The Theme Of Freedom In Poetry

2357 words - 9 pages

The Theme of Freedom in Poetry

Write about three poems on freedom: On Liberty and Slavery (George
Moses Horton), Sympathy (Paul Laurence Dunbar) and Caged Bird (Maya

I have chosen to write about three poems on freedom: On Liberty and
Slavery (George Moses Horton), Sympathy (Paul Laurence Dunbar) and
Caged Bird (Maya Angelou). The full text of the poems is attached. I
chose these three poems because the subject matter appealed to me and
I believe that the poems convey their meaning very effectively. Upon
researching the poems, I discovered that Caged Bird was in fact
inspired by Sympathy, which accounts for the similarities in language
and imagery, as outlined below. All three poems deal with the subject
of freedom using the imagery of birds; On Liberty and Slavery is
narrated as a human plea for freedom, and makes reference to birds in
that context, whereas Caged Bird and Sympathy both use the imagery of
caged birds to explore the theme of loss of freedom. The symbolism of
birds is used to depict freedom, as birds are essentially without
constraints; in comparison to the limitations of humans, they have
limitless possibilities. When a bird is caged, however, it loses that
potential and is restricted not by its own limitations, but the limits
set by another. This image is explored within the poems to depict the
theme of slavery.

On Liberty and Slavery

On Liberty and Slavery is an example of a metaphysical poem; it deals
with the concept of freedom using direct, personal language and
contemporary allusions. The rhythm used in the poem is taken from the
rhythm of Wesley's hymns; Charles Wesley was the brother of John
Wesley (founder of the Methodists) and hymn writer extraordinaire - he
wrote over 6,000 hymns. Horton was inspired by Wesley's compositions
and used the format as the basis for his poetry. This poem uses 4-line
stanzas (quatrains) and an ABAB rhyming technique, with 8 syllables
for the 1st and 3rd lines and 6 syllables for the 2nd and 4th lines.
The effect of the rhyming technique gives the poem a religious feel;
the rhythm and the repetition of certain words (soar, alas, deprived)
add to the effect of chanting. The use of alliteration provides
another rhyming effect ('lain and languished', 'roll through my
ravished ears', 'gift of nature's God', 'sacred sun') throughout the
poem, lending a sense of endlessness and continuation. The petition to
Heaven reinforces the religious theme; the poem is written as a 1st
person narrative, a plea from an individual to a higher power be
released from their suffering. Liberty is given physical aspects; it
is described as a 'cheerful sound' and 'golden' in comparison to the
'hardship, toil and pain' of the narrator's current situation. The
language reinforces the contrasts within the poem - Liberty is
described with words such as 'cheerful', 'joyful', 'soar', 'golden',
'gift', 'cooed' and 'heavenly'. Slavery, in...

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