Monday, January 13, 2014

Monday morsels: birds of hope

I attended the funeral of a friend's dad on the weekend.  At the service, the pastor focused on hope. Afterward I was thinking about that subject and pondering two of my favourite poems -- both of which are about hope, and about birds.  So I thought I'd share them here today; they seem appropriate to the start of a new year.


Hope is the thing with feathers (by Emily Dickinson)

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.


The Darkling Thrush (by Thomas Hardy)

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
      The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware. 



  1. What an interesting take the two poets have on hope and the bird metaphor, Jeannie. One uses the bird as the hopeful one, and the other personifies hope as the bird itself.

    I wonder at Dickinson's portrayal of hope as never asking a crumb from us. Hope might actually require much of us in some instances, might it not? Now you're making my brain work, Jeannie.

    1. That's the part of the poem that really makes me think, too. And I agree: hope might require a tremendous amount of trust or sacrifice from us. Or maybe it is a personification of God, who does everything for us (even hopes for us) when we can do nothing for ourselves. It sure is a wonderful poem, though.

      KSP writes about Hardy's poem in Booked; do you remember that part? How sad that Hardy had no hope for himself -- he could only view it in another creature who he realized could see something he couldn't.


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