The Soul of the Matter: “Hope is the thing with feathers…”

Emily Dickinson charmed me with the very first poem of hers I read as a little girl: “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul…” There’s something about the way she puts words together that mesmerized me. There’s a loneliness to her thoughts, but also a bravery. A sense that isolation drives her to create, but that she’s also dreaming of the day she’ll be set free. Her internal journeys spoke to mine, I guess, and they still do today.

hope with birds

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.

Do you see what she does here?

Hope feather

Hope is alive, even when it’s merely a captive in our hearts. It may not have a voice yet that we can hear, but it won’t stop. It won’t be silenced. It’s perched and waiting to soar just as soon as we’ll let it.

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That would abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

hope ocean bird

Okay, we’ll put the symbolism aside for another day (which she’s a master at with a few simple, sparing, painstakingly selected words)–because there will be another day. I’ll be talking ED once a week through the end of the year. Just try to stop me. But poetry and theme and metaphor aside, look at what she’s saying here… Hope is there for us when things are at their worst. It’s a sweet sound from the gale that’s trying to silence us. A warmth, waiting to be discovered.

Doesn’t that describe PERFECTLY that hint of second wind that comes to us in those darkest moments where we buckle ourselves in and decide to fight instead of go under? I know. I gush. But why we decide to rally isn’t the point–Emily Dickinson’s point is that we do rally, because hope is always there with us, in our souls, never stopping, always singing, fighting along with us.

I heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

hope soaring birds

More symbolism. I’m DYING to dive into the symbolism that flows through her minimalist poetry. But I won’t digress. Today ;o)

Because with these last few phrases what I hear is not just that hope is always there and always fighting through the cold and strangeness of what tries to take us down in life. It’s also that hope is selfless. A soaring selflessness that we can draw from when we need it most, and then give away to others.

Our hope doesn’t want anything in return for seeing us through our darkest times…except that we pass it on to others once we’re stronger. In the end, that’s what this poem (and most everything ED penned) says to me. It’s why I chose her hope poem to introduce my Christmas on Mimosa Lane.

I write emotional things that take the reader on a journey through many ups and downs, because the hope running through stories like these (the ones that drive our hero and heroine through the sorest storm and to the chillest land before landing them safely on the calm shore of a romance’s happily ever after) is what inspires me to create.

As I believe Emily Dickenson has from that very first poem (this poem) I read of hers as a little girl…

What does hope look like to you, my friends? It’s the question I’ve been dying to ask for months as I’ve waited for COML to launch. What will all of this mean to you?

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3 Responses to “The Soul of the Matter: “Hope is the thing with feathers…””

  1. Sunnymay says:

    Hope is ethereal and talks through your heart to reach deep in your soul. Thanks for the poetry lift and gorgeous pictures with doves and the one with the feather and its reflection.

  2. I love them all, too, Sunnymay!

    Each poem I’ll share from this novel are personal faves. Particularly the last one. So stay tuned…

  3. Robena Grant says:

    Oh, I love this. Thanks for sharing.

    For me hope is a belief in good. A message sent from the heart to bring meaning and comfort even in the roughest of times.

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