilke- cats in literatureThe poet, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), rose to become one of the most well known Bohemian Austrian poets in the German language.  Still popular today, his poem, Black Cat portrays the cat as a mystical being engulfing insignificant man.

 

Black Cat

A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear:

just as a raving madman, when nothing else
can ease him, charges into his dark night
howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels
the rage being taken in and pacified.

She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen
into her, so that, like an audience,
she can look them over, menacing and sullen,
and curl to sleep with them. But all at once

as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;
and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,
inside the golden amber of her eyeballs
suspended, like a prehistoric fly.

Rilke was the lover of artist Balthus’ mother Baladine.  With Rilke’s influence, the young Balthus illustrated his book Mitsou a story about a boy and a cat. (see more about Balthus

 

 

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Comments

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