know what the caged bird feels, alas!
the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
the river flows like a stream of glass;
the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
know what the caged bird feels!
know why the caged bird beats his wing
its blood is red on the cruel bars;
he must fly back to his perch and cling
he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
they pulse again with a keener sting—
know why he beats his wing!
know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
he beats his bars and he would be free;
not a carol of joy or glee,
a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep
plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
know why the caged bird sings!
Paul Laurence Dunbar