The spirit killeth, but the letter giveth life.
The week is dealt out like a hand
That children pick up card by card.
One keeps getting the same hand.
One keeps getting the same card.
But twice a day — except on Saturday —
The wheel stops, there is a crack in Time:
With a hiss of soles, a rattle of tin,
My own gray Daemon pauses on the stair,
My own bald Fortune lifts me by the hair.
Woe’s me! woe’s me! In Folly’s mailbox
Still laughs the postcard, Hope:
Your uncle in Australia
Has died and you are Pope,
For many a soul has entertained
A Mailman unawares —
And as you cry, Impossible,
A step is on the stairs.
One keeps getting the same dream
Delayed, marked “Payment Due,”
The bill that one has paid
Delayed, marked “Payment Due” —
Twice a day, in rotting mailbox,
The white grubs are new:
And Faith, once more, is mine
Faithfully, but Charity
Writes hopefully about a new
Asylum — but Hope is as good as new.
Woe’s me! woe’s me! In Folly’s mailbox
Still laughs the postcard, Hope:
Your uncle in Australia
Has died and you are Pope,
For many a soul has entertained
A mailman unawares —
And as you cry, Impossible,
A step is on the stairs.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Randall Jarrell's poem Hope

1 Comment

  1. Robert Durison says:

    The hope that Jarrell speaks of is not Christian hope, i.e. to be with God in Paradise, to see His face; it is hope that one receive unearned good fortune (“Your uncle in Australia/Has died and you are Pope). It is the “hope” once finds in the expression “hope springs eternal,” the hope that around the corner one will find something or someone that will bring happiness. However, earthly happiness may be unattainable, hence it is in “Folly’s” mailbox, a rotting mailbox, where those “white grubs” reside. In our fallen world we have altered St. Paul’s statement that “the letter killeth but the spirit giveth life.” Instead we hope for some sweepstakes winning which will bring surcease to all our material cares. Vain hope!

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