“Hope Is The Thing With Feathers” is a free verse poem by Emily Dickinson, first published in 1891 1. The poem is a metaphorical description of hope as a bird that lives within the human soul and sings its song no matter what.
Hope Is The Thing With Feathers Poem
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’s poem “Hope is the thing with feathers” metaphorically describes hope as a bird that resides within the human soul, singing endlessly and without requiring any words. This bird, or hope, continues to sing even during hard times, suggesting that hope is persistent and resilient even in the face of adversity.
In the second stanza, Dickinson emphasizes that hope can be most felt and is most needed during difficult times (“the gale”), and it would take an incredibly severe storm to silence this little bird. This portrays hope as a force that comforts and warms people through their trials.
The final stanza speaks to the universality and unfailing presence of hope, as it is heard in the “chillest land” and on the “strangest sea,” indicating that hope remains with us even in the most desolate or unfamiliar circumstances. Moreover, Dickinson notes that hope never asks for anything in return—even in the direst situations (“in extremity”), it doesn’t require any “crumb” or reward for its existence and persistence. This characterizes hope as selfless and ever-present, an innate part of the human spirit that asks for nothing but offers much in the way of comfort and strength.
“Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul, / And sings the tune without the words, / And never stops at all,”
Here, Dickinson introduces hope as a bird, a creature of the air known for its ability to soar. The feathers symbolize lightness and potential for flight, suggesting hope can lift the spirit. It “perches in the soul,” a metaphor for hope taking residence within the innermost part of a person. The bird sings continuously, a tune without words, representing hope’s silent yet constant and understood presence. The absence of words indicates that hope’s essence transcends language; it is a feeling, an instinct, an inner melody that persists.
“And sweetest in the gale is heard; / And sore must be the storm / That could abash the little bird / That kept so many warm.”
In this stanza, hope is characterized as strongest when times are tough (“sweetest in the gale”). The greater the difficulty (“sore must be the storm”), the more hope proves its resilience. The use of the word “abash” implies that it’s rare for hope to be disconcerted or embarrassed. This little bird of hope provides warmth, a metaphor for comfort and reassurance, to many people, indicating hope’s vital role in human resilience.
“I’ve heard it in the chillest land, / And on the strangest sea; / Yet, never, in extremity, / It asked a crumb of me.”
Finally, Dickinson speaks from personal experience, claiming to have felt hope even in the most desolate of places (“the chillest land” and “the strangest sea”), which underscores hope’s ubiquity and its ability to endure within any environment or situation. The “chillest land” and “strangest sea” also represent emotional states of desolation and unfamiliarity. Despite its pervasiveness and the comfort it provides, hope is self-sufficient and undemanding (“It asked a crumb of me”). It exists and gives without needing sustenance from those it nurtures, showcasing its unconditional nature.
I feel an uplifting sense of comfort and resilience when I read Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the thing with feathers.” The metaphor of hope as a bird nestled within the soul evokes a feeling of inner strength and optimism. There’s a profound beauty in the way the poem acknowledges the steadfast nature of hope, even in the face of life’s harshest gales. It’s as if the gentle, persistent song of hope that Dickinson describes is playing somewhere deep within me, reminding me that no matter what challenges arise, there is this small, unbreakable part of the spirit that keeps singing, never asking for anything in return. This poem touches a chord of recognition, stirring a quiet gratitude for the ever-present hope that endures through life’s trials.