Study Guide

Hope is the thing with feathers Perseverance

By Emily Dickinson


"Hope" is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all – (1-4)

Like an all-night rave, our hope-bird just keeps cranking out the tunes. The key to perseverance is not just to quickly overcome an obstacle, but to maintain hope over time. Luckily, DJ Hope has brought a backup generator to keep the inspiration pumping.

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard – (5)

It's hard to persevere through a hot fudge sundae. It's a sad truth that hardship is necessary to measure perseverance. Luckily, hardship is no short supply. When it strikes, that's when hope's inspiration to keep going really kicks in.

That kept so many warm – (8)

Here, keeping folks warm is another metaphor for inspiring them to persevere. It's a cold, cruel world out there. Luckily, hope provides us with plenty of long underwear to keep us going.

I've heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea – (9-10)

Don't get it twisted. There's nothing "chill" about these locales. Here "chillest land" means "coldest place." And yet, in the worst of times, in the worst of places, hope keeps inspiring us to carry on.