Captivity

The lion remembers the forest,
The lion in chains;
To the bird that is captive a vision
Of woodland remains.

One strains with his strength at the fetter,
In impotent rage;
One flutters in flights of a moment,
And beats at the cage.

If the lion were loosed from the fetter,
To wander again;
He would seek the wide silence and shadow
Of his jungle in vain.

He would rage in his fury, destroying;
Let him rage, let him roam!
Shall he traverse the pitiless mountain,
Or swim through the foam?

If they opened the cage and the casement,
And the bird flew away;
He would come back at evening, heartbroken,
A captive for aye.

Would come if his kindred had spared him,
Free birds from afar--
There was wrought what is stronger than iron
In fetter and bar.

I cannot remember my country,
The land whence I came;
Whence they brought me and chained me and made me
Nor wild thing nor tame.

This only I know of my country,
This only repeat :--
It was free as the forest, and sweeter
Than woodland retreat.

When the chain shall at last be broken,
The window set wide;
And I step in the largeness and freedom
Of sunlight outside ;

Shall I wander in vain for my country?
Shall I seek and not find?
Shall I cry for the bars that encage me
The fetters that bind?

by Amy Levy

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