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Hope Springs Eternal

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“Hope Springs Eternal” is the first half of the first of four poetic lines quoted from “An Essay on Man,” which Alexander Pope (1688-1744) had written in 1732. Pople was an 18th century English essayist and critic, and was one of the greatest poets during Europe’s “Age of Enlightenment” (circa 1650-1800). Also called “Age of Reason,” it was a cultural movement of intellectuals aimed at reforming society by emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition, as well as by opposing superstition and intolerance.

Following are the four complete poetic lines:

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;

Man never is, but always to be blest.

The soul, uneasy, and confined from home,

Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

Various internet sources today offer synonymous definitions and meanings of Pope’s epigram; however, I prefer James R’s “Best Answer” (answers.yahoo.com) because it is the most universal comprehensive:

It means that no matter the circumstances, man will always hope for the best – thinks that better things will come down the road. We may not always act our best, but we have the potential to be better in the future. No matter how bad things have been, they can always get better.

In recent years, “Hope Springs Eternal” was used as the title of two books, seven musical pieces, and two television serial plays. (Wikipedia) More historically important, that phrase quickly became a proverb after the publication of Pope’s essay in 1732. Since that time, it has been widely used to console and inspire people of all walks of life who had fallen victims to natural or man-made calamities anywhere in the world.

In our country, Pope’s proverb has been most relevant and, in a sense, most necessary as a mantra since a few months ago. For in the aftermath of the natural calamities that have severely damaged the infrastructure, land and sea resources – and killed more than 5,000 lives and injured hundreds more – in some areas in the Visayas (Bohol and Leyte provinces, worst of all), hopes for a quick recovery filled the hearts of the hapless survivors as our National Government mobilized its relief and rehabilitation agencies and resources. Similar hopes also filled the hearts of the innocent victims of the man-made disaster – the MNLF (Misuari faction) attack – on our City last September.

Today, hopes for sustained relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in the devastated areas concerned are very high as 55 well-meaning countries and allies (the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, and Canada among them) as well as 25 international humanitarian groups (notably the International Committee of the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Arab Gulf Fund for UN Development, World Vision, and Organization of Islamic Cooperation) continue to voluntarily assist our National Government and various local NGOs and private humanitarian groups in carrying out the necessary multifaceted rebuilding program. (“Yolanda [Typhoon Haiyan]: Aid, Donations from int’l community,” RAPPIER.COM, 11/28/13)
Such hopes will become spiritually uplifting as Yuletide 2013 dawns upon our land and the world. For hope – also peace, love, renewal – have always been at the core of the universal message of Christmas. “The birth of a child is a sign that God has hope for us yet,” writes Fr. Ron Gagne, MS (“Reflections on Faith,” La Sallete Newsletter). Since Christmas celebrates the birth of a very special, holy child – Jesus Christ, there will be a much deeper hope for a more peaceful and progressive world.

Particularly for the citizens of our City – whether Christians, Muslims or believers of other religions – especially those who have lost practically everything as a tragic consequence of the MNLF (Misuari faction) attack last September, “the angels’ song of ‘peace on earth’ brings hope in the face of every oppressive status quo. It helps [all of] us continue struggling toward [a city and] a world that [are] more just, less violent.” (David Hollenbach, SJ, Boston College, www.bc.edu)

Therefore, as we all continue to work for peace and justice in our land, let us be inspired by Alexander Pope’s immortal maxim – “hope springs eternal in the human breast” which, in the context of Christmas every year, also means that “the feeling of hopefulness endlessly renews itself.”

(Wiktionary)




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