YEATS’ POEM: TO HOPE

For as long as men and women have been writing, words have been penned to express one’s self, to influence others, to preserve for posterity something that must be shared. Sometimes the words flow eloquently and wax poetically. Sometimes they are recognized by the world as worthy to be read. They may educate, may amuse, may even inspire with high and lofty ideals, and sometimes, fortunately, they may instill hope.

John Yeats is a well-read and much-loved poet from the past. When he penned the poetry below, he clearly presented hope as important. Calling it “sweet hope,” “bright-eyed hope,” and “great liberty,” he chose it as the topic of this poem and entitled it “To Hope.”

In a literary toast I raise my imaginary glass and join Yeats in tribute to hope… and remember to offer thanks to God for blessing me with His great and glorious gift of hope!

TO HOPE

When by my solitary hearth I sit,

And hateful thoughts enwrap my soul in gloom;

When no fair dreams before my “mind’s eye” flit,

And the bare heath of life presents no bloom;

Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,

And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

  1. Whene’er I wander at the fall of night,

  2. Where woven boughs shut out the moon’s bright ray,

  3. Should sad Despondency my musings fright,

  4. And frown to drive fair Cheerfulness away,

  5. Peep with the moonbeams through the leafy roof,

  6. And keep that fiend Despondence far aloof!

  7. Should Disappointment, parent of Despair,

  8. Strive for her son to seize my careless heart;

  9. When, like a cloud, he sits upon the air,

  10. Preparing on his spell-bound prey to dart:

  11. Chase him away, sweet Hope, with visage bright,

  12. And fright him as the morning frightens night!

  13. Whene’er the fate of those I hold most dear

  14. Tells to my fearful breast a tale of sorrow,

  15. O bright-eyed Hope, my morbid fancy cheer;

  16. Let me awhile thy sweetest comforts borrow:

  17. Thy heaven-born radiance around me shed,

  18. And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

  19. Should e’er unhappy love my bosom pain,

  20. From cruel parents or relentless fair;

  21. O let me think it is not quite in vain

  22. To sigh out sonnets to the midnight air!

  23. Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,

  24. And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

  25. In the long vista of the years to roll,

  26. Let me not see our country’s honour fade:

  27. O let me see our land retain her soul,

  28. Her pride, her freedom; and not freedom’s shade.

  29. From thy bright eyes unusual brightness shed —

  30. Beneath thy pinions canopy my head!

  31. Let me not see the patriot’s high bequest,

  32. Great Liberty! how great in plain attire!

  33. With the base purple of a court oppress’d,

  34. Bowing her head, and ready to expire:

  35. But let me see thee stoop from heaven on wings

  36. That fill the skies with silver glitterings!

  37. And as in sparkling majesty, a star

  38. Gilds the bright summit of some gloomy cloud;

  39. Brightening the half veil’d face of heaven afar:

  40. So when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,

  41. Sweet Hope, celestial influence round me shed,

  42. Waving thy silver pinions o’er my head!

(John Yeats)

In case you’re wondering about pinions requested by the poet, they refer to wings of protection and refuge. The Psalm below offers hope, and at least one version, the Common English Bible (CEB), uses the word, pinions.

 God will protect you with his pinions; you’ll find refuge under his wings. His faithfulness is a protective shield.” (Psalm 91: 4)

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