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.
So says Emily Dickinson. Knowing Emily as I do (she’s an old favorite of mine), I’m inclined to go along with the traditional rainbow-at-the-end-of–the-flood interpretation of her poem. Nevertheless, she was well versed in irony and used it to alleviate bouts of frustration, bitterness and despair. It’s possible “Never stops at all” means “Oh PLEASE, shut the Hell up!”
Do you ever get a tune in your head that won’t quit, just keeps replaying, again and again, no matter what? Hope can sound like that – a repetitious melody that disallows any other thought and won’t let you rest.
Hope can be regarded as a delusion that keeps reality at bay; a dangerous illusion that can prevent introspection, delight in present pleasure or engagement with the world. Emily’s last line speaks to this when she says hope never “asked a crumb of me.” In other words, Hope precludes relationship, give and take, mutuality. It can be a lonely pastime. Henry Miller would agree. He said, “Hope is a bad thing. It means that you are not what you want to be. It means that part of you is dead, if not all of you. It means that you entertain illusions.”
Of course there’s no definitive answer to whether or not hope is a blessing. It remains a word of many colors – some somber, some bright. Speaking of color, April’s prompt from Leah Piken Kolidas at Creative Every Day is color. Rainbow seemed an appropriate association for both color and hope. Among my Pandora related collage images I found a rainbow-colored box and a rainbow-colored bird and although Michelle had already appropriated Emily’s poem, I wanted to use it, too.
My last collage for this story, leaves the ending as ambiguous as ever . It answers none of our questions. Who sent the storm that rained for forty days and nights – and why? Why must girls be raised in ignorance to be exploited, manipulated and used? Who profits from promises? Who does Hope serve? What lies beneath the surface of this tale built on deceptions?