How can a youngster, when his concerns irritate him, but droop his fragile wing... Blake describes his anticipated infant as a pure and innocent creation who would be damaged, not better, by civilization's artificial restraints. Thus the poem asks how such an animal could be expected to fit into its surroundings.
How can a bird bred to rejoice sit in a cage and sing? David Almond, today's Desert Island Discs guest, read these lines from William Blake's poem The Schoolboy. This isn't the first time Almond has spoken out against such methods. In 2011, he wrote an article for The Guardian titled "My mother was tortured by nuns - and now Britain's Catholic children are suffering too". He also has two novels published: Black Lightning and The Flight of the Phoenix.
Almond was nine years old when his mother, Elizabeth Ann Goudge, who had been adopted, came across the poem while reading for her school exams. It inspired her to write back to Blake and thank him for his words. They kept in touch, and when Elizabeth died of cancer at the age of 36, they met face-to-face for the first time. Since then, he has used this experience as the basis for several songs including "The Caged Bird" and "Sister Helen".
Almond was born on March 24th, 1956 in Northampton, England. His father was a physics professor at Northampton University who spent most of his time away from home on research projects. When David was five years old, his family moved to South Africa where his father took up a post at the University of Cape Town. Here, he met another physicist named Julia Goudge who worked on nuclear weapons testing in the region.
"How can the bird that is born for joy/Sit in a cage and sing?" the poet asks of the youngsters. The children are nipped flower buds in the next lyric, or "delicate plants are bereft of their delight in the budding day,/By sadness and care's dismay." The poet compares himself to others through the use of these metaphors. He is asking themselves how can someone who is born to dance in the sunbeams be forced to sit in a dark room when he could be having fun with his friends instead?
The metaphor of the birdcage comes from an ancient belief that birds fly free from all human limitations, including pain, sorrow, and death. If this were true, there would be no need for cages because birds don't suffer from human diseases and they don't die. Therefore, they must be free to enjoy life without any restrictions.
In reality, birds are able to fly free only in fiction and movies. In real life, they are kept in cages so they won't hurt themselves or others. But even though they can't fly out of these cages, they do have other ways to express themselves. They can make noise with their songs or dances to let people know where they are. They can also make other signs that they want something by pecking at a button on the side of the cage or by using their beaks on the wire mesh.
Birds have been used as symbols of freedom and joy since the early days of poetry.
The poem depicts two birds' conflicting experiences: one bird is free to dwell in nature, while another imprisoned bird suffers in captivity. Because of its intense pain, the trapped bird sings, both to deal with its situation and to communicate its own need for release. These feelings are also expressed by the singing bird in the painting.
In the first stanza, the poet describes how a bird's freedom hurts him or her when they live in a cage. He or she can only think about escaping from its boundaries, but this cannot be done because there is no way out.
In the second stanza, the poet talks about how much the singing bird desires freedom even though it is in a cage. This shows that happiness cannot be found in captivity; instead, it can only be achieved through self-reliance and personal achievement.
Finally, in the third stanza, he or she realizes that even though the captive bird is not able to escape from its prison, it can still have a happy life. By singing, it tells others that it wants to be released from its constraints so it can be free to fly wherever it wishes.
This short poem is written by American author Maya Angelou. It was first published in 1970 in Women's Wear Daily.