“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.
Our last classic poetry spotlight focused on a poem called “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot, published in 1915. Today, we are also discussing an American poet, though her time was a little earlier than Eliot’s – Emily Dickinson, and her poem, “Hope is the Thing with Feathers.”
Emily Dickinson’s Life
Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 in Massachusetts to a fairly wealthy family. However, she was extremely introverted and regarded as “eccentric” by her peers. She usually kept to her bedroom, where she wrote nearly 1,800 poems over the years. By the 1860s, after experiencing many deaths of her family and friends, she had become almost fully withdrawn from society, communicating with others only in the form of letters. This was also her most productive poetry-writing time.
Emily Dickinson’s Poetry
Despite Emily Dickinson’s talent and passion for writing poetry, she had fewer than a dozen poems published while she was alive. After her death of Bright’s disease at the age of 55, Emily’s younger sister Lavinia discovered her collection of poems and had the first volume published four years after her death.
Although “Hope is the Thing with Feathers,” does not include any, Dickinson’s poetry is well known for her unconventional use of dashes and capitalization. She frequently uses slant rhyme (soul / all, and sea / extremity) and is known for themes like flowers and gardens, morbidity, and Christianity.
Her poem “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” uses a bird as a metaphor for hope, singing in the soul. As one of her earliest poems, it doesn’t quite have the maturity and shock factor that many of her later poems have, but her storm metaphor does bring the reader back to reality after being consumed with the beautiful bird metaphor.
Did you enjoy learning about Emily Dickinson’s poetry? Take a stab at writing your own unique poem like “Hope is the Thing with Feathers.” If you like what you write, consider submitting it to our poetry contest and show your work to the world!