Famous Sayings: #89 — ‘Hope Springs Eternal’

November 24, 2017

Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always to be blest …

hope springs eternal, Alexander Pope, Syria, Yemen, net neutrality, An Essay on Man, Neoclassical period
Alexander Pope was England’s first full-time professional writer. When he wrote “Hope springs eternal,” he was expressing the people were part of a greater plan. This image was cropped from a portrait displayed by the National Portrait Gallery (Creative Commons License 3.0).

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, so I hope those who celebrated it enjoyed their day.

The month of November is also coming to a close, so we’re drawing ever closer to more holidays, include the New Year. There are certainly hopes that 2018 will be nicer to us than 2017 was.

So yes, hope springs eternal.

What Does ‘Hope Springs Eternal’ Mean?

When someone uses this phrase, they are referring to a person who doesn’t seem to lose their sense of hopefulness. That person might even be in a bad situation, but they still believe that there is a way forward and they will keep working toward their goals.

But originally, the phrase had a religious connotation to it. While the message might seem the same, it dealt more with purposefulness and a sense of order given by God.

Where Did This Phrase Come From?

The phrase “Hope springs eternal” comes from An Essay on Man (1733-34), a collection of epistles written by Alexander Pope (1688-1744).

Here is an excerpt that contains the phrase:

Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar;

Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore!
What future bliss, he gives not thee to know,
But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest:

The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

About Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope was born on May 21, 1688. His father, also named Alexander, was a wealthy Catholic linen merchant. The younger Alexander Pope was born to his father’s second wife, Edith Turner.

Pope grew up in Windsor Forest and he was mostly self-taught. (In that period, Catholics were in the minority and forbidden from holding office, attending public schools, practicing their religion, and living within ten miles of London.) He was able to supplement his education by studying with private tutors and priests.

Pope became disfigured after contracting tuberculosis at the age of 12. His growth was stunted (he stood at four feet 6 inches), he was hunched over, and he required daily care for much of his adult life.

Alexander Pope became a central figure of the Neoclassical period, best known for his form, the heroic couplet, and his acerbic wit. He was able to sustain himself and become the first full-time professional English writer through subscriptions, which consisted of his translations of Homer and editions of the works of William Shakespeare.

Throughout his literary career, feuded with other publishers and he responded through his works. In The Dunciad (1728), he specifically called out Shakespearean editor Lewis Theobald. In the second edition, Pope expressed his views on what he saw as England’s cultural decline. In The Dunciad, Variorum (1729), Pope added mock footnotes in which he excoriated other London publishers and booksellers. The final edition of The Dunciad was published in 1742.

Some of Pope’s most famous works included An Essay on Criticism (1711) and The Rape of the Lock (1714), which first made Pope known to a general audience.

Pope eventually fell out of favor during the Romantic period. During that era, wrtiers moved from the form of the Neoclassical period to a focus on sincerity and authenticity (“Alexander”).

About An Essay on Man

An Essay on Man (1733-34) was an unfinished collection of epistles in which Pope wrote about moral philosophy. Each of the epistles contains heroic couplets in iambic pentameter.

Here is a short description of each epistle:

  • The first deals with the relations between humans and the universe.
  • The second epistle looks at human beings as individuals.
  • The third looks at the relationship of the individual and society.
  • The fourth epistle questions the potential of the individual for happiness (Encyclopædia Britannica).

The phrase “Hope springs eternal” came from the third section of the first epistle, which was addressed to Henry St. John, Lord Bolingbroke. To get the gist of the epistle, I would like to share two of the stanzas that preceded the one I quoted above.

From Epistle I, Section II:

Respecting man, whatever wrong we call,
May, must be right, as relative to all.
In human works, though labour’d on with pain,
A thousand movements scarce one purpose gain;
In God’s, one single can its end produce;
Yet serves to second too some other use.
So man, who here seems principal alone,
Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown,
Touches some wheel, or verges to some goal;
‘Tis but a part we see, and not a whole.

From Epistle, Section III

Heav’n from all creatures hides the book of fate,
All but the page prescrib’d, their present state:
From brutes what men, from men what spirits know …

In short, Pope stressed that humans owed their existence to God and that there was a purpose for everything. Humans, as imperfect as they were, had a difficult time seeing that purpose (“Alexander”).

Why Did I Choose This Phrase?

I had picked out this phrase at least a couple of months back while I was brainstorming, but it turns out this was a timely phrase.

Let’s face it: 2017 has been a rough year. It might not have had the same number of deaths of beloved celebrities 2016 had, but it was worse in terms of war, in terms of politics, and in other ways that affect people materially.

Yet I still hold out hope.

Right now, when I think of hope, I am thinking about the fight against ISIS, people’s view of war in general, the political process, and net neutrality.

1. About the Fight Against ISIS

There may still be pockets of the Daesh and other jihadists in parts of Europe and Asia, but they may also be losing their power. In late October, two Russian lawmakers proclaimed that they had reason to believe that ISIS would be defeated in Syria by the end of the year (O’Connor). That was corroborated earlier this month, when the Syrian army announced that its allied forces had captured the last town held by jihadists in Syria had fallen (Dadouch and McDowall). When that is added to the fall of Raqqa and the July capture of Mosul by the Iraqi Army, it signals that the little caliphate called in 2014 is meeting its end.

2. About Our Views on War

As people branch out and find as many news sources as they can, they begin the question the efficacy of most wars that are being fought. In particular, they question the involvement of the U.S. in those wars.

Sometimes, U.S. lawmakers question that, too.

On Monday, November 13, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass a resolution which declared that the U.S.’s involvement in Yemen was not authorized by the 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force or the AUMF in Iraq. The measure, which passed by a 366-30 vote, was co-sponsored by two Democratic congressmen, Rep Ro Khanna (CA) and Jim McGovern (MA). The vote was largely symbolic, but it marked a small victory for lawmakers on both sides who were concerned about how the U.S. military was being used in various countries.

This news should be tempered by two facts. One, there is no companion resolution in the U.S. Senate. Two, the resolution left out language from a separate measure by Ro Khanna that called for an end to the U.S. involvement in Yemen (Hellman).

But hopefully, this resolution gets more people to talk about this war.

3. About the Political Process

The 2016 presidential election was depressing for me in more ways than one. Not only did Americans get stuck with a Twitter-using, unqualified troll in the White House, but we also began to see the fractures within the Democratic Party and on the left as a whole. The wounds will not heal anytime soon because the leadership of the Democratic Party refuses to listen to people to the left of them.

On another front, the election inspired more people to protest, join rallies, pay attention to current events, and run for office.

This year saw gains by the Labour Party in the United Kingdom and a wave of victories by progressives in the U.S. after crushing defeats during the first half of the year. Many of these victories happened in spite of the Blairites in the U.K. and centrists in the U.S.

The next year might be a blood bath, but it might be one for some of the worse lawmakers in the U.S. and across the pond. In the U.S., we might have a steeper hill to climb because the fact is those running for office hope to use a corrupted system in the hopes of fixing it.

On the other hand, people are being challenged to thinks of ways and use more avenues to change the system from outside of it. Change will not just happen politically. We will need information, dedication, effort, strength, and wits to fight outside forces and enemies from within that threaten to undermine our system.

In particular, our elections system is not only hurt by corrupt politicians, but also by corporations, oligarchs, and members of the intelligence community that would like to manipulate them.

Also, we need people to take more responsibility to confront corrupt police departments and companies.

4. My Hope for Net Neutrality

Just a few days ago, I shared a quick update about net neutrality. That’s a story that needs to be revisited in depth next week, but for now it is clear that the Republican-led FCC has no incentive to listen to the people

For some strange reason, I still hold out hope, even if/when net neutrality rules are repealed. And what we will see in the future will make the case in favor of reinstating net neutrality. Will we be able to get it back? I think there’s a chance, but it will take more people educating themselves on the topic and joining others in the fight.

Also, it might take other corporations to save net neutrality. Corporations are amoral, but they run on greed. Without the rules in place, some of the telecoms fighting against net neutrality might make an about face on the issue, because they will be getting screwed by this. The lack of these regulations will not just give corporations more incentive to screw over customers, but each other.

For example, what if the execs at Microsoft and Apple get pissed off about the new Internet? These telecoms have to use operating systems, don’t they?

Additionally, we might get lawyers in the fight who band together. I just heard that FCC Chairman Pai said he would only accept comments that contained sound legal arguments. Has he awakened a sleeping giant with that thoughtless remark? I certainly hope so.

Works Cited

“Alexander Pope.” Poetry Foundation. Web. Retrieved 24 Nov 2017. <https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/alexander-pope>.

Dadouch, Sarah and McDowall, Angus. “Syria declares victory over Islamic State.” Reuters. 9 Nov 2017. Web. <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-islamic-state/syria-declares-victory-over-islamic-state-idUSKBN1D91QJ>.

DeHaan, Dennis J. “Hope Beyond Hope.” Our Daily Bread. 19 Dec 1999. Web. <https://odb.org/1996/12/19/hope-beyond-hope/>.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “An Essay on Man.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc.; 8 Feb 2017. Web Retrieved 24 Nov 2017. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/An-Essay-on-Man>.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Epistle.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc.; 29 Sept 1999. Web. Retrieved 24 Nov 2017. <https://www.britannica.com/art/epistle>.

“An Essay on Man: Epistle I.” Poetry Foundation. Web. Retrieved 24 Nov 2017. <https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44899/an-essay-on-man-epistle-i>.

Hellman, Gregory. “House declares U.S. military role in Yemen’s civil war unauthorized.” Politico. 13 Nov 2017. Web. <https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/13/house-yemen-civil-war-authorization-244868>.

“Hope Springs Eternal.” Bible.org. Retrieved 24 Nov 2017. Web. <https://bible.org/illustration/hope-springs-eternal>.

NPG 4132; Alexander Pope. National Portrait Gallery. Web. Retrieved 24 Nov 2017. <http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait.php?search=ap&npgno=4132&eDate=&lDate>.

O’Connor, Tom. “Russia Will Defeat Isis and Declare Victory in Syria by End of 2017, Lawmaker Says.” Newsweek. 30 Oct 2017. Web. <http://www.newsweek.com/russia-defeat-isis-declare-victory-syria-end-2017-lawmaker-696611>.

Various. “hope springs eternal.” Wiktionary. Lasted Updated 3 Aug 2017. Web. <https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hope_springs_eternal>.


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