Despair refers to a state of losing hope, and the theme is replicated in the poems Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar and Infant Sorrow by William Blake. The voice of desperation is evident in the use of the words "I know" repeatedly in Dumbar's poem. For instance, he says "I know what the caged bird feels" (Dunbar 1), "I know why the caged bird sings" (Dunbar 21). Why would the repetition of the two small words 'I know' be significant? It could be because the author is the caged bird, so he knows what it feels because it is him. Also in all of those lines is the constant repetition of the fact that it is a caged bird. Not once in the poem does he refer to the caged bird as just a bird. In the first stanza, he mentions a normal bird, but it is a different bird than the caged one. The fact that the bird is not free trapped inside, and trying to escape; therefore, it is desperate for freedom.
The mention of the normal, free bird in the first stanza illustrates what the caged bird wishes he could do things like watching the sunrise, feeling the wind, hearing the river flow and watching the flowers bloom. All of this and much more are things that the free bird gets to experience that the caged bird does not. The caged bird must desire these things, or he would not be beating his wings trying to fly away even though he knows it just ends in more pain. He would not sing a desperately sad song if he were not longing for the freedom the other bird has.
The caged bird desires the things that the free bird gets to experience, but he is left with nothing but despair in the end. He tries everything he can to get free, but none of it works; beating his wings trying to get free only results in blood and pain. He has tried and failed at this before as we see with his scars and how they tear back open exposing the new wounds created by desperation. He tries over and over again because maybe one day it will work and it will all have been worth the pain of trying to escape. After he is too tired to beat his wings, and nothing else has worked he sings a song (Dunbar 16-18). The song could sound beautiful but it is not about happiness or joy, but about sorrow and despair. He sings his song may be for someone to hear, or maybe to try and relieve his emotional pain. It could also be a prayer to be free and fly up to heaven (Dunbar 20).
Infant Sorrow is a short synopsis of a child's birth, in which he/she experiences their initial moments of life. The poem explains the reality of birth and shows how it is uncertain painting a harsh existence and an almost "sorrow" filled being. The poem shows the desperation in the aspect of a "naive" infant getting into a new environment to face the realities of life. The sentiment on the third line of the poem says "Helpless naked piping loud" which indicates the feeling of desperation.
When uncovering the main points of each poem, desperation is the dominant theme, and it is shown in various circumstances. In the Infant Sorrow, the entire poem is a cry of despair by the newborn. On the other hand, Sympathy depicts desperation in many ticumes where the bird's movement is limited to the cage and struggles in despair to find its way in vain.
Dunbar, Paul L. "Sympathy." Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, 2018, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46459/sympathy-56d22658afbc0
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Free Essay: Desperation in Infant Sorrow by William Blake and Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar. (2022, Feb 22). Retrieved from https://speedypaper.com/essays/desperation
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