Dickinson, Emily. "Hope is the thing with feathers".
Summary and Analysis
(from American Literature I Lectures)
A poem of very abstract concept, an attempt to describe the aspect of "Hope", a definition through image. Rich connotations arise: "Hope" is described as a "thing with feathers", which could refer not only to a bird, but also to an angel.
"Hope" however does not fly, but "perches in the soul", which suggests her permanency. The notion of permanency is further supported by the image of a very "sore storm" which only could "abash the bird". "Hope" has still a bird-like quality, because it sings "without the words". The feathers may also evoke sensual associations of warmth.
The bird of "Hope" never asked for a crumb of her: on one hand it is positive ("Hope" does not need anything), on the other hand it is negative (the speaker is likely to be desperate to have somebody to need her).
AuthorDickinson, Emily. (1830 - 1886).
Full TitleUntitled, the first line is used for identification.
Dickinson, Emily. "Hope is the thing with feathers". In: The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym et al. NY: Norton, 1989.
American Literature I Lectures.