The poem Work Without Hope

Work Without Hope

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1772 – 1834

All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair— The bees are stirring—birds are on the wing— And Winter, slumbering in the open air, Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring! And I, the while, the sole unbusy thing, Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing. Yet well I ken the banks where amaranths blow, Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow. Bloom, O ye amaranths! bloom for whom ye may, For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away! With lips unbrighten’d, wreathless brow, I stroll: And would you learn the spells that drowse my soul? Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve, And Hope without an object cannot live.

The poem Work Without Hope by Coleridge is a poem written through the eyes of the narrator, describing his observations of the new spring.  In the first stanza of the poem, the narrator expresses his dark and rather depressed moods regarding the contrast of himself to the busy workings of nature.  The narrator examines how nature, as well as all the creatures which exist in it are constantly in motion, executing some sort of task. “All Nature seems at work.  Slugs leave their lair—the bees are stirring—birds are on the wing…” (1-2) While the narrator observes all of this, the reader can observe through his attitude that he has a difficult time appreciating all of this, as well as himself.  He perceives himself as a “sole unbusy thing,” (5) when contrasting himself to the constant happenings and tasks carried out by the creatures in nature.  “And I the while, the sole unbusy thing, Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.” (5-6) The narrator’s absolutely dark and negative opinion of himself provides for an incredibly dismal contrast against the pleasant and vivid “backdrop” of nature provided by his own observations.

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In the second stanza, the narrator further develops his dark feelings while observing the beauty of nature.  When he sees the amaranths, he exclaims, “Bloom, O ye amaranths! Bloom for whom ye may, for me ye bloom not!” (9-10) The narrator sees the beauty surrounding him, and he acknowledges it, but because of his tenebrous views of himself as well as his depression, he fails to appreciate it.  He describes his appearance contrasting himself even more with nature, this time with the resplendent amaranths, “With lips un-brightened, wreathless brow…(11) The narrator further perpetuates his dark ideas when he refers to his depression as “the spells that drowse my soul?” (12)

The final two lines of the second stanza are remarkably thought provoking, as they force a reader to sit back and mull over life as well as life-goals and achievements.  “Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve, and Hope without an object cannot live.” (13-14) These final lines are, in my opinion, a very accurate deduction about life.  Working without promise for a reward, or justification of hard work, (hope) removes all the sweetness, (nectar) of a job well done.  If there is nothing to hope for, then the hope will eventually die, as one cannot simply hope for nothing.  The hope for something that proves the hard work was worth everything is generally the sole reason people work in the first place.  Some work for the hope to provide their family with a good life.  Some work for the hope to simply justify their life and make a name for themselves. Others work to maybe save up for that car they’ve been wanting.  Whatever the reason, people generally work in hope to achieve something.  However, without that object, or goal to achieve, there is nothing to hope for in the end

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