A Poem to Pair with The Awakening

Today my classes finished reading Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, and I started class by sharing the poem “Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Your students might recognize this poem as the source of the title line for Maya Angelou’s book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

We only talked about the poem for a few minutes, but it led us in to our discussion of Edna and whether or not she could ever be free in her society/time period/marriage.

Sympathy

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!

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A Poem to Pair with The Awakening

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