“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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem “Hope” is the thing with feathers

31 Comments

  1. Anneie says:

    I like this poem because it is sweet and optimistic. I love the image created of a bird singing in a storm and on strange seas. This poem really just means hope is a never-ending thing humans have that gets them through dire circumstances.

  2. Tituba says:

    hope = oral sex

  3. alejandro says:

    me parecio muy hermoso el poema y es uno de mis favoritos.

  4. tammy says:

    What year did Emily write this poem? I just wonder how she felt at the time she was writing it.

  5. Allison says:

    Emily Dickinson’s Poem 254 relates to an individual’s own personal sense of hope, which is metaphorically used as a bird. The “bird” is characterized as having feathers and perching in the soul; its tune is “without words,” which attributes to the fact that hope is essentially personal to each and every individual and no one’s sense of hope is similar to that of another. “And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—“ is a strong juxtaposition of images presented by the speaker. The speaker says that hope is “sweetest,” meaning that one’s hope is positive and uplifting, even through adversity such as “in the Gale.” However, the choice of using the word “Gale” is particularly interesting because of the play on words of the name Gail, which is a Hebrew name for “joy.” While “sweetest” and “joy” are very similar adjectives and images, “sweetest” and “forceful winds” do not seemingly complement each other, thus introducing a rich, contrasting image. The loyalty of hope makes it so seemingly nourishing and beneficial to its host; yet, it is still perceived to be “small” since it is perched within one’s soul. However, it is arguable that one takes something so important for granted, and hope’s presence may appear to be small but, in actuality, is foundationally crucial.

  6. Courtney says:

    I believe the meaning of this poem is that hope never fails. Hope’s survival is personified through a bird. Like the bird, hope comes from a person’s soul, and “never stops at all,” meaning that a person doesn’t stop hoping. The bird continues to survive after the storm. When the speaker states, “I’ve heard it in the chillest land/And on the strangest sea” it symbolizes the survival of hope under horrible circumstances. The last two lines suggest that hope can even survive without a person’s help, just as birds do. “Yet, never, in Extremity/It asked a crumb – of me.”

  7. Robin says:

    I have always been a fan but this poem has gotten me thru the darkest moments of my life. I am thankful that it was written.

  8. kimberlie says:

    This poem is by far one of Emilys best works. Its my favorite poem of all time!!!

  9. Emily says:

    This is one of my favorite poems of all time.
    It’s truely beautiful.

  10. erika says:

    can u analyze what this poem mean in essay form

  11. Frank Wang says:

    This poem shows the true beuty of language, the essence of Hope. Brilliant piece

  12. Maggie says:

    This poem and many more of Emily’s can be found within the novel Teach Me by R.A. Nelson.

  13. phil says:

    when i get down on myself and blue I read this poem. It is so beautifully written and portrays hope so perfectly.
    I admire emily for this.

  14. yarema says:

    i love this poem, when i have a bad day isit in my room and read this over and over and it really brightens my spirits

  15. Kathy says:

    I think that this poem really describes hope in a good way and that hope will never leave us, even when we think it has. We just have to believe.

  16. caitlin says:

    i like this poem it made me think about my life and alot of shit that has happened in my life! and the people i knew and loved that died from suicide or cancer… and without reading this poem i don’t think i would be as hopeful as i am today

  17. Colla says:

    i interested when i read this poem because i learnd a very important message;it learnd me how to be strong,how to contuniue when i have problem.My teacher was very clever when she explained the poem.

  18. eleanor O'Donnell says:

    i love this poem. It’s in my favorite poem book. I have repeated this many times to myself when my health or my family’s or situations are not good. It’s saved me from depression and despair. I am putting this on a card to accompany a figurine of Hope I’m sending to my sister who has recently been diagnosed with Cancer

  19. Bob says:

    How wrong Emily Dickinson was! Hope is not “the thing with feathers.” The thing with feathers has turned out to be my nephew. I must take him to a specialist in Zurich.

    Woody Allen

  20. Shaun says:

    Damn!!! I’m in a hopeless situation!!! Final exams in 5days!!!! Damn you dickinson!!!!! Should have started studying ages ago!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Alex M. says:

    This poem is nothing short of amazing. We take hope for granted and it keeps us alive and going and she points out that it never asks anything from us.

  22. Holly says:

    I really like this poem. It gives me the will to go on when things get bad. I also read it when I need inspiration for a poem of my own. The poem Ms. Dickinson inspired is the following couplet:
    Back and forth, the waves will go
    Where the lead, I do not know

  23. Kristin says:

    “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers” is my favorite Dickinson poem. When we studied her poetry my Junior year of high school, I chose this poem to memorize and it has stuck with me ever since. I love to make up analogies for experiences or feelings I or others have had. I frequently add examples to conversations I have with my friends. Consequently, her personification of hope as a bird really strikes a cord in my brain. I love the way she uses the experiences of a bird as something her audience could relate to. She uses wonderfully vibrant pictures to describe that ambiguous word of Hope.

  24. orla says:

    For Dickinson, hope is an independent gift. It is delicate and fragile, yet strong and indominatble, a paradoxical quality that is reflected in the image
    “and sore must be the storm-
    That could abash the little Bird”

    Antoinette:

    The forward motin of the lines with Dickinson’s strange punctutation, also helps to suggest that this is a continuing state of mind, not just a temporary high point

    “and never stops – at all -”

    the underlying sadness as you call it is often seen more as a curiosity as she cannot understand hope and so must personify it as a bird to express her feelings of it.

  25. Roshanna Allgood says:

    The point of this peom is approaching hope as a symbol of fate. And can be within different people as well as shown in numberaus limitations. Pointing out the fact that hope, in one person can be much higher than another…

  26. Antoinette says:

    I have just begun studying Emily Dickinson for my Leaving Cert (the most soul destroying of Irish exams!) and I was slightly confused by this poem. Although the poets actual content seems positve, I can’t help feeling that there’s an underlying sadness. The way the last lines are punctuated, the discription of hope using a negative “never” and the use of the word “yet” lead me to believe this. My teacher obviously disagrees. Am I just wrong?

  27. The Unknown says:

    “Hope” is an angel…here to save us all from despair.

  28. Tiffany says:

    This poem has guided me through many troubled times. I have it memorized and posted on my wall at work. It’s great to see it in its original form here, Emily capitalized and punctuated her poetry in unconventional ways and in part, thereby conveyed her unconventional genius. This is the most beautiful and powerful definition of hope that I have ever seen.

  29. Tamara says:

    I could have misunderstood the context of this poem, but I always associated it with my mother, who passed away from cancer 3 years ago.We even read this poem as part of her eulogy. It seemed to capture her spirit and the reasons she lived for…to help those around her be brave.

  30. Ann Grimsley says:

    Our recent presidential candidate’s wife quoted this poem from her girlhood memories, on the TODAY Show on 11/21/04. She was visiting with Ms. Couric.

  31. Carolina says:

    I really like this poem. It’s my favorite and I think that it’s really deep. Emily Dickinson must have had a intricate outlook on life to be able to write such a masterpiece.

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