Guest poem submitted by Ashwin Mahalingam:
(Poem #687) Success is counted sweetest
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 to-day Can tell the definition, So clear, of Victory, As he, defeated, dying, On whose forbidden ear The distant strains of triumph Break, agonized and clear.
(1864) When I first read this poem (in 6th grade) I was cynical enough to scoff at it. However, like most of us I have 'been there' often enough to know that the feeling of being 'so near and yet so far', agonizingly brings home the point that it is in defeat that we truly learn to appreciate victory - so much so, that the more the defeats, the sweeter the success. In a competition of the sort that Dickinson writes about, where there are winners and losers, to accept a win is to accept the concept of a loss. For by the very nature of the contest, there can be no definition of a win that does not imply the definition of the loss. The knowledge of what you have is a function of the knowledge of what you don't or could have had. About the poem itself, I love its simplicity and its brevity. Dickinson makes her point very quickly and leaves it at that, allowing the reader to further carry on the train of thought. I also like the way she exaggerates the ostensible difference between the winner and the loser... the winner is 'the purple host who takes the flag' while the loser is injured, in pain, dying... partly due to being bested and partly due to the knowledge that he/she has been bested. Ashwin.