Dickinson and Browning: #Hope

Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning are taking a lot of my dream time right now. They were both amazing poets who wrote of the soul. They had different styles and were from different places on this round and lonely world. They both experienced pain, but translated that somehow into beauty.

Dickinson has this poem that compares hope to a bird. When reading this poem, I kept imaging a small bird, a wren or a sparrow, in a large storm. In my imagination, this bird was struggling to fly while the rain soaked its feathers and weighed it down, while the winds pushed it around and forced it to push harder to do the things that it would do so effortlessly under normal conditions, soar and fly.

"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 —

During moments of anguish or pain, isn’t that little bird, our own heart’s eagle, what keeps us warm enough to survive another cold day? Sometimes, I think that there is nothing to smile about and even tears seem to be pointless. But, I read these lines and others like it, and I am able to keep on going on.

Dickinson was a person who did not live a conventional life for a woman of her time. She did not marry although she had suitors. She did not teach or volunteer. She took care of her household and dog. She wrote obsessively.

Browning lived in a lot of pain. Her poetry is like what most people think of when they hear the word “poetry.” It rhymes in a way that most people recognize and has a discernible rhythm. Even though it is different from Emily Dickinson’s poetry on the outside, I hear the depth inside like Dickinson’s. The depth of oceans of solitude and a sweet longing.

You see we're tired, my heart and I.
We dealt with books, we trusted men,
And in our own blood drenched the pen,
As if such colours could not fly.
We walked too straight for fortune's end,
We loved too true to keep a friend ;
At last we're tired, my heart and I.


This is from a poem that she wrote called ” My Heart and I.” The poem talk about this sorrow over losing love and still because she writes it and sets the words down she voices her pain and gives it power. By letting it out, she regains control and is mistress of her grief.

I know that I have felt tired like that.

Notes for the Project

At this time, the Poetry Foundation has been helpful in providing the texts of popular poems. A text found at my University’s library has a wonderful complete collection of poems by Browning. Also there are substantial amounts of resources on Dickinson.

My professor, Dr. H. Blatt, is wonderful guide through the research process, never leading directly, she makes wise suggestions at just the right time. My dear husband keeps listening to me gush and always interjects with a point of clarification here and there that constantly supply the aha moment. My friends, Lacee, Diana, Paul, Maria, Dianne and Mike give me reasons to keep studying. Knowing that people read this blog at times is very encouraging. Thank you so much.

Location Miami, Florida USA E-mail helen@lemushelen.blog Hours M - Th 8 - 10 PM EST and Saturday 4 - 8 PM EST
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