Thursday, November 15, 2007
A very poetic leopard
Did you know that the great American poet Emily Dickinson wrote a poem about the leopard?
Was the Leopard—bold?
Deserts—never rebuked her Satin—
She was Conscious—
Spotted—her Dun Gown—
This was the Leopard's nature—Signor—
Pity—the Pard—that left her Asia—
Cannot be stifled—with Narcotic—
Nor suppressed—with Balm—
In this poem, Dickinson identifies with the captive female leopard. In her own habitat, the leopard is regal--dressed in satin and gold--and she is conscious. In captivity, under the frown of a "keeper," the leopard is diminished, but not broken. She still remembers her glory (the palm), and retains her feline dignity.
Like many of Dickinson's poems, this one can be read on several levels. Perhaps the leopard is the unconventional--the poetic impulse itself--wild and untamed. Or perhaps Dickinson saw the leopard's captivity as a symbol for slavery.
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