An Actor

  1. The Abyssinian lion at the Zoological Garden is most interesting.
  2. He’s performing in a tragedy, one that shows him simultaneously
  3. languishing and growing fat. He despairs (a nameless despair)
  4. and at the same time keeps himself nice and round. He thrives and
  5. at the same time is slowly tormenting himself to death. And all of
  6. this plays out before the eyes of the assembled spectators. I myself
  7. stood for a long time before his cage, utterly incapable of tearing my
  8. eyes away from this kingly drama. On a side note, incidentally: I
  9. should like to change professions, if this might be done expeditiously
  10. and with little effort, and become a painter of animals. I’d be
  11. able to paint my fill just of this caged-in lion. Has the esteemed literary
  12. reader ever looked closely and with proper attentiveness at the
  13. eye of an elephant? It sparkles with primordial grandeur. But hark!
  14. What’s that roaring? Ah, it’s our dramatist. He’s his own playwright
  15. and his own player. Although he sometimes appears to be quite beside
  16. himself, he never loses his composure, for his dignity is inborn.
  17. Dignity, then, and at the same time wildness. Just think how beautiful
  18. and majestic it is when he sleeps. But let’s have a look at him
  19. when he senses the approach of feeding time. He descends to the
  20. level of an impatient child, in love with the vision of the approaching
  21. feast. Then at least he has something to do: he can tear at fresh
  22. meat. He’s so good at eating. How oddly a caged animal like this
  23. must know—and to some extent love—his keeper. At rest, how divine
  24. he is. He appears to be in mourning, appears to be entertaining
  25. quite particular thoughts, and I am tempted to swear that the
  26. thoughts he is immersed in are beautiful and sublime. Have you
  27. ever let him have a good look at you? Try it, attract his attention
  28. sometime. His gaze is the gaze of a god. And then what is he like when
  29. he grows uneasy and strides up and down in his prison cell, pressing
  30. his princely strength against the walls of his cage. Always up and down.
  31. Up and down. For hours on end. What a scene! Up and down, and
  32. his powerful tail thrashes the ground.