Hope is a subtle Glutton —
He feeds upon the Fair —
And yet — inspected closely
What Abstinence is there —

His is the Halcyon Table —
That never seats but One —
And whatsoever is consumed
The same amount remain —

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem Hope is a subtle Glutton —


  1. Michael Schumacher says:

    Correction: “the same amounts remain.” The rhythms of the poem are difficult and awkward. The many alliterations – subtle glutton; the s’s, p’s, h’s. “And whatsover is consumed” has the extra syllable (the ambiguity of Halcyon (2 or 3 syllables? – it’s the key word of the poem, IMO: hope’s connection to an imagined , idyllic past).
    This is not just technical; it is a demonstration of Dickinson’s mastery of the language. These devices communicate on deeper levels than the words alone.

  2. Karen says:

    I believe she means that Hope can be both a wonderful light in the darkness, “A thing with feathers” as she says in her other poem, but it changes nothing. To hope for something is not to have that thing. To those imprisoned or enslaved hope can allow them to live through the darkest hour, but it does not change the fact that they are still imprisoned. Hope can allow people to abstain from having the thing they want, from getting the object of their desire, from changing their circumstances. A person can still have hope things will change without doing anything to to make it happen, thus feeding upon itself.

    • American Poems says:

      Thank you for sharing your insight Karen.

      This particular poem does feel dark to me. She focuses on hope, or Hope, as it were, anthropomorphizing the emotion and imbuing it with sentiments usually not associated with hope.

      Hope, taken by itself, without forward motion from the one who feels hope, will lead nowhere.

  3. anna petersen says:

    it is hard for me to agree with this poem! hope is there for everyone and it doesnt leave us in our darkest hour! its a shoulder to lean on! a close soul grabbing friend! 🙂

  4. George Soscia says:

    It would seem that two are at the table, viz., Hope and the fair person.

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