On the Pulse of Morning

On the Pulse of Morning

by Maya Angelou

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon.

The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.

I will give you no hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.

Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.

The Rock cries out to us today, you may stand upon me,
But do not hide your face.

Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song,
It says come rest here by my side.

Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.

Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.

Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,

Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the rock were one.

Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
Knew nothing.

The River sang and sings on.

There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing River and the wise Rock.

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African, the Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They all hear
The speaking of the Tree.

They hear the first and last of every Tree
Speak to humankind today. Come to me, here beside the River.

Plant yourself beside the River.

Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for.

You, who gave me my first name, you
Pawnee, Apache, Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of
Other seekers–desperate for gain,
Starving for gold.

You, the Turk, the Arab, the Swede, the German, the Eskimo, the Scot …
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought
Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.

Here, root yourselves beside me.

I am that Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.

I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours–your Passages have been paid.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
This day breaking for you.

Give birth again
To the dream.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.

Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.

Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out and upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.

No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, and into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

Summary of On the Pulse of Morning

  • Popularity of On the Pulse of Morning”: This poem was written by Maya Angelou, a great African American poet, storyteller, and activist. The poem is known for themes of hope and courage. Maya Angelou first read this poem at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton on January 20, 1993. The poem speaks about freedom, evolution, and growth.
  • On the Pulse of Morning”, As a Representative of Hope: The poem gives the lesson of unity, faith, and determination. The speaker says that rocks, rivers, and trees were present since prehistoric times and had witnessed the arrival and departure of many generations. Now the same natural landmarks call upon human beings to stand on them with their heads high and stop hiding under their shadow. She urges mankind to feel their inner strength and stand up for a better future. The river also sings its sweetest song to welcome the mankind. While talking about history, she reminds the audience how their ancestors arrived in America, facing a lot of troubles, yet they did not give up. She provides a list of people belonging to different cultures, races, nationalities and social backgrounds to emphasize the necessity in their adversity. To her, human beings should hold their dreams in the palm of their hands and should do their best to make them come true.
  • Major Themes in On the Pulse of Morning”: Unity, hope, courage, and change are the major themes of this poem. The speaker believes that we should all make a difference in the world as every new day brings immense chances for a new beginning. She used objects of nature to trace the marks of history to give answers about the present and predict the future. Presenting different races, cultures, and religions, she urges mankind to work for the betterment of their country.

 Analysis of Literary Devices Used in On the Pulse of Morning”

Literary devices such as similes, personifications, and metaphors are very important elements of a literary text. They bring richness to the text and help the readers understand the hidden meanings. Maya Angelou has employed some literary devices in this poem to express her ideas about freedom and unity. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been stated below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /o/ in “The angels, have crouched too long in” and the sound of /e/ in “You, created only a little lower than.”
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /s/ in “Hosts to species long since departed” and the sound of /d/ in “The dinosaur, who left dried tokens.”
  3. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different in nature. “The rock”, “river” and “tree” have been used metaphorically to show the strong characteristics of a real person.
  4. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /r/ in “Rock, the River, the Tree, your country” and the sound of /t/ in “To look up and out and upon me, the.”
  5. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “Rock, the River, the Tree, your country”, “I am that Tree planted by the River” and “But seek no haven in my shadow.”
  6. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought or clause that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it moves over the next line. For example,

Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the rock were one.

  1. Personification: Personification is to give human attributes to inanimate objects. For example, “But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully.” She has also personified river in line forty-two where it is stated as “The singing River and the wise Rock.”
  2. Symbolism: Symbolism means to use symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. “Wise rock”, “Singing River” and tree are the symbols of hope.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in On the Pulse of Morning”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this rhyme.

  • Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. This is a long free-verse poem having thirty-five stanzas with each having varying lengths.
  • Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza. Here, some stanzas are quatrains.
  • Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  • Repetition: There is a repetition of the verse “the Rock cries out to us,” which has created a musical quality in the poem.
  • Refrain: The lines that are repeated at some distance in the poems are called refrain. The verse “the Rock cries out to us” has repeated with the same words. Therefore, it has become a refrain of the poem.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below can be used in motivational speeches to muster up the courage of tormented souls. With the help of these powerful words, the speaker could drag them toward a new, bright and hopeful beginning.

“The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out and upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.”