I keep on dying again.
Veins collapse, opening like the
Small fists of sleeping
Memory of old tombs,
Rotting flesh and worms do
Not convince me against
The challenge. The years
And cold defeat live deep in
Lines along my face.
They dull my eyes, yet
I keep on dying,
Because I love to live.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Maya Angelou's poem The Lesson


  1. Ben says:

    This poem is about drug addiction. The speaker knows that the addiction is a death sentence, but he can’t resist because he is seeking life. He wants to LIVE and all that that implies. yes life is passing by but the speaker can’t kick the habit because he wants to experience what true living is. He’s chasing the meaning of life through drugs.

    I believe the poem was published in the 80s, possibly written in the 70s.

  2. Kyra says:

    The poem The Lesson is just that, it is a lesson. We are constantly and forever dying, both the cycle of lows and hardships as well as the literal and inevitable progression of life towards its end. But death is as much a part of life as life is, and we cannot be paralyzed by fear of death so that we do not live life. To appreciate what it means to live we must experience, learn from, and go on despite these struggles and mistakes. Thus we can only live and continue to live if we can accept the reality of death.

  3. Rhonda says:

    I think this poems makes more sense if you replace “I keep on dying” with “I keep on living.” Angelou is trying to express that all these events around her that try force her to stop living life, the knowledge of inevitable death, failing health are worth fighting through because she is willing to die if that means she can live

  4. arli says:

    This poem is about someone that is dieing, and trying really hard to fight the challenge and stay alive, because she/he loves to live

  5. shila says:

    this poem is toching

  6. Georgia says:

    My thoughts on this poem are that it is about a woman trying to battle old age. Angelou uses a contradiction that makes sense and that is that the more she loves to live, the more she dies. It is a brillaint piece of work.

  7. chris says:

    i feel like it could almost be talking about a tree in a sense. the lines are the lines of the bark the dying every winter whith the cold. and the vines of the tree that regrow each year making it bigger. thats my view

  8. ME says:

    No Sharron it was not confusing! You obviously dont have a poetic mind. Poems dont have to rhyme and you have to think deeper in order to understand it. The meaning of the poem isnt gonna come hit you in the face right away(like i wish my fist would!). This poem is amazing! Maya is a great poet. Maya Angelou and Shel Silverstein are my two favorite poets. Maya’s poems deal with mature topics and require a higher level of thinking.

  9. Mecca says:

    To die is to be born again(to live), to live is to die.

  10. shiane says:

    this poem catches my eye and im putting it in my project of other famouse poets for school.i love this poem very much its very inspiring!keep up the work maya,keep up the work.

  11. Amber says:

    Dat poem waz insirational 2 me.It waz off da hook!

  12. Goolia says:

    Woweeeeeee. =)

  13. Megan says:

    cool poem!!!!!!

  14. Merick says:

    Incredible. shows that no matter what you go through in life in the end it will all be right again.

  15. Leah says:

    i agree with jewel e. and kathy on this…. they know what they’re talking about alright.

  16. Kathy says:

    Angelou, in her tradition of powerful metaphorical poetry, likens the pain, suffering, aging, and losses in life to actual death, and reincarnations to the beauty of living. Pain and death become not a reason to avoid living, but a necessary part of the reality of life. She does not learn the lesson of avoiding the pain and death, rather, she learns the lesson that they are a part of life also, along with birth, youth, happiness. etc. Lovely poem.

  17. Sharron says:

    This is very confusing and hope no one ever reads it.
    I was confused and it included no rhyme… boring!
    Dont recommend it to anyone…please
    Dont go on reading it!! it’s horrible!
    Don’t yuo agree

  18. Jewel E. says:

    Awesome,short and to the point! For me, dying to self is to Live again. The Beginning of Life, may be many past hurts and pains, but with the help of the Creater and a Will to Live, dying to the old self will give you renewed hope and a Love for Life and a New You! Thank God we can become New, and we can learn from past mistakes and share and lift others up! Life is a lesson, so lets Learn and Live!

  19. Cynthia says:

    this is a very touching poem. Its is mainly about growning old and having health problems but still putting forth effort to live longer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Maya Angelou better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.