The Lesson (Maya Angelou)

I keep on dying again.

Veins collapse, opening like the
Small fists of sleeping

Memory of old tombs,
Rotting flesh and worms do
Not convince me against
The challenge.
The years
And cold defeat live deep in
Lines along my face.

They dull my eyes, yet
I keep on dying,
Because I love to live.


Another great poem from Maya Angelou. Although it’s not made obvious in the poem, The Lesson suggests that there is something to be learned from the poets’s depiction of life and death.

The poem makes you think, and as you read it the lesson becomes clear. The Lesson deals with the subject of life and death. The poet begins by declaring that she has died already, more than once, and that she will continue to die. Pain and death is described in such vivid detail that the audience can empathise with her. But why does she do it? For what purpose?

Then comes the poem’s message. The poet explains why she struggles on and continues to live through all the pain that she has endured. What is this message? In short, Maya Angelou is telling the reader to embrace life. There will be bad, bitter and painful moments but we should push through those hard times because the good times are not far behind and you will better appreciate them after going through difficult times.

So, if life is not going according to plan or times get tough, don’t lose heart and don’t give up. The good times are not far behind, and will be all the sweeter for the challenges you have had to overcome and the lessons learned along the way.

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