Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.© Emily Dickinson, All Rights Reserved.
Those who exists in the absence of hope bear a weighty load on their backs that’s for sure, and the subject of this particular Dickinson poem focuses on just that: the necessity and indispensability of the force that is hope. I think the first thing to note with this poem is the method by which Dickinson bolsters hope as an ever-victorious virtue against all that poses a threat. The utter simplicity of the poetic structure of the poem, with a basic and uniform flow, consisting of four lines per stanza with a semi-traditional rhyme scheme with the entirety of the second stanza adhering the ABAB rhythm. Even the very language used is taken from an innately simplistic lexis, with the absence of any flamboyance or superficiality. These facets ultimately amount to covert astuteness, as it further bolsters the complexity of the very nature of hope. In using the image of a bird as a metaphor itself reflects the intricacies of hope, portraying it as having similar levels of composition as a bird does in it’s biological make up. In stating that hope is a ‘thing’ indicates it as a physical being and as Dickinson claims that the bird – hope – ‘perches in the soul’, thus suggesting that there is a living being inside each person, making the metal image and reader perception of hope all the more powerful.
The conflict between positive and negative imagery is also a noteworthy feature of Dickinson’s work as this also bulwarks the convolutions of hope in its graces. In stanzas two and three the first two lines discuss the negativity that the bird – hope – accompanies us through in our souls; first facing up to sore storms and then ‘the chillest land’ and ‘strangest sea.’ In both instances Dickinson reveals hope to triumph, through the gale and storm of which it continues to sing through and keep our souls ‘warm’, and then showing us unwavering loyalty as never ‘asked a crumb of me.’ Dickinson’s complete confidence in the bird reassures us indeed, she tells us that hope’s greatest integrity lies in its generosity to ask nothing of us in return for its everlasting presence.