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.