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 its 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!
Paul Laurence Dunbar - 1872-1906
Ships That Pass in the Night
Out in the sky the great dark clouds are massing; I look far out into the pregnant night, Where I can hear a solemn booming gun And catch the gleaming of a random light, That tells me that the ship I seek is passing, passing. My tearful eyes my soul's deep hurt are glassing; For I would hail and check that ship of ships. I stretch my hands imploring, cry aloud, My voice falls dead a foot from mine own lips, And but its ghost doth reach that vessel, passing, passing. O Earth, O Sky, O Ocean, both surpassing, O heart of mine, O soul that dreads the dark! Is there no hope for me? Is there no way That I may sight and check that speeding bark Which out of sight and sound is passing, passing?