Paul Laurence Dunbar

(1872-1906 / Ohio / United States)

Sympathy - Poem 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!


Comments about Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar

  • Bronze Star - 2,060 Points Godfrey Morris (4/29/2015 5:39:00 PM)

    This is the original. How beautiful. (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Silver Star - 3,266 Points Francis Lynch (4/29/2015 5:04:00 PM)

    Always preferred this poem over Maya's. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 244 Points John S (4/29/2015 12:23:00 PM)

    Absolutely beautiful poem. Wow, Maya Angelou's best known poem is a rip off! She doesn't even give Dunbar credit. (Report) Reply

  • Silver Star - 3,224 Points John Richter (4/29/2015 11:27:00 AM)

    Did Angelou rip this guy off? (Report) Reply

    Gold Star - 14,034 Points Kim Barney (5/1/2015 5:32:00 PM)

    Or did he rip her off? Which poem was written first?

  • Rookie - 424 Points Stephen W (4/29/2015 6:24:00 AM)

    Much better than Angelou. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 24,972 Points Chinedu Dike (4/29/2015 5:08:00 AM)

    A well articulated piece of poetry written with insight. Thanks for sharing. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 65 Points Ahmed Bashir (4/3/2015 8:23:00 AM)

    I do not think dunbar really gave it a wrong title, his title was the best and relevant title considering the era in which he lived, maya also inteligently, used the best title relative to her time. All are brilliant, but paul to me is original and exceptional (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 2,191 Points Hebert Logerie Sr. (5/30/2014 7:47:00 PM)

    Maya, the Singing Caged Bird Left Quietly
    (Poem dedicated to Paul Laurence Dunbar & Maya Angelou)

    The singing caged bird left quietly this morning.
    Everyone is searching for her, everyone is crying.
    It is always a shock when a special person is gone,
    Death always comes like a loose bullet from a gun.
    Death has an eerie way of shocking and torturing us.
    The only person left who knew the beautiful song
    Of the bird has departed. She is now in the arms of Jesus.
    She is now part of the chorus.
    She is using her tongue
    To recite some unforgettable verses to other great poets,
    Who have welcomed her to a joyful oasis of wonders.
    Let’s celebrate the life of this phenomenal woman,
    Let’s sing and pray for our beloved Maya. Amen!

    Copyright© May 28,2014 Logerie Hébert, All Rights Reserved
    Hebert Logerie is the author of several collections of poems (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 122 Points Gideon Arthur (1/1/2014 1:17:00 PM)

    Reading this poem is like reading Maya's own in a revised format. Nice words and touching message. Maybe Maya took her inspiration from Dunbar. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Tunji Ibrahim (9/26/2012 12:12:00 PM)

    'Sympathy'... Intense in point of view of life. Invariably, it is out of devastating experience that the poet gains insight. Without any shadow of doubt, here is a source that gives vitality to Maya's own creative control as manifest in 'I know Why The Caged Bird Sings'. Mr Paul has cause to smile in the grave every now and then. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 262 Points Ray Quesada (9/25/2012 1:56:00 PM)

    11 out of 10. I actually like this poem more than Angelou's poem, although they both are brilliant.
    anyone intersted will really enjoy my poem, Response to Maya Angelou (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 2,191 Points Hebert Logerie Sr. (8/23/2012 10:47:00 PM)

    Brother Paul, this is a great poem. Maya, definitely, borrowed from you. Her famous poem I know why the caged bird sings is awfully similar to Dunbar's poem Sympathy. Dunbar gave that poem the wrong title. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Mrs. Glass (11/5/2009 11:01:00 AM)

    I feel the poet is describing the inability to acheive true freedom while living during segregation. After reading this, I am enlightened as to how the poet struggles during this time. The theme is conveyed in a metaphor that is also used by Maya Angelou. Modern day Americans, of all races, cultures, and ethnic backgrounds, can relate to feeling imprisioned as the narrator does in this poem. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Peter K Mullins (8/21/2007 10:58:00 AM)

    Having read the book 'I know why the caged bird sings' by Maya Angelou, I understand more of this so sad poem, and of the writer himself. Beautiful in every way. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 3 Points Kimberly Kastner (5/6/2007 1:32:00 PM)

    I like this poem too. It's a very moving and beautiful poem even though I felt sorry for the poor bird the first time I read it. 10 out of 10. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Tyra Falconwing (1/24/2007 4:47:00 PM)

    One of my favorite poems, even though it's very sad. But it's still a beautiful poem. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Nathan Strange (12/9/2006 3:21:00 AM)

    this one of the greats (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kelly Allen Vinal (12/3/2004 6:16:00 AM)

    One of his very best. Served as the basis and inspiration for much of Maya Angelou's work, especially the poem, 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings'. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Krystle Newberry (10/1/2004 8:25:00 AM)

    I LOVE THIS POEM! It explains alot about how it feels to be trapped to want something so badly but you're not able to achieve or get what you want. (Report) Reply

Read all 20 comments »




Read this poem in other languages

What do you think this poem is about?

Read poems about / on: river, sympathy, red, joy, heaven, pain, wind, sun, heart, spring



Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003



[Hata Bildir]