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.
As an extended metaphor the bird image works beautifully to highlight the characteristics of hope:
Hope is the thing. An abstract idea is compared to a concrete thing.It is easier to describe an abstract idea by giving it a physical existence.
The thing enlarges its puniness by being a mere thing. A poor thing drawing sympathy.
The thing is a bird and has feathers. It is perched in the soul but is capable of flying away from it and/or returning to it. The feathers represent endless possibilities of flying away. Hope needs no realistic basis for existing. It can make survival possible even without a logical basis. It can build escapist paradises for those who are in distress.
It also sings the tune without words.Hope has no words but is just felt in the soul.It sings uninterruptedly because there are no words to bring the song to a finis.
Hope is the sweetest song heard over the hissing storm winds. The bird sings without stop ,over the fiercest gale.Its song has kept many a soul warm and cannot be stopped by a mere storm.
The poet has heard the song in the chillest of the lands or the strangest of the seas. The lone traveller who loses way in a bleak desert or on an endless sea does not lose hope of some day reaching his destination.
Lastly the bird merely sings for the world but never does it extract any price for it.Even in extremity hope does not disappoint us leading us towards despair.It does not ask a crumb of us.
The many hyphens Emily Dickinson typically uses in her poem leave you with a hope that something is yet to come. That is what hope is all about.One more of the extended metaphors the poet uses so beautifully.