Sympathy Summary

“Sympathy” is a significant poem written by American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, first published in 1899. The poem delves into themes of oppression, confinement, and the yearning for freedom, and in this summary, we will provide an introduction to the poem’s powerful message and enduring relevance. Read More Class 6 English Summaries.

Sympathy Summary

Sympathy Summary in English

The given poem ‘Sympathy’ is penned by Charles Mackay. (27 March 1814-24 December 1889). He was born in Perth, Scotland. He was a Scottish poet, journalist, author, anthologist, and novelist.

The poet describes an incident where he Lay in sorrow and deeply depressed by some injury from an accident. He was helpless and needed to be treated for his injuries. As he lay there in grief, a proud man heard his cries for help and stopped to help him. The poet saw that the man was ‘cold’ he was irritated because he had to stop and help the poet.

The man did not even speak kindly to the poet and offer his sympathy but offered him gold without showing any emotion and went on his way. He did not speak to the poet or console him either. After some time the poet recovered from his sorrow and distress.

He wished to pay back the debt offered by the proud rich man. After repaying him, the poet stood erect with his head held high and thanked him. Unlike the proud rich man, he spoke to him and blessed him for his charity.

In another incident, the poet was in a similar situation. He lay in want (of help) and grieving with pain. A poor man was walking past him and he stopped by to help the poet. The poor man like a good Samaritan bound his injured head with a bandage and gave him a brand. The poor man took care of him day and night and nursed him back to health.

The poet wonders how he will pay back the poor man who had taken all pains to help him and nurse him back to health. He exclaims that Gold is great, i.e, he can give money to the poor man but the ‘heavenly sympathy’ that the poor man offered is far greater than all the gold in the world. That ‘sympathy’ is priceless and it will be foolishness and inhuman to offer gold or money in return for it.


The poem’s powerful use of symbolism and metaphor serves as a profound representation of the African American experience, particularly during the era of racial segregation in the United States. “Sympathy” remains a poignant reminder of the enduring human spirit’s struggle for liberation and self-expression.

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