Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

This poem was published in 1983 in Maya Angelou’s poetry collection “Shaker, why don’t you sing?”. This was her 4th volume of poetry which was published by Random House. It contains 28 poems and they are dedicated to her son guy Johnson and her grandson Colin Ashanti Murphy Johnson. Maya Angelou has depicted the plight of the Black American especially Black Women through this poem.

In this poem, Maya Angelou tries to make a comparison between a free bird and the caged bird. The birds are used as an extended metaphor, the African Americans are compared to the caged birds and the unoppressed people compared to the free birds. The African Americans had to suffer immensely and the caged bird’s captivity depicts the same, whereas the free bird and its freedom to be able to do anything that it likes and its will to claim the sky and everything in its reach depicts the privilege and the entitlement that the un-oppressed felt

The free bird can fly anywhere, explore the sky and they are not subjected to any limitation but the caged bird is kept behind the cage, it cannot fly anywhere and it feels helpless and angered, in the same way, Maya Angelou tries to explain that the oppressed people were not given opportunities and they were treated badly.

The caged bird sings of freedom and that is why that song can be heard even on the distant hills. To the bird which is free, freedom is something which they do not think about whereas for the caged bird freedom is a privilege.

The oppressors feel that they own everything and that they can achieve more and more just like the free bird names the sky his own but the oppressed were not allowed to do anything, they were treated as slaves.

“A free bird leaps

on the back of the wind   

and floats downstream   

till the current ends

and dips his wing

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and   

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   

with a fearful trill   

of things unknown   

but longed for still   

and his tune is heard   

on the distant hill   

for the caged bird   

sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn

and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   

with a fearful trill   

of things unknown   

but longed for still   

and his tune is heard   

on the distant hill   

for the caged bird   

sings of freedom.”

Categories: Literature, Social Issues

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