Still I Rise

Still I Rise

by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Summary of Still I Rise

  • Popularity of “Still I Rise”: Maya Angelou, a famous American poet, wrote this poem. It was first published in 1978. The poem speaks about the resolution of the poet to overthrow prejudices and injustices. It also summarizes the struggle and the positive attitude of the speaker against racial and gender discrimination.
  • “Still I Rise” As a Representative of Courage: As this poem is the reflection of the speaker’s determination, she expresses her thoughts about how she will face the haters. She is determined to be strong and is ready to overcome everything with her self-esteem. At the outset, she narrates how people judge and perceive her, the problems she undergoes and the resultant torture she suffers. She displays a highly positive attitude even after facing criticism. She resolves and says that she will never allow anyone to let her down and will continue to rise.
  • Major themes in “Still I Rise”: Courage, pride, and injustice are some of the major themes crafted in the poem. The poet speaks about the biting criticism of dark skin in society. Also, she details how people want to kill them with hatefulness. But, the speaker is really proud of her identity, which she expresses in various ways in the text. She openly challenges those who want to hold her down. Instead of wallowing in stress and fear, she aims to live a happy and confident life.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “Still I Rise”

Literary devices are used to bring depth and clarity in the text. Maya Angelou has also employed some literary devices in this poem to describe her feelings. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been given below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /i/ in “With your bitter, twisted lies”.
  2. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five sense. For example, “You may write me down in history”; “You may shoot me with your words” and “I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide.”
  3. Rhetorical Question: Rhetorical question is a question that is not to receive an answer; it is just posed to make the point clear. Such as, “Does my sassiness upset you?”; “Does my sexiness upset you?” and “Did you want to see me broken?”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /l/ in “Welling and swelling I bear in the tide” and the sound of /t/ in “Out of the huts of history’s shame”.
  5. Simile: It is used to compare an object or person with something else to make the meanings clear to the readers. There are a lot of similes used in this poem such as, “But still, like dust, I’ll rise”; “Just like moons and like suns” and “’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines”.
  6. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. The poet has repeated the words “You may” in the opening lines of the poem to express her ideas. For example,

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”

  1. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought or clause that does not come to an end at a line break and moves over the next line. For example,

“You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “Still I Rise”

Poetic Devices refer to those techniques a poet uses to bring uniqueness in his text. The analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem is given below

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. In this poem, there are nine stanzas with each stanza having four verses.
  2. Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Each stanza in the poem is a quatrain.
  3. Trochee: Trochee means there is a one stressed and one unstressed syllable in a line.
  4. Stressed and Unstressed Syllables: These two types of syllables are used in trochee such as the first is stressed and second is unstressed syllable in “Still I Rise” and this pattern continues throughout the poem such as, “You may write me down in
  5. Repetition: There is a repetition of the words “I rise” which has created a musical quality in the poem.
  6. Refrain: The lines that are repeated at some distance in the poems are called refrain. The phrase, “Still I’ll rise” is repeated in first, third and fifth stanzas with the same words. Hence it has become a refrain.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below can be used in a speech to lift the spirits of the people, motivate them and teach them how to ignore negative voices. These powerful words speak about the unbreakable courage of a person.

“You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.”