Saturday, August 22, 2015
Posted by MezzoKat
This stamp set makes me think of Maya Angelou's 1969 autobiography, "I know Why the Caged Bird Sings." The title drew me then and still does. What does the author know, what is her answer? On first reading that title, I suspected that the reason wouldn't be that the bird sings for joy. Her poem, Caged Bird, gives the dark answer. The bird is a metaphor for the slave and for the freed slave struggling for basic rights. Freedom and rights are seldom gained without struggle and suffering.
The poem Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) also uses a caged bird as metaphor for the slaves of antebellum United States, and for their descendants who struggle for full recognition of their dignity as human beings. The poem contains the line, "I know why the caged bird sings, ah me". Dunbar was close to the experience of slavery; his parents had both been slaves in Kentucky, and he was born in the years when freed slaves and their children began the struggle to claim their place as full citizens.
These poems, different in style and voice, both express forcefully what those suffer who are treated as less than human. The images of cruelty and of longing for freedom strike to my heart and lead me to reflect on the dangers of treating any human life as inferior or without value. Human life, from the instant of conception to the moment of natural death, is priceless.