Another stolen baby animal from me, this time Clara, a baby rhino taken from her mother who was shot and passed in ownership to the director of the Dutch East India Company who then passed her on to a Captain Van De Meer who took her to the Netherlands and then on a seventeen year European tour. This was in the 1740s and 50s. She died in 1758 having also become quite dependent on sweet wine. Like Obaysch, she was quite the celebrity and having been taken as a baby, was tame and attached to Van De Meer despite the obvious cruelty of her life. So I wrote a poem about her.
Clara attended dinner parties
and ate from her own salver, until
she became too big, too cumbersome
for polite company.
A rhinoceros has always needed thick skin,
though even horned, armoured,
and at one tonne, a mother
can still be felled to steal a daughter.
Clara's horn broke off on her European tour;
yet she remained a wonder, to Vienna
for an Empress, she drank sweet wine in London,
nonetheless, she dreamt only of mud.
A rhinoceros is not built for urban life,
or their little eyes for the landscape
of the confines of a crate, equipped, as they are,
for grasslands and floodplains.
Clara was unheard if she tried to speak
in infrasonic waves of a dim memory,
her plates and folds to ward off sun and
parasites - she could not have bargained for man
but comply, comply, smile and lie if you need to,
be amenable and docile and still: it is undignified, though
quiet work to love who you ought to fear, ever afraid
to meet the emptiness you suspect at the loss of it.
The first two are paintings of Clara, there's a lovely Stubb's painting, but I don't think it's in the public domain.
Image is from here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Clara_1749_Oudry.jpg
Image on Twitter: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clara_1751_Pietro_Longhi.jpg