On the Pulse of Morning (analysis Essay)

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In Maya Angelou, “On the Pulse of Morning,” 1993, the author uses alliteration, imagery, personification, and metaphor to show the optimistic future of America, while also exposing glimpses of its hateful past. Maya Angelou was a poet and activist and exhibited the most important pieces of her political action within this work. She composed and recited her work for the 1993 Clinton inauguration, a marked day in history, due to its election of a liberal democrat as opposed to a conservative Republican for the first time in over a decade. America had elected a progressive for the first time in years, which signaled a cultural revival. It was time to speak about history in a way in which liberal America would embrace it.

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Imagery that takes place is primarily in lines 1-3, where the Rock, River, and Tree, all reference songs of the 1990s about strength and empowerment. The line about the Rock offers the humanistic idea that everyone must live up to his or her spiritual potential. Alliteration is found inline 4, with the repetition of the use of /r/, all surrounding her literary metaphors. In passage 4, personification is used in a different context, utilizing “the dinosaur” as an acknowledgment of the primitive ideology of racism and slavery. Personification is used again the line 9, “But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully” (Maya Angelou). “Singing River” and “wise rock” are examples of literary personification used to emphasize symbols of hope to its audience. The Rock and its hopeful connotation proceeding the dusty analogy of the dinosaur give the poem a seemingly quick change of tone.

The poem, in general, conveys a strong contemporary message to its audience, less historical, and more regarding modern society. Lines 23-40 use symbolism through the water washing away waste, yet cleanses. Although the poem was written a little over twenty years ago, it seems that it references a sense of urgency in the African American community. The sins of America’s beginnings were great against their people group, nevertheless, black America still must find a way to join hands with others and forgive. Line 33 references the African American written gospel song, “Down By The Riverside” which possesses the lyric “ain’t gonna study war no more” (Mahalia Jackson) by stating “If you will study war no more” (Maya Angelou). This idea remains that although racial adversity still exists in America there will always be a hopeful sense of unity. Humans should not fight against one another, but rather join hands in harmony.

Passage 33-36 stresses the importance of humanity’s origins being joined and not divided when the Creator made “the tree and rock were one” (Maya Angelou). In the texts that follow, a bloody cynicism is mentioned, then the phrase “the river sang and sings on” (Maya Angelou). This confirms that the river of inclusivity washes away scorn and distrust between people. She then expounds upon the different races and lifestyles that exist within America by listing them one by one, then goes on to say how each one is a descendant of a “passed on traveler” (Maya Angelou), which points to those who suffered discrimination in past generations. She mentions the crimes against the Native Americans, who have ripped away from their homeland, due to the bloodlust and hunger for riches at the hands of the United States’ founders.

The last part of the poem delves into the topic of embracing cultural diversity. Lines 41-50 express the diverse beauty that lies within America, colloquially known as “the melting pot”, including every race, religion, and sexual orientation, and the acceptance that lies therein. Moving on to the next section, lines 51-70 invite everyone to become secure in the hope that all immigrants and nationalities should live with security inside the United States’ borders and culture. Further, lines 71-106 invite Americans to not only embrace this ideology but continue to further inclusivity as well. It includes a nod to the unfriendly and racially divided origins of the past, “History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, but if faced With courage, need not be lived again” (Maya Angelou).

The end of the poem summarizes the idea that although the past was cynical, bloody, the increasing freedom and inclusivity calls to its people, and says “lift up your eyes, the day is breaking for you” (Maya Angelou) which means that the sorrow of the night shall lead to light and a hopeful sunrise. The activist references the American dream as one to be sought after by all. She then expounds upon what this means for each individual, and to cultivate love instead of hate within their innermost selves, and then to live it out in the best version of his or her life. This point ends by inferring that fear and scorn equate to one another, and must be abandoned. Returning to the image of a sunrise, the author concludes the poem with the word, good-morning.

In conclusion, this piece has been deemed a beautiful work that enthralled America at its time of political change. It began with tones of darkness and became full of hope. It accredited past violent struggles with colorful language, yet finally emphasized progressive tones while remaining united in love as one, while remembering its dark past. America must remember the origins of this poem in the heated political and racial environment today under the current administration, work on ourselves for a better tomorrow and awake with a smile and a friendly good morning to our neighbors.  

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On The Pulse Of Morning (analysis essay). (2021, Jul 01). Retrieved October 3, 2022 , from
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