Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I know why the caged bird sings...


18C-19C woodcut School of Thomas Bewick 1753-1828

Caged Bird 
by Maya Angelou 1928-1214

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
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 fearful trill
of the 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
an 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. 

Maya Angelou “Caged Bird” from Shaker, Why Don't You Sing? 1983


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Poppies for remembrance - On finding scarlet poppies in the wheat...


Vincent van Gogh - Poppies in "Green Ears of Wheat"


Poppies on the Wheat
by Helen Hunt Jackson (American poet, 1830-1885)

Along Ancona's hills the shimmering heat,
A tropic tide of air with ebb and flow
Bathes all the fields of wheat until they glow
Like flashing seas of green, which toss and beat
Around the vines. The poppies lithe and fleet
Seem running, fiery torchmen, to and fro
To mark the shore.                        
 
The farmer does not know
That they are there. He walks with heavy feet,
Counting the bread and wine by autumn's gain,
But I,--I smile to think that days remain
Perhaps to me in which, though bread be sweet
No more, and red wine warm my blood in vain,
I shall be glad remembering how the fleet,
Lithe poppies ran like torchmen with the wheat.

Helen Hunt Jackson was born Helen Fiske in Amherst, Massachusetts, on October 15, 1830. She was not only a noted writer, but also a tireless advocate on behalf of the improved treatment of Native Americans in the United States. Jackson died in 1885.

In her travel writing, Jackson gives a further glimpse of the Italian vistas that seem to have inspired this poem: "Then began a royal progress through a garden; all the way to Ancona, four hours, nothing but wheat-fields and vineyards; in the wheat-fields, scarlet poppies and purple foxglove, and bright blue something, I don't know what, but as we dashed by it looked like bachelor's-buttons flying off in the air."