Despair and Hope

As voluble as our generations are when talking about our feelings, we didn’t invent that kind of emotional transparency. In fact, I sometimes think that earlier generations were more creative about it, particularly the poets.

It’s pretty obvious to anyone who looks at my poetry posts, that Emily Dickinson is one of my favorites. Feminine, independent, strong, emotional, spiritual, clever and intelligent – few poets touch me as she does and has done since I first read her when I was a child. Each of these poems expresses a state of being that is opposed to, yet intimately connected, with the other.

First, “It was not death, for I stood up” (355):

It was not Death, for I stood up,
And all the Dead, lie down –
It was not Night, for all the Bells
Put out their Tongues, for Noon.
 
It was not Frost, for on my Flesh
I felt Siroccos – crawl –
Nor Fire – for just my marble feet
Could keep a Chancel, cool –
 
And yet, it tasted, like them all,
The Figures I have seen
Set orderly, for Burial
Reminded me, of mine –
 
As if my life were shaven,
And fitted to a frame,
And could not breathe without a key,
And ’twas like Midnight, some –
 
When everything that ticked – has stopped –
And space stares – all around –
Or Grisly frosts – first Autumn morns,
Repeal the Beating Ground –
 
But most, like Chaos – Stopless – cool –
Without a Chance, or spar –
Or even a Report of Land –
To justify – Despair.

….

And then, the better known “Hope is the thing with feathers”(254):

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.
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