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

  • (6/12/2018 5:46:00 PM)

    when the poet says but a plea and upwards to heaven he flings, well in other words what can flings replace as/? ? ? ? ? / (Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • (4/24/2018 9:55:00 PM)

    Great poem, I see Mr Dunbar, working as a elevator boy, inside this steel cage, waiting and praying, sending a song straight from his heart to God, just as David did while watched his sheep in the fields. (Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • (12/4/2017 7:26:00 AM)

    i love this poem, thanks for sharing. (Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • Hebert Logerie Sr. (10/13/2015 2:41:00 AM)

    Paul L. Dunbar is on of my favorite poet. He knows what the caged bird feels. (Report)Reply

    8 person liked.
    7 person did not like.
  • (7/5/2015 3:13:00 PM)

    A lovely poem. So intense! (Report)Reply

    5 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • Godfrey Morris (4/29/2015 5:39:00 PM)

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

    9 person liked.
    6 person did not like.
  • Francis Lynch (4/29/2015 5:04:00 PM)

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

    3 person liked.
    8 person did not like.
  • 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

    6 person liked.
    5 person did not like.
  • (4/29/2015 11:27:00 AM)

    Did Angelou rip this guy off? (Report)Reply

    Augusto Lunedi(5/1/2015 5:32:00 PM)

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

    6 person liked.
    5 person did not like.
  • (4/29/2015 6:24:00 AM)

    Much better than Angelou. (Report)Reply

    6 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • Chinedu Dike (4/29/2015 5:08:00 AM)

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

    6 person liked.
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  • (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

    6 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • 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

    7 person liked.
    5 person did not like.
  • 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

    20 person liked.
    13 person did not like.
  • (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

    36 person liked.
    63 person did not like.
  • (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

    36 person liked.
    55 person did not like.
  • 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

    38 person liked.
    56 person did not like.
  • (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

    44 person liked.
    53 person did not like.
  • (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

    39 person liked.
    52 person did not like.
  • (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

    39 person liked.
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Read all 25 comments »

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

Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003

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