Hope: the Puzzle Addressed by Poets

Hope is a conundrum. It’s very difficult to live a happy life without it, but, at the same time, it can lead to disappointment which leads to unhappiness. Sometimes it’s even necessary to abandon all hope because a situation is, uh, shall we say, hopeless? We humans can actually grieve over the loss of hope — such grief is despair. No one wants that, but sometimes you can’t choose.

Still, I think Emily Dickinson and Thomas Hardy both wrote perfect poems explaining hope.

“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
“The Darkling Thrush”
                                     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.


And, sometimes when you write the Daily Prompt you learn something. I just learned that the American robin is a true thrush, and, for the large number of people who don’t like winter,  the sight of spring’s first robin is always a hopeful sign.


The Last Baby Robin to Leave the Nest by my Back Door Last Spring


7 thoughts on “Hope: the Puzzle Addressed by Poets

  1. I haven’t seen a single robin this year. We usually have at least a pair nesting on the deck or nearby. I wonder where they’ve gone?

    I only apply hope to things like weather. Otherwise, I prefer reasonable expectations based on whatever miserable scraps of information I can gather.

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