Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems Summary and Analysis

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Success is counted sweetest" This poem’s message, carried forth in a few different metaphors, is that those who succeed never truly appreciate it—it is only those who fail, or who lack something, that can truly appreciate how wonderful it would be if they did succeed. The dilemma presented by this poem is that it is not just those who strive for longer before succeeding that can appreciate it more, it is only those who “ne’er succeed” who can count it “sweetest” to succeed. This means, then, that no one ever truly appreciates success to its full desert, because those who could, once offered the chance, lose the ability to. The next metaphor changes the scope of the poem slightly; it is no longer just about success, but about want and desire, too. Here, for someone “To comprehend a nectar,” that is, to truly understand all the wonderful aspects of nectar, and to be satisfied by it, not just to scarf it down, “Requires sorest need.” That is, only the starving can truly appreciate food. Again, we have the dilemma that as soon as one has their first bite, they are no longer starving, and they quickly lose their ability to appreciate it. The final two stanzas elucidate one last, more extended, metaphor. Here Dickinson has taken us to a battlefield, and she compares the perspectives of the winning and losing sides. Not only can the soldiers in the winning army not feel the same appreciation of victory as the losing soldiers, but they cannot even truly understand what it is. Those soldiers left “defeated” and “dying” on the battlefield, however, can, as they must listen to the other side’s celebrations of their victory. Analysis Fame, or success, and their lack—failure—often occurs as a theme in Dickinson’s poetry. Ironically, this poem, extolling the virtues of failure, was one of her very few poems to be published (although after heavy editorializing). Yet
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