Hope is The Thing with Feathers: Analysis

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HOPE IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS

'Hope' is the thing with feathers-
That perches in the soul-
And sings the tune without the words
And never stoops 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 chilliest land
And on the strangest Sea-
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb of Me.

'Hope' is the thing with feathers- That perches in the soul- And sings the tune without the words And never stoops at all-
Hope is The Thing with Feathers

Introduction:

      Emily Dickinson has successfully rendered an abstract subject i.e., hope in concrete terms in this poem 'Hope is The Thing with Feathers'. Hope is personified as a feathered bird which resides in man's soul. It sufficiently equips a person to courageously face the buffets of life. Hope is a must for accelerating man's creative output.

Development of Thought:

      Emily Dickinson visualizes hope as a living being and not an abstract entity. Hope is looked upon as a bird singing continuously in the human soul. The song of this bird seems sweetest in a gale which stands for the period of crisis in one's life. The voice of the little bird can only be silenced by the most violent storms. This means that only the toughest times can have a dampening impact on hope.

      The poet had herself heard this song of the bird in the coldest region and on the mysterious sea. She had not abandoned hope in the most difficult times in her life. The bird loved independence and never expected any food for sustenance in any challenging situation in its life. This clearly shows that hope is self-sustaining and never expects any favour from any external agent, including the poetess.

Explanation with Reference to Context:

Hope is the thing with feathers-
That perches in the soul-
And sings the tune without words-
And never stoops -at all-

      Emily Dickinson redefines 'hope' in this poem. She visualizes hope as a living and not an abstract entity. The feeling of hope resides in man's mind that affects it directly or indirectly.

      Hope is humanized in this section of the poem. It is compared to a bird singing continuously in man's mind. It is like a feathered bird which sits and sings in it. It is a typical song in which words are absent. Moreover, the song of the bird seems to have no end.

And sweetest in the Gale -is heard-
And sore must be the storm-
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm-

      Emily Dickinson examines the origin of hope in man's life.The feeling of hope has it origin in man's mind and conditions its behaviour. It also activates man's mind and adds to its creative potential.

      The song of this bird soothes the mind in crisis. Moreover, this melodious song prepares a person to encounter the stresses and strains of life. Only the most violent storm can prevent the sweetest song of this bird from being heard. It can be silenced by the natural fury only. It means that hope can be frustrated by the sorest misfortune. The silencing of the voice of the bird would deny the pleasure of the sweetest song which used to comfort many hearts in the past.

I've heard it in the chilliest land-
And on the strangest Sea-
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb-f Me.

      The song of the bird has a blaming impact on the mind in a calamity. It can make a man forget the ups and down of life. Any attempt to silence the song of the bird will lead to despair and frustration. It is the violence of the storm which can extinguish hope in man's life.

      The speaker finds no problem in identifying the place where he had heard this song in the past. He had heard this song in the icy-cold region and on the mysterious seas. It stood by him through thick and thin to face many odds in his life. The poet praises the bird for its selfless support to him in a fix. Strangely enough, the bird has never demanded any crumbs in return for helping him in difficulties. It shows that man is selfish but the bird selfless in interacting with human beings.

Critically Analysis:

Characteristic of Hope:

      Hope has various characteristics of a courageous bird, the most important being its total self-reliance or sourcelessness. The poem violates the lexicographer's cardinal rule about precision. What kind of 'thing' ? A birdlike thing as the feathers and song suggest But the tenor overwhelms the vehicle, and the analogy breaks down in the puzzling conclusion with its absurd assumption that hope might ever go begging for help. May be hope is another kind of thing as well, infinitely suggestible but never defined.

Use of Metaphor:

      The metaphor of hope as a little bird singing continuously is kept throughout the poem. it is the central organisational structural strategy in this poem.

No Ambiguity:

      The poem is free from any kind of ambiguity and has been admired for its simplicity and the logical development of the implications of hope in it.

Annotations:

      'Hope' - is not an abstract but a living thing. 'Soul' - mind the source of hope in life. 'Perches' -sits. 'Gale' - tough times \ period of crisis. 'Tune' - Sound. 'Sore' - Violent and unmanageable. 'Abash' - silence or calm. 'Chilliest' - coldest. 'Strangest seas' - mysterious seas. 'Extremity' - toughest times. 'Crumb' - favour or help of any kind for livelihood.

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