There is a line from one of Dunbar's poems that is more famous than the man who wrote it and is frequently thought of as being written by another poet. That line is, "I know why the caged bird sings," and the other poet is Maya Angelou, who titled her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings [B ANG, AB/CD B ANG, also eBook].
Here is Dunbar's poem, which you can find in Jump Back, Paul:
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!
The poem is also found at the Library of Congress blog, "From the Catbird Seat," in a post titled, "The Caged Bird Sings: Paul Laurence Dunbar at the Library of Congress."
Visit Katie at The Logonauts for the Poetry Friday Round-Up.