Spotlight Poetry – Sympathy – A Poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar

The image depicts a painting titled Bird Cage I by the artist Jill Hudson. The work is a painting of a small bird in a cage against a dark and sombre background. The work explores the idea of captivity and freedom, literally, and also figuratively within our own lives. The bird here has just been caught - it is still wild, described by it's vivid colours - a sharp contrast to it's unfamiliar, somewhat claustrophobic surroundings The image supports the poem Sympathy written by the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.
© Jill Hudson, Bird Cage I, 2011

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!

Poem Attribution © Paul Laurence Dunbar, Sympathy

Source Attribution https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46459/sympathy-56d22658afbc0

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Painting Attribution © Jill Hudson, Bird Cage I, 2011

Source Attribution https://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-Bird-cage-I-22-5cm-x-22-5cm-SOLD/8781/1193956/view

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