By Anne Matthews
June 1, 2008
You must get on with your friend’s burial now—
the games must go on—
but I accept this gladly, my old heart rejoices.
You never forget my friendship, never miss a chance
to pay me the honor I deserve among our comrades.
For all that you have done for me, Achilles,
may the immortals fill your cup with joy!
—Homer, The Iliad, translated by Robert Fagles
I see your condition through my telescope. We have intercepted your supplies. Give in like a good fellow, and bring your garrison to dinner, and beds afterwards. Nobody injured, I hope?
—Pierre G. T. Beauregard, Confederate general, in a telegram to his Union adversary after the shelling of Fort Sumter, 1861
They were looking down from a great elevation and all they saw was at the point of coming together, the bare trees marching in from the horizon, the rivers moving into one, and as he touched her arm she looked up with him and saw the long, ragged, pencil-faint line of birds within the crystal of the zenith, flying in a V of their own, following the same course down. All they could see was sky, water, birds, light and confluence. It was the whole morning world.
And they themselves were a part of the confluence. Their own joint act of faith had brought them here at the very moment and matched its occurrence, and proceeded as it proceeded. Direction itself was made beautiful, momentous. They were riding as one with it, right up front. It’s our turn! she’d thought exultantly. And we’re going to live forever.
—Eudora Welty, The Optimist’s Daughter, 1973
Give me books, fruit, French wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors, played by someone I do not know. . . . I admire lolling on a lawn by a water-lilied pond to eat white currants and see goldfish: and go to the fair in the evening if I’m good. There is not hope for that—one is sure to get into some mess before evening.
—John Keats, August 28, 1819, letter to his sister, Fanny
He that lives upon hope will die fasting.
Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases . . . push our paved roads through the last of the silence. . . . We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.
—Wallace Stegner, “Coda: Wilderness Letter,” 1960
There is hope.
There is hope everywhere.
I bite it.
Someone once said:
Don’t bite till you know
if it’s bread or stone.
What I bite is all bread,
rising, yeasty as a cloud.
There is hope.
There is hope everywhere.
Today God gives milk
and I have the pail.
—Anne Sexton, From “Snow,” Complete Poems, 1999
The virtue of hope exists only in earthquake and eclipse. . . . For practical purposes it is at the hopeless moment that we require the hopeful man, and the virtue either does not exist at all, or begins to exist at that moment. Exactly at the instant when hope ceases to be reasonable it begins to be useful.
—G. K. Chesterton, Heretics
I was lucky enough to see with my own eyes the recent stock-market crash, where they lost several million dollars, a rabble of dead money that went sliding off into the sea. Never as then, amid suicides, hysteria, and groups of fainting people, have I felt the sensation of real death, death without hope, death that is nothing but rottenness, for the spectacle was terrifying but devoid of greatness. . . . I felt something like a divine urge to bombard that whole canyon of shadow, where ambulances collected suicides whose hands were full of rings.
—Federico García Lorca, lecturing in Madrid, March 1932
My friends—No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and I have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return . . . let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
—Abraham Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois, February 1861
Hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn’t permanent.
—Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960
In spite of himself, Enoch couldn’t get over the expectation that the new jesus was going to do something for him in return for his services. This was the virtue of Hope, which was made up, in Enoch, of two parts suspicion and one part lust. . . . He had only a vague idea how he wanted to be rewarded, but he was not a boy without ambition; he wanted to become something. He wanted to better his condition until it was the best. He wanted to be THE young man of the future, like the ones in the insurance ads. He wanted, some day, to see a line of people waiting to shake his hand.
—Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood, 1952
Anne Matthews is a contributing editor of the SCHOLAR.
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