- Year Published: 1913
- Language: English
- Country of Origin: United States of America
- Source: Dunbar, P.L. (1913). The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar. New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company.
- Flesch–Kincaid Level: 6.5
- Word Count: 194
Dunbar, P. (1913). Sympathy. Lyrics of the Hearthside (Lit2Go Edition). Retrieved May 26, 2016, from
Dunbar, Paul Laurence. "Sympathy." Lyrics of the Hearthside. Lit2Go Edition. 1913. Web. <>. May 26, 2016.
Paul Laurence Dunbar, "Sympathy," Lyrics of the Hearthside, Lit2Go Edition, (1913), accessed May 26, 2016,.
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!