I Know Why The Caged Bird Sing

Paul Laurence Dunbar version of “Sympathy, I Know Why The Cage Bird Sing”

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind blows soft through the springing grass,
And the river floats 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!

The poem was from 1913 collection of his work, The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar; the poem inspired the title of  Maya’s Angelou’s book, Why the Caged Bird Sings. Great poem by two great poets!

Maya Angelou version of “I Know Why The Cage Bird Sing”

The free bird leaps
on the back of the win
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and is tune is heard
on the distant hillfor the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

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4 Comments

  1. This is a beautiful book. Thank you for sharing Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s version. It’s lovely.

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    1. Thank you so much and thank you again for all the likes.

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      Reply

  2. I love that poem (and Maya Angelou too, of course!)
    Did you change your blog’s theme? Looks good!

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    Reply

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and liking my post. One of my favorite poems of all times. Yes, I changed the blog theme and love it too. Thanks a lot and have a blessed Tuesday. Best, Jenny

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