Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar

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.

Maya Angelou Died Today

I know why the caged bird singsMaya Angelou died today, Wednesday, May 28, 2014.  I know who she is from watching her on Oprah.  My mom is always watching the Oprah network and Maya Angelou was on the show, Oprah’s Lifeclass.  I think on Lifeclass people talk about their lives and give advice.  Anyway, my mom said that Maya Angelou wrote one of her favorite books, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  My mom read that book when she was in middle school and she told me that I should read it too.  She even has the exact book that she read back then.  It’s on our bookshelf with some of the other books that Maya Angelou has written.  I’m going to read it too.  They called her Dr. Maya Angelou, but she wasn’t a medical doctor.

She was born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri.  Her name was actually Marguerite Annie Johnson.  She was raised in Stamps, Arkansas and San Francisco, California where her parents sent her to live with her grandmother.  I knew that Dr. Angelou was a writer, but I didn’t know that she was a singer, a dancer (just like me), and an actress.  The articles on the Internet also say that she was Hollywood’s first black female movie director.  I didn’t know that.  My mom didn’t either.  She participated in the Civil Rights Movement and she knew Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. She was also a poet laureate and was the second poet to perform at a presidential inauguration when she read a poem at President Bill Clinton’s ceremony in 1993.  Dr. Maya Angelou was 86.