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
Oh, summer has clothed the earth In a cloak from the loom of the sun! And a mantle, too, of the skies' soft blue, And a belt where the rivers run. And now for the kiss of the wind, And the touch of the air's soft hands, With the rest from strife and the heat of life, With the freedom of lakes and lands. I envy the farmer's boy Who sings as he follows the plow; While the shining green of the young blades lean To the breezes that cool his brow. He sings to the dewy morn, No thought of another's ear; But the song he sings is a chant for kings And the whole wide world to hear. He sings of the joys of life, Of the pleasures of work and rest, From an o'erfull heart, without aim or art; 'T is a song of the merriest. O ye who toil in the town, And ye who moil in the mart, Hear the artless song, and your faith made strong Shall renew your joy of heart. Oh, poor were the worth of the world If never a song were heard,— If the sting of grief had no relief, And never a heart were stirred. So, long as the streams run down, And as long as the robins trill, Let us taunt old Care with a merry air, And sing in the face of ill.