A free bird leaps on the back of the wind
and floats downstream till the current ends
and dips his wing in the orange suns 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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Maya Angelou's poem I know why the caged bird sings


  1. robyn says:

    im doing a research project and i dont know what poetic devices are used and an example in the poem “I Know Why the Caged bird Sings”

  2. Jimmy says:

    This poem basically says that the free bird takes his freedom for granted, but if it was caged, it would aprreciate being free alot more.

  3. Aimee says:

    Doing an essay on this poem. I’m very knowledgable about the poem but verse 4 is very hard. Can someone analyse it for me or at least tell me what trade winds is?

  4. Grant says:

    I have read this poem many times and never thought it had anything to do with race. I read the book also. I think its about being inhibited in one way or another. Here the author is trying to explain process of drowning. There is no need to tell how or why the person got into the water or what he need to do to get. What she does offer is two people in the water. One can swim and one cant. She doesn’t offer a solution for the cage bird, just the status of his being. Its the plight of the cage bird that important here. Its any body story.In the end its not about the cause or solution its about being. They won’t put it on her TOMB so i wil say it here….MAYA ANGELOU is greatest poet of our tim. Her ability to convey both thoughts and emotions through words i think is unequal. Just my opinion.

  5. Annie says:

    I had read this poem many times and admired it for its literary genius and symbolism. I came across it again recently, and it has taken on a whole new meaning for me, as I am going through a period of major depression. I can relate my pain and dispair with the caged bird, and know that I have to break free of the “cage” of depression so that I can again “leap on the back of the wind.” Thank you, Maya, for giving me a way to see what I need to do.

  6. Jana says:

    In the poem “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, by Maya Angelou, the author tells a tale of sorrow, and desire, comparing a free bird to a caged bird. The beautifully written poem opens your eyes to the sad truth about segregation, through a wonderful blend of similes, metaphors, rhyme, repetition and assonance. This poem has a deeper meaning that is the ongoing plight to end the racial segregation in the United States.
    Maya Angelou expresses in her poem two opposite lives living in the same society, with the free and caged bird. White people represent a free bird able to “[leap] on the back of wind”, and do as he, or she chooses. The line “The free bird thinks of … the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright law and names the sky his own” demonstrates that most of the white society cares more about their wealth and very little about the black community’s oppression. Angelou also implies that black citizens of the United States are very much like a caged bird, “his wings are clipped and his feet are tied…” except for that the bars on a black citizens cage, that restrict him from the joys of freedom and give him a “grave of dreams”, are not made of cheap metal or plastic, but of racist oppression, discrimination, and segregation. Because of the caged bird’s oppression, “[he] sings with a fearful trill of things unknown and longed for still”, like how civil rights activists wrote papers, gave speeches, and organized protests for equal rights in America so no citizen felt as if he was in a cage.
    When Angelou says that the black citizen’s “tune is heard on a distant hill,” her message is that the white society is can hear their cries for equality but only faintly. Finally in her last line of the poem, she says, “for the caged bird sings of freedom”, she means that the plight for equality is slowly improving, but is nowhere near the end, and the only way to get to the end is to make everyone aware of this social injustice.
    Angelou believes in equality for all of mankind and declares through her poem that even though there are social injustices in life, hope and persistence can lessen, and eventually get rid of segregation. This poem tries to show that even though the free bird and the caged bird are still birds, one is free and the other is a prisoner, despite that they both deserve freedom and the opportunity to be happy.

  7. Cassie says:

    If you look up Maya Angelou’s biography then you will know even deeper about what this poem means!!

  8. Zenoa Hinds - Lewis says:

    this poem tells me about the life of a caged bird and the life of a free bird and if i ever have a bird, i will not put it in a cage, but set it free, even though it is hard to let your pet go. If you really love your pet, you would do that.

  9. cinnamon jackson says:

    i loved this poem it help me understand things in life better

  10. jasman williams says:

    i luv thiz peom only thing bout it iz that i dont understand thiz poem u need a little mo details so that mean u need to rewrite thiz poem so that people can understand it mo

  11. Paco says:

    This poem is one of my greatest admirations. It is simply moving.It is wonderful how she gives the peom such extravagent energy. Using the bird to emphasise her point is somewhat genius!

  12. Shane Ninai says:

    well done maya well done..if your goal was to raise awareness and spread your caged bird’s message..rest assured you have done that..thanks to your insightful poem you have made sure that you are not the only one who knows why the caged bird sings..well done

  13. Shane Ninai says:

    This poem is yet another testement to the literary genius of Maya Angelou..one must applaude her use of metaphors, rhyme and assonance as Diego said her use of AAAB was purely masterful..one could not miss the deeper meaning in the poem..freedom, equality, segregation, prjudice, racism, captivity alienation is this not why Maya’s caged bird sings..thanks to this poem i have developed a deeper understanding towards the plight of the many minority groups that fought for deserved freedom during the Civil Rights Movement..

  14. Abdul Hazim Abdul HAmid and Ann says:

    i think this poem is really facinating that it opens my eyes and it inspires me in various ways now id rather spend my days outside my house rather than being caged up in my house like the caged bird.

  15. Wasim says:

    This is a very wonderful poem. You may admire it more after you have read Maya’s biography. Her biography will prove that it is the sound from her heart

  16. Rasheed says:

    This poem is like no other, because only one person can write such poems in a way that puts you in the poem. Makes you a part of the poem tells you who you are and where you coming from. Its a gift to touch with out touching to heal broken hearts and to love those who you dont know. This poem is price less.

    Rasheed Watson

  17. twinklewriter says:

    Maya Angelou is a very well know Poet of our time. Her writings of poetry are indeed outstand. This poem is beautiful and the flow of the words relaxing. Thank You Maya for writing and teaching poets the magic of writing words…

  18. Tara Alizadeh says:

    This poem is very touching. It’s about an honest story of a black girl talking about her early life. As a girl from the rural South, she experiences poverty, racism, and a lot of ignorance.

  19. yann says:

    the bird is the poet himself i guess, how nice

  20. Jessica says:

    I love this poem it is so nice

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