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09 May 2005

Rilke's Panther in le Jardin des Plantes

Evidence received that more people from Mitteleuropa are visiting Vleeptron! Wunderbar!

So ... uhhh ... like ... what do people who can really read and understand it think of the Rilke poem? In deutschesprache places, is Rilke well-known and beloved? Or is he an old, forgotten, dead geezer?

In the movie "Awakenings," a neurologist (Robin Williams) at a hospital in the Bronx in the 1960s (Jimi Hendrix is blaring from a car radio) has dozens of patients who cannot speak or communicate or move their muscles, they have been trapped in their bodies for decades. But the doctor is increasingly convinced they are not brain-dead, he is sure there is Something Going On behind their eyes, if only he could find a way for them to communicate.

He brings in a Ouija (OUI + JA) board and tries it on a patient (Robert De Niro). He tells the patient to use the Ouija board to spell his name: LEONARD.

But it isn't working. He is spelling something wrong, something unfamiliar. Maybe his hand muscles are just spastic. But maybe ...

The doctor writes down the letters that the patient seems to be spelling, slowly, torturously, with the Ouija board:

R ....... I ...... L ...... K ....... E

... and then:

P ...... A ..... N ...... T ........ H ........ E ....... R

The doctor goes to the library and discovers that Rilke is a poet, and wrote a poem called "The Panther." Then he goes to the Bronx Zoo, which has a magnificent collection of big cats, and recites the poem as he gazes at the panther behind the bars of his cage. I think it's a profoundly moving moment in a wonderful movie -- which is actually a remarkable True Story. (And I like it twice because I went to college in the Bronx in the 1960s.)

When I watch foreign movies on television which have the soundtrack dubbed in English, I'm grateful, of course, but I also feel I'm losing a lot, and I distrust the translations, but I have no way of knowing how True or How False they are to the original dialogue. But when Mitteleuropeans see this movie dubbed in German, this must be a moment like delicious candy, because the actor dubbing for Robin Williams gets to read "Der Panther" exactly as Rilke wrote it. It is More True than the American original.

I've never been to Paris, but I guess I have to go now. Here is where Rilke's panther was pacing endlessly up and down:

Jardin des Plantes
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Jardin des Plantes is the main botanical garden in France. It is situated in the 5ème arrondissement, Paris, on the left bank of the river Seine. It covers 28 hectares (280,000 m²).

The Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle is situated within the garden. It is made up of four galleries: the Grande Galerie de l'Evolution, the Mineralogy Museum, the Paleontology Museum and the Entomology Museum. In addition to the gardens there is also an aquarium and a small zoo.

The Jardin de Plantes maintains a botanical school, which trains botanists, constructs demonstration gardens, and exchanges seeds to maintain biotic diversity. About 4500 plants are arranged by family on a one hectare (10,000 m²) plot.

Three hectares are devoted to horticultural displays of decorative plants. An Alpine garden has 3000 species with world-wide representation. Specialized buildings, such as the Orangerie and the Mexican and Australian hothouses present regional plants, not native to France. The Rose Garden has hundreds of species of roses and rose trees.


The garden was originally planted by Guy de La Brosse, Louis XIII's physician, in 1626 as a medicinal herb garden. It was originally known as the Jardin du Roi. In 1650 it opened to the public.

After a period of decline Colbert took administrative control of the gardens. Dr Guy Crescent Fagon was appointed in 1693, and he surrounded himself with a team of brilliant botanists, including Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, Antoine de Jussieu, Antoine Laurent de Jussieu and his son Adrien-Henri.

The Comte de Buffon became the curator in 1739 and he expanded the gardens greatly, adding a maze, the Labyrinth, which remains today. In 1792 the Royal Menagerie was moved to the gardens from Versailles.

And it has a Labyrinth!!! I can't wait to go directly from the Entrance to the Center, and then from the Center to the Exit by using Theseus' Algorithm! Everyone else will be lost, perdu, little children will be crying, but I will go in and out logically, effectively, scientifically, mathematically!


Blogger Mamagiggle said...

Even with the keys and maps it is very easy to get turned around in a labyrinth, that is its entire function after all. Left, right, north and south get spun and twisted very quickly, especially if you intellectualize instead of experience, hey ho, please go to that Garden and tell us about its wonders!! (Though do stop to teach the crying children a few tricks then you'll be a real hero.)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that I love Jardins des Plantes as it is brilliant and I have written about it on my Paris vaction blog.

Blogger Vleeptron Dude said...

hey hey Matchhotels, thanks! glad you liked my post, glad you love the Jardin des Plantes ...

but you have to go HERE!!! This is my Favorite Post! (Because my French is so crappy.) SVP cliquez ici:

It's about the Labyrinth in le Jardin des Plantes, and it explains the Secret to find your way out of the Labyrinth!


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