Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s sonnet “Work Without Hope” was published in the 19th century. The poem essentially contrasts the speaker with the purposeful work that nature performs at the beginning of spring. The speaker feels useless and directionless because, unlike the birds and bees he observes, he doesn’t feel as though he is working toward any important goal.
The novel Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya takes its title from this Coleridge sonnet. Markandaya also uses the final couplet from this sonnet as an epigraph. The meaning of the quote means that people must have hope in order to keep moving forward in life. In the novel, the title character Rukmani experiences numerous hardships during her marriage to Nathan, including infertility and hunger. Throughout each obstacle, Rukmani keeps moving forward by clinging to a quiet hope that her life will get better. This connects to the theme of the sonnet because Rukmani often feels that her efforts are fruitless, yet her ability to become hopeful for the future is what ultimately leads to her peace.