Not o’er thy dust let there be spent
The gush of maudlin sentiment;
Such drift as that is not for thee,
Whose life and deeds and songs agree,
Sublime in their simplicity.
Nor shall the sorrowing tear be shed.
O singer sweet, thou art not dead!
In spite of time’s malignant chill,
With living fire thy songs shall thrill,
And men shall say, “He liveth still!”
Great poets never die, for Earth
Doth count their lives of too great worth
To lose them from her treasured store;
So shalt thou live for evermore —
Though far thy form from mortal ken —
Deep in the hearts and minds of men.
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 the 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 would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea that upward to Heaven he flings–
I know why the caged bird sings!