Success is Counted Sweetest || Summary and Analysis

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SUCCESS IS COUNTED SWEETEST

Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need

Not on of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag today
Can tell the definition
So clear of Victory

As he defeated dying
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear.

Success is counted sweetest By those who ne'er succeed. To comprehend a nectar Requires sorest need
Success is Counted Sweetest

Summary and Analysis

Summary:

      The poem 'Success is Counted Sweetest' opens with a generalization about people who never succeed. They attach more importance to success than any other thing in the world. Only a defeated person can realize the real value of success in life. It is further stressed that only people in intense thirst understand the nature of what they need. The use of 'comprehend' about a physical substance creates a metaphor for spiritual satisfaction.

      Having briefly introduced people who are leaming through deprivation, Emily Dickinson goes on to the longer description of a person dying on the battlefield The word 'host', referring to an armed troop, gives the scene an artificial elevation intensified by the royal purple. These victorious, or seemingly victorious, people understand the nature of victory much less than does a person who has been denied it and lies dying.

      Stanza III shows what actually constitutes real victory. The ear of the defeated soldier is forbidden because it must strain to pick up the sound and will soon not hear at all. Pain lends clarity to the perception of victory. The bursting of strains near the moment of death stresses the greatness of sacrifice.

Explanation with Reference to Context:


Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

      Dickinson presents a revolutionary concept of success in the poem 'Success Is Counted Sweetest'. She finds faults with the global view of success which has become a formality for the achievers. Dickinson gives more importance to the non-achievers than the achievers who never give up their efforts for the realization of success in their lives.

      The real value of success can best be understood by those who tried but failed to achieve success in their lives. An easily realized success never leads to any new perception of victory. It becomes a formality because it is reduced to the level of art of winning success. It holds no fascination for the achiever. Similarly, the real taste of the nectar can best be relished by those who manage to get it after sustained efforts and not by those who are used to it.

No one of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag today
Can tell the definition
So clear of Victory.

      Dickinson redefines the nature and meaning of success in the poem 'Success is counted Sweetest'. She rejects the traditional view of success which minimizes the place of struggle in achieving it. Only the hard earned success matters in life.

      It is the defeated - not the victorious army - that can define the real meaning of success. No soldier from the victorious side can define the exact nature of succes who wins and carries the flag of victory by a sheer stroke of luck. He is least excited by his victory because it is devoid of any sense of loss and sufferings.

      Success itself becomes defined through its loss only, Only the defeated soldier can understand the true value of victory which has been denied to him but is still hoping against hope to get it.

As he defeated dying-
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear-

      This is the closing stanza of the poem 'Success is Counted Sweetest', written by Emily Dickinson. It shows that the effort to realize success is more rewarding than the victory. A successful person is thrilled by success but will not be a gainer in the end.

      It is the defeated soldier who is on the verge of death can understand the real meaning of success. He may be defeated but never gives up the hope of converting defeat into success in the end. He changes his strategy to gain success in his subsequent efforts. The ear of the defeated soldier is forbidden because it must strain to pick up the sound and will soon not hear at all. It is the pain that lends clarity to his perception of victory. The bursting of strains near the moment of death stresses the greatness of sacrifice.

Critically Analysis:

      'Success is Counted Sweetest' which carefully weighs gain against loss, deeply identifying with the defeat in battle. Success itself becomes defined through its loss, to one.

defeated - dying -
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear.

      It is a war poem which is persistently structured around the problem of justifying evil or suffering, rather, of justifying a God who permits, at the very least, so much evil and suffering to pervade. It seems to Dickinson that the world is an agony of suffering and love.

      Emily Dickinson's most famous poem about compensation, 'Success is Counted Sweetest, is more complicated and less cheerful. It proceeds by inductive logic to show how painful situations create knowledge and experience not otherwise available.

Subjectivity:

      On the biographical level, it can be seen as a celebration of the virtues and rewards of Emily Dickinson's renunciatory way of life, and as an attack on those around her who achieved worldly success.

Acceptance of Failure:

      Dickinson's insistence that an acknowledgement of need or failure or narrowness destroys a settled view of the world and opens up the possibility of a larger view. Only a defeated person gets an opportunity to devise new ways and means to convert his failure into success. He puts in additional efforts to achieve success which continues to baffle him. It is the intensity of pain suffered by the defeated person which lends clarity to the perception of victory.

Criticism of Narrow View of Success:

      Dickinson is quite critical of the very concept of success in life. She criticizes it for its narrow and false glorification. For Dickinson, it is failure - not success - that leads to a better understanding of life. She devalues an easily realized success because it kills initiative and zest of life. A person who realizes success without undergoing any pains and sufferings can never understand the true nature or success in life:

Not one of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag today
Can tell the definition
So clear of Victory.

Annotations:

'Counted sweetest' - regarded extremely rewarding and invaluable.
'Comprehend' - the use of the word comprehend about a physical substance creates a metaphor for spiritual satisfaction.
'Nectar' - it refers to the divine drink of gods.
'Sorest needs' - it means the acknowledgement of need or failure.
'Purple host' - the word host, referring to an armed troop, gives the scene an artificial elevation intensified by the royal colour purple.
'Took the flag away' - the victorious troop which emerged victorious and hoisted the flag of victory.
'Forbidden ear' - refers to the defeated soldier whose forbidden ear strains to hear but fails in the end.
Strains of triumph' - Sounds of victory.
'Burst agonized' - pained and depressed.

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