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Source: An Explication of "Work Without Hope", by Amy Edwards, ’02 West Chester University

The last two lines of this poem are the turning point, and make it all come together. Coleridge writes, "Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, And hope without an object cannot live." [1.] The man is saying that drawing nectar in a sieve is impossible because is [sic] [it] just drains through, as will any work without hope. [End of 1.] Hope cannot live without an object, because if there is no hope and no point, then there is no reason to continue. These lines show how hopeless the man is. He has no hope, and sees himself as a cold, lonely winter. Although it is a beautiful day, blooming with the first signs of spring, he cannot see anything other than the hopelessness that surrounds him.

I have never sieved nectar, but gravity should cause any (viscous) liquid to permeate a sieve without needing human work? So I do not understand 1 above, even after reading the above explication.

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Note that he doesn't write that one "sieves nectar in a sieve," but rather that one attempts to draw nectar in a sieve, as one would draw water from a well. See one of Merriam-Webster's definitions:

to bring or get from a source

While it's true that impurities may be sifted out of the nectar in this fashion, if the purpose of putting it there was to collect or transport it, this is an exercise doomed for failure -- something like Work without Hope.

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