Emily likens Hope to a bird

This poem is one of the most famous pieces of work by Emily Dickinson. Emily was an American woman whose creative talents weren’t revealed to the world until after her death.

Her words are so reflective and honest about her experience of Hope that they might be just what people need to hear right now amidst the panic, worry and fear that is easily clouding minds and getting the better of many of us.

It’s easy to preach hope and love when we are comfortable and the sun is shining. But, Emily’s words don’t just come from a place of rainbows and sunshine. In fact, much of Emily’s life was very similar to what the world is experiencing right now: she grieved the deaths and illnesses of many loved ones and she spent most of the later half of her life in isolation, often only speaking to people from the other side of a door.

Emily understood what it was to be scared and feel alone. But in her seemingly simple life, she was capable of contemplating and appreciating what a gift Hope is. And was talented enough to be able to put that into a very small number of words.

Emily likened Hope to a bird.

It’s feathers are soft and light but the way they are so intricately structured to form wings makes them the enforcing strength that makes a bird capable of flight.

Hope lightens our burdens and fortifies us when we are challenged or weary.

Emily also described Hope’s song as a “tune without words”. We don’t fully understand it, we can’t always explain the feeling it gives us and it is experienced differently by each individual. This doesn’t make Hope some word for an ambiguous emotion but the definition of a truly supernatural and uplifting virtue that we can practice for ourselves.

In fact, if we stop and think about what our understanding of Hope is and where it came from, we might be at a loss for words ourselves.

Just like the gift of life –

Hope is a gift we’ve had before we could even comprehend it and our appreciation for it only deepens the more we experience it.

Emily’s little poem boasts about the comfort Hope can give in the extremes of our discomfort – in the “sore storm… the chillest land… the strangest sea”. Whether it be a global pandemic distancing us from those people and things we love, or just the daily crosses we are given to bear, God only requires our trust – our Hope – in Him that we will not just survive our hardships, but overcome and rise above them. Stronger, taller, greater.

It’s when we feel we have exhausted all options and we don’t think we have any more moves to make that Hope is the greatest action we can take. How do we do this? Take a step back, put your hands up and say –

‘I leave it to you Lord’

This isn’t a hopeless giving up but a Hopeful giving up! Because we give up our struggles, torments and crosses to God who will always carry us through the storm.


Elise Drum

Elise is a second year Medical student in Sydney from rural NSW who enjoys a variety of sports and being outdoors. She also loves food but when it comes to cooking – she claims to burn water.

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