Work without Hope

Despite the recent snow and frost, life stirs again in the garden and along the canal: the birds are singing, insects are about, and flowers brave the cold.  There seems to be purpose again, and hope.  Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote this rather self-aware (and back to front) sonnet in February 1825, towards the end of his life, when he thought his muse had long since left him to his own disappointments.  Obviously, she’d not deserted him completely judging by the quality of this verse, and the essential truths it conveys about the importance to humans of purposeful hope and its application.

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.

Nature, of course, has no sense of hope or purpose as we know them – it just acts as though it had.  An Amaranth is a plant related to spinach whose seeds can produce a flour: available in all good health shops, it seems …

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