Monday, May 03, 2010

Poem. Captivity, Longing. Cruelty. Misery. Free the Animals.

Thumbing through some Robert Frost poems, I was led to this one by Maya Angelou . I don't know if Frost ever had an influence on Angelou, but certainly any American poet living today would be familiar with Frost's work. Frost and Whitman are my favorite poets, and the romantic poets ( Keats, Byron, and Shelley ) I can't bear. I find their work dense, abstruse and impenetrable. It's just a matter of taste and connectivity. I am no expert on verse, but I will accept the opinion of those who are. They warn us that Frost's poetry is deceivingly simple. If we were to try our hand at it, to put complicated emotions into simple verse, we would be tied up in knots.

Anyway, Angelou's poem below, Caged Bird, touches on the plaintive cries, the longing for better things, that captive individuals must go through. You can apply the core meaning or sentiment of this poem to any situation involving imprisonment or captivity, human or animal. Think of the dog in a dank, dark basement with a one-foot chain around his neck. Think of the moon bears in Asia who spend their entire lives lying on their sides in a cage not large enough for them to turn around in. Think of the elephants with Barnum and Bailey Circus, chained to the wall all the time except for show time. Think of the animals in laboratories, experimented on against their will by people like Marina Picciotto. Think of the apes who spend their entire lives in captivity, studied by empathy-deficient primatologists, knowing only concrete and cold steel for their entire lives. For some of us, life is worse than death.


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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.

2 comments:

Catherine @ The Vegan Good Life said...

What a chilling poem, thank you for posting this. I think too of the pregnant sow who suffers in a gestation crate who longs to build a nest, a chicken in a battery cage that wishes to take a dust bath and spread its wings, or the calf in a veal crate who is painfully separated from its mother. Animals of all walks suffer so horribly for our greed.

I completely concur with your sentiment, "For some of us, life is worse than death."

Chessbuff said...

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves how fortunate we are in life. We are free and comfortable while many, many people and animals are in captivity of some sort.