"Sympathy" is an undated song by Florence Price setting a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar. The song is published through Classical Vocal Reprints in a 2010 edition entitled Five Art Songs, edited by Rae Linda Brown, as well as 44 Art Songs and Spirituals. "Sympathy" is published in two keys.
Price's effective use of chromaticism and meter change in the middle section underscores the restlessness and pain depicted in Dunbar's text. This section was thought to have "too many accidentals," according to Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949).

Composer: Florence PriceText: Paul Laurence DunbarSong Collection: Five Art Songs

Print vitals & song text




    by Paul Laurence Dunbar

    I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
    When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
    When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
    And the river flows like a stream of glass;
    When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
    And the faint perfume from its chalice steals —
    I know what the caged bird feels!

    I know why the caged bird beats his wing
    Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
    For he must fly back to his perch and cling
    When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
    And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
    And they pulse again with a keener sting —
    I know why he beats his wing!

    I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
    When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,–
    When he beats his bars and he would be free;
    It is not a carol of joy or glee,
    But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
    But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
    I know why the caged bird sings!

    Related Information


    Sheet Music

    Florence Price: Five Art Songs (Dr. Rae Linda Brown, ed.)

    Composer(s): Florence Price

    Song(s): 1. Hold Fast to Dreams (Langston Hughes)
    Key D Major - d minor
    2. Travel's End (Mary Folwell Hoisington)
    Key B Major (Low voice)
    3. To My Little Son (Julia Johnson Davis)
    Key B Major (Medium voice)
    4. Fantasy in Purple (Langston Hughes)
    Key f minor (Medium voice)
    5. Sympathy (Paul Laurence Dunbar)
    Key E-flat (Medium-High voice)
    plus a transposed higher key, G Major (High voice)

    Voice Type: Medium/High

    Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

    Florence Price: 44 Art Songs and Spirituals

    Composer(s): Florence Price

    Song(s): A White Rose (John Boyle O'Reilly)
    An April Day (Joseph Cotter)
    Because (Paul Laurence Dunbar)
    Beside the Sea (Paul Laurence Dunbar)
    Bewilderment (Langston Hughes)
    Dawn's Awakening (James Joseph Burke)
    Death's Gwineter Lay His Cold Icy Hand on Me (Spiritual)
    Feet o' Jesus (Langston Hughes)
    Four Encore Songs: Tobacco (Graham Lee Hemminger); A Flea and a Fly (Ogden Nash); "Come, come," said Tom's Father (Thomas Moore); Song of the Open Road (Ogden Nash)
    Go Down, Moses (Spiritual)
    God Gives Me You (Nora Connelly)
    Hold Fast to Dreams (Langston Hughes)
    I Grew a Rose (Paul Laurence Dunbar)
    I'm Goin' to Lay Down My Heavy Load (Spiritual)
    Love-in-a-mist (Mary Rolofson Gamble)
    My Little Soul's Goin' to Shine (Spiritual)
    My Neighbor (Paul Laurence Dunbar)
    My Soul's Been Anchored in de Lord (Spiritual)
    Night (Louise C. Wallace)
    Out of the South Blew a Wind (Fannie Carter Woods)
    Resignation (Florence B. Price)
    Rise Mourner (Spiritual)
    Save Me Lord, Save Me (Spiritual)
    Some o' These Days (Spiritual)
    Song to the Dark Virgin (Langston Hughes)
    Sunset (Odessa P. Elder)
    Sympathy (Paul Laurence Dunbar)
    The Glory of the Day Was in Her Face (James Weldon Johnson)
    The Moon Bridge (Mary Rolofson Gamble)
    The Poet and His Song (Paul Laurence Dunbar)
    The Washerwoman (Otto Leland Bohanan)
    To My Little Son (Julia Johnson Davis)
    Travel's End (Mary Folwell Hoisington)
    Trouble Done Come My Way (Florence B. Price)
    Two Traditional Negro Spirituals: I am Bound for the Kingdom; I'm Workin' on My Buildin'
    We Have Tomorrow (Langston Hughes)
    Weary Traveler (Spiritual)
    What's the Use (Paul Laurence Dunbar)
    Words for a Spiritual ("Capricorn")
    You Won't Find a Man Like Jesus (Spiritual)

    Voice Type: Medium/High

    Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

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