I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals–
I know what the caged bird feels!
I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting–
I know why he beats his wing!
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,–
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings–
I know why the caged bird sings!
Sympathy is a poem written by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Paul Laurence Dunbar was an African-American poet who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He lived through slavery, racism and segregation. My parents have a book of his poetry on the shelf in our library. I already posted one of his poems on my blog back on October 7th. It is called Good Night. Also, I blogged about the death of Maya Angelou on May 28th. That was five months ago. She wrote an autobiography called I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. That book is also on our shelf. I am going to read it next and I’ll post a summary about it when I’m finished. She took the name of her book from the last line of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem, Sympathy.