“Hope is a thing with feathers” — A poem by Emily Dickinson

Gently and softspoken, Emily Dickinson expresses her thoughts about hope and compares it to “the thing” with feathers. Notice how careful she is with the words. How does she describe hope? It’s more like a tune which can’t be seen. What does the narrator reveal about the tune? Where can it be heard?

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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“The New Colossus” – A poem by Emma Lazarus

Context and themes

This poem was written by Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) and is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. It was written in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. But it was soon forgotten and played no role at the opening of the statue in 1886.

The poem is constructed after the Petrarchan sonnet. Pay attention to the historical and mythological references throughout the poem.

The title of the poem and the first two lines refer to the Colossus of Rhodes, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, sometimes described as standing astride the harbor.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Sources

wikipedia.org

“Alone” – A poem by Edgar Allan Poe

Context and Themes

Today I’m writing a little about Poe again and the poem “Alone”. This is one of Poe’s most wellknown and beloved poems and was never published during his liftime. It was probably written in 1829 and surfaced some years after his death in 1849. In September 1875, the poem, which had been in the possession of a family in Baltimore, was published with its title in Scribner’s Monthly. The editor, E. L. Didier, also reproduced a facsimile of the manuscript, though he admitted he added the date himself.

The lines contains a brief description of the narrator’s childhood and the secret world of a rather lonely child. Pay attention to the role of the narrator! His story is presented from an adult point of view and his reflexion upon childhood is done from a perspective which reveals he had already been through some crisis in his life. He reconnect the bad moments with the feelings of being different as a child. There is hint in this line: “Then—in my childhood—in the dawn Of a most stormy life—was drawn From ev’ry depth of good and ill The mystery which binds me still—”

But will he solve the Mystery that binds him still? I doubt it. One wonders what kind of storms he had to go through but there are no revealing facts as the poem ends suddenly with a demon in his view.

Alone

From childhood’s hour I have not been

As others were—I have not seen

As others saw—I could not bring

My passions from a common spring—

From the same source I have not taken

My sorrow—I could not awaken

My heart to joy at the same tone—

And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—

Then—in my childhood—in the dawn

Of a most stormy life—was drawn

From ev’ry depth of good and ill

The mystery which binds me still—

From the torrent, or the fountain—

From the red cliff of the mountain—

From the sun that ’round me roll’d

In its autumn tint of gold—

From the lightning in the sky

As it pass’d me flying by—

From the thunder, and the storm—

And the cloud that took the form

(When the rest of Heaven was blue)

Of a demon in my view—

Sources

wikipedia.org

”Abraham Lincoln is my name” – A short poem by Abe

President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) had many talents, and one of his less known was his interest in poetry. He started to write poetry at an early age and one early attempt to greatness is perhaps shown in the following few lines written about 15 or 17. About 9 poems seemed to have survived and are included in the Collected Works by Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln is my nam[e]
And with my pen I wrote the same
I wrote in both hast and speed
and left it here for fools to read.

Source

wikipedia.org
wikipedia.commons

“To One in Paradise” – A poem by Edgar Allan Poe

Context: The poemTo One in Paradise” (1833) is among Poe’s most well-known lines of lyric! It was first published without a title as part of the short story “The Visionary” (later renamed “The Assignation”). It evolved into “To Ianthe in Heaven” and then into “To One Beloved” before being named “To One in Paradise” in the February 25, 1843.

Themes: Take notice how the narrator in this poem presents the events in time and place. He has lost his love, she died. In the first lines he lingers on how beautiful everything was when she was alive. She was everything to him and he uses nature as a metaphor to describe her. Throughout the lines she is only known as ‘love’. But how well is she really described? She remains pretty anonymous to the reader. Is she really a person? Why does Poe bother to hide her personality? In the seventh line our narrator tells us “the dream was too bright to last” and that he clings to the past “mute” and “motionless”. Our narrator is mourning deeply – “The light of Life is over”. Just as in his most famous poem “The Raven” the famous words no more echoes three times. Only in the final lines we learn some of her characteristics, she had grey eyes and she keeps on dancing on eternal streams as the narrator continuous to dream in trances about her.

 Key words: Lost love, death, mourning, loss

To One in Paradise

Thou wast that all to me, love,
For which my soul did pine—
A green isle in the sea, love,
A fountain and a shrine,
All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers,
And all the flowers were mine.

Ah, dream too bright to last!
Ah, starry Hope! that didst arise
But to be overcast!
A voice from out the Future cries,
“On! on!”—but o’er the Past
(Dim gulf!) my spirit hovering lies
Mute, motionless, aghast!

For, alas! alas! with me
The light of Life is o’er!
No more—no more—no more—
(Such language holds the solemn sea
To the sands upon the shore)
Shall bloom the thunder-blasted tree,
Or the stricken eagle soar!

And all my days are trances,
And all my nightly dreams
Are where thy grey eye glances,
And where thy footstep gleams—
In what ethereal dances,
By what eternal streams.

“The Footfalls of Memory” – A poem by T.S Eliot

Context: T.S Eliot (1888-1965) born Thomas Stearns Eliot in Missouri, was an English-American writer of plays, poetry and Essays. He was educated at Harvard and did graduate work in philosophy at the Sorbonne, Harvard, and Merton College, Oxford. He finally settled in England and became a teacher. In 1927 Eliot became a british citizen. Eliot was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948 with the motivation: “for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry”. His most famous cycle of poetry is perhaps The Waste Land. The poem “The Footfalls of Memory” was published in Four Quartets and contains four poems  produced between 1935-1942. It appears in the poem Burnt Norton (1935).

Themes: Memory, time, past and present

 

The Footfalls of Memory

 

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.

T.S Eliot (1888-1965) {Photo credit: wikipedia.org}

 

Sources

The poem is reproduced from Four Quartets available through wikiquote.

wikipedia.org (various entries)

Nobelprize.org

“The Haunted Palace” – A poem by Edgar Allan Poe

Context: This poem by  Edgar A. Poe (1809-1849) was incorporated in the story  “The Fall of the House of Usher”, published in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine (Sept. 1839). It’s presented as a song written by the main protagonist Roderick Usher. The poem is an Allegory about a king, his palace and the kingdom. The palace is the main object in focus and is described through a romantic scenery of pittoresque nature sorrounding it. People living in the valley are happy and the king has wit and wisdom. There are also beauty and music. But bad times comes and the king is nolonger happy. Unamed sorrows struck the king and the poem takes on a darker theme. The valley is no longer beautiful, but scary.

Themes: Happiness, sadness, memory, past, present, ghosts, Music and Madness. Notice that Music and Madness is also a main theme of the novel The Fall of the House of Usher.

The Haunted Palace

In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace—
Radiant palace—reared its head.
In the monarch Thought’s dominion,
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair!

Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow
(This—all this—was in the olden
Time long ago)
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A wingèd odor went away.

Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically
To a lute’s well-tunèd law,
Round about a throne where, sitting,
Porphyrogene!
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch’s high estate;
(Ah, let us mourn!—for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him, desolate!)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.

And travellers, now, within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody;
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh—but smile no more.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle edgar allan poe usher house rackham
Arthur Rackham’s illustration to the House of Usher.

Sources

wikipedia.org [various entries]