Success is Counted Sweetest

Success is Counted Sweetest

by Emily Dickinson

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

Not one 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!

Summary of Success is Counted Sweetest

  • Popularity of “Success is Counted Sweetest”: This poem was written by Emily Dickinson, a great American poet. ‘Success is Counted Sweetest’ is a popular poem because of its themes of success and failure. It was first published in 1864. The poem speaks about the value of success and illustrates that those who have tasted failure can truly feel the real essence of success. The poem also unveils the painful truths of human desire.
  • “Success is Counted Sweetest” A Comment on Value of Success: As this poem is about success, the speaker explains that failures can understand the meanings of success. She has used the images of soldiers to express her ideas about success. At the outset, she talks about soldiers who have won the war but still do not understand the real meanings of success because they have not experienced the pain of failure. Later, she refers to a dying soldier of the losing side, who can hear the victorious soldiers celebrating their day. Hence, the one who is losing the battle of his life can sense the true spirit of success. What enchants the readers is a stark comparison she has made between winning and losing sides to make clarify her points to the readers.
  • Major Themes in “Success is Counted Sweetest”: Need, success, and defeat are the major themes of this poem. The speaker presents her views about success by narrating various examples. She argues that success is valuable for those who have lost something in life. She adds that people who always win and taste success more often do not comprehend the true colors of success. Instead, it is valued and appreciated by those who experience defeats or failures in life.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “Success is Counted Sweetest”

Literary devices are tools that enable the writers to present their ideas, emotions, and feelings by using persuasive language. Emily Dickinson has also employed some literary devices in this poem to describe her feelings. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been given below.

  1. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /r/ in “Requires sorest need” and the sound of /t/ in “The distant strains of triumph” and “Success is counted sweetest”.
  2. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “Not one of all the purple Host”; “The distant strains of triumph” and “Who took the Flag today.”
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is a use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings different from their literal meanings. “Nectar” symbolizes white victory and luxury while “The purple host” is the symbol of the royal army.
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought or clause that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it moves over the next line. For example,

“Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.”

  1. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. There is only one metaphor in the third line “to comprehend nectar”. Here, nectar is referring to the sweetness of victory.
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /o/ in “Who took the Flag today” and the sound of /ee/ in “By those who ne’er succeed”.
  3. Syncope: It is a literary device that can be defined as the contraction or the shortening of a word by omitting sounds, syllables or letters from the middle of the word. The poet has omitted the letters from the middle of the word such as, “By those who ne’er succeed.”
  4. Paradox: A paradox is a statement that may seem contradictory but can be true. For example, “Success is counted sweetest; By those who ne’er succeed.” Here, the poet has used paradox to explain the importance of success.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “Success is Counted Sweetest”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  • Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas in this poem with each comprises four lines.
  • Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here each stanza is quatrain.
  • Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  • End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example, “ear” and “clear.”
  • Iambic Trimeter: It is a type of meter having three iambs per line. The poem follows iambic trimester such as, “By those who ne’er suc”.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below can be used in motivational speeches to highlight the importance of success. These could also be used by parents to shape the thinking of their children.

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