Program Note: Hope (2011) Music by James Rolfe, words by Emily Dickinson.

Hope was commissioned by North Toronto Collegiate Institute (Carol Ratzlaff, Head of Music Department) on the occasion of their 100th anniversary.



Poems (by Emily Dickinson)




Hope is a strange invention

A Patent of the heart

In unremitting action

Yet never wearing out


Of whose electric Adjunct

Not anything is known

Though its unique Momentum

Inebriate our own.




Musicians wrestle everywhere

All day, among the crowded air

I hear the silver strife.

And, waking long before the morn,

Such transport breaks up the town

I think it that “New Life”!


It is not bird, it has no nest,

Nor “Band” in brass and scarlet drest,

Nor Tamborin, nor Man;

It is not Hymn from pulpit read,

The “Morning Stars” the Treble led

On Time’s first Afternoon!


Some say, it is “the Spheres” at play!

Some say, that bright Majority

Of vanished Dames and Men!

Some think it service in the place

Where we, with late celestial face,

Please God, shall Ascertain!




Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all,


And sweetest in the gale is heard;

And sore must be the storm

That could abash the little bird

That kept so many warm.


I’ve heard it in the chillest land,

And on the strangest sea;

Yet, never, in extremity,

It asked a crumb of me.