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December 3, 2011

Hope is the thing with feathers...

A little while back someone posted the beginning of this poem on my fb wall. I fell in love with the words. Then just this week, my sweet friend Coni sent the entire poem to me and the breakdown of what the metaphor means along with some questions. She said it reminded her of me... I was so blessed at the use and connection of hope and birds in this poem. They go hand in hand just like Maddie and Jonah. <3 What a blessing... Enjoy =)


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

Dickinson defines hope by comparing it to a bird (a metaphor) .

Stanza one

Hope is a "thing" because it is a feeling; the thing/feeling is like a bird. Dickinson uses the standard dictionary format for a definition; first she places the word in a general category ("thing"), and then she differentiates it from everything else in that category. For instance, the definition of a cat would run something like this: a cat is a mammal (the first part of the definition places it in a category); the rest of the definition would be "which is nocturnal, fur-bearing, hunts at night, has pointed ears, etc. (the second part of the definition differentiates the cat from other all mammals).
How would hope "perch," and why does it perch in the soul? As you read this poem, keep in mind that the subject is hope and that the bird metaphor is only defining hope. Whatever is being said of the bird applies to hope, and the application to hope is Dickinson's point in this poem. The bird "sings." Is this a good or a bad thing? The tune is "without words." Is hope a matter of words, or is it a feeling about the future, a feeling which consists both of desire and expectation? Psychologically, is it true that hope never fails us, that hope is always possible?

Stanza two

Why is hope "sweetest" during a storm? When do we most need hope, when things are going well or when they are going badly? Sore is being used in the sense of very great or severe; abash means to make ashamed, embarrassed, or self-conscious. Essentially only the most extreme or impossible-to-escape storm would affect the bird/hope. If the bird is "abashed" what would happen to the individual's hope? In a storm, would being "kept warm" be a plus or a minus, an advantage or a disadvantage?

Stanza three

What kind of place would "chillest" land be?  Would you want to vacation there, for instance? Yet in this coldest land, hope kept the individual warm. Is keeping the speaker warm a desirable or an undesirable act in these circumstances? Is "the strangest sea" a desirable or undesirable place to be? Would you need hope there? The bird, faithful and unabashed, follows and sings to the speaker ("I've heard it") under the worst, the most threatening of circumstances.
The last two lines are introduced by "Yet." What kind of connection does "yet" establish with the preceding ideas/stanzas? Does it lead you to expect similarity, contrast, an example, an irrelevancy, a joke? Even in the most critical circumstances the bird never asked for even a "crumb" in return for its support. What are the associations with "crumb"? would you be satisfied if your employer offered you "a crumb" in payment for your work?

Yes....Hope IS always possible...
I just love that poem! What a blessing!!!

Okay, Baby shower pics to come early next week. Only 4 more days and Jonah Asher will be in our arms. We can't wait!!!


  1. What a great, sweet poem. I am so excited for you guys! In just a few, short days, you will have another special blessing in your arms. I wish nothing but the best for you all in the delivery of your little Jonah. Good luck, and can't wait to see pictures of that handsome little man! Praying for you always!

  2. What a neat poem. Thank you for sharing! Can't wait to see pictures of your sweet baby boy!!