Rabindranath Tagore

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Summarize the poem "The Tame Bird was in a Cage" by Tagore.

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In Tagore's poem "The Tame Bird was in a Cage," two birds, one free and one caged, converse. Each attempts to persuade the other to join their respective environments. The free bird extols the virtues of the forest, while the caged bird praises the safety of the cage. The poem concludes ambiguously, suggesting the caged bird's desire for freedom. The text prompts debate about which bird's situation is superior, challenging the notion that the "grass is always greener on the other side."

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Plot-wise, this poem is a fairly straightforward poem.  There are two birds in the poem.  One is a free bird that lives in a forest, and the other bird is a tame bird that lives in a cage.  The two birds meet and have a conversation with each other.  The gist of the conversation is that each bird wants the other bird to come and join him.  The tame bird wants the free bird to come into the cage, and the free bird wants the tame bird to join him in the forest.  Each bird presents his opinion that his present location is better than the other bird's location, and each bird counters that argument.  For example:

The cage bird whispers, "Come hither, let us both live in the cage."

Says the free bird, "Among bars, where is there room to spread one's wings?"

Then in stanza two there is this example. 

The cage bird sings, "Sit by my side, I'll teach you the speech of the learned."

The forest bird cries, "No, ah no! songs can never be taught."

While the plot of the poem is simple, the poem has a way of sparking some interesting debate among readers.  Which bird does indeed have it "better"?  The final line seems to leave readers with the impression that the tame bird is quietly admitting that the free bird has it better; however, without having experienced both worlds, neither bird is able to effectively judge the "superior" environment.  I also like presenting my classes with the idea that this poem illustrates the opposite idea of the grass always being greener on the other side of the fence.  In this poem, each bird thinks his "grass" is best.  

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In this poem by Rabindranath Tagore, there are two birds, one in a cage and one free. The caged bird is trying to get the free bird to join him in the cage, while the free bird wants the caged bird to come to the forest and be free. The birds go back and forth with positive elements in trying to convince each other to come to their side. The free bird says, "My darling, sing the songs of the woodlands" to which the caged bird answers, "Sit by my side, I'll teach you the speech of the learned." They also entreat negative elements in trying to convince each other that they are on the better side. Here, the free bird questions the caged bird and his "home": "Among bars, where is there room to spread one's wings?" The caged bird says in return: "I should not know where to sit perched in the sky."

The end of the poem illustrates that the free bird has the better situation. You could argue that the caged bird is just looking for company in trying to get the free bird to join him. The final line of the poem illustrates this very powerfully. He whispers to his friend "Alas, my wings are powerless and dead."

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