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Thursday, November 15, 2007


A very poetic leopard

Here's the latest addition to my cat art collection--a gift from my friend Joan. To me, it looks like a leopard!

Did you know that the great American poet Emily Dickinson wrote a poem about the leopard?

Civilization--spurns--the Leopard


Civilization—spurns—the Leopard!
Was the Leopard—bold?
Deserts—never rebuked her Satin—
Ethiop—her Gold—
Tawny—her Customs—
She was Conscious—
Spotted—her Dun Gown—
This was the Leopard's nature—Signor—
Need—a keeper—frown?

Pity—the Pard—that left her Asia—
Memories—of Palm—
Cannot be stifled—with Narcotic—
Nor suppressed—with Balm—

Emily Dickinson

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.

Look for more poetic beasts at Modulator's Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats will be at Pet's Garden Blog this Sunday.

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