“Success Is Counted Sweetest” by Emily Dickinson basically sends the message that success, like any other possession tangible or intangible, is only appreciated by those whom it is not always readily available. Dickinson both clearly states this message and implies it throughout the poem, and uses rhyme, imagery, and irony to incorporate the theme that the one who holds success dearest to them is the one who never succeeds.
The rhythmic pattern makes the poem flow together, using the rhyme scheme ABCB in the short, choppy stanzas, like a song.
This typical rhyming scheme gives a light affect to the poem; creating the feeling of simpleness and achieving the feeling that the message is not buried deep in the poem’s lines and is easy to comprehend.
Emily also uses imagry to develop her message. She writes “Not one of all the purple Host Who took the Flag today Can tell the definition So clear of Victory” (Lines 5-8) and this paints a picture of the victor in the war, who does not understand to the full extent what his victory is, and just counts it as another victory.
The defeated, however, is in ‘agony’ and knows how powerful success is and what affect it has.
Dickinson also implies irony when she says that “As he defeated – dying – On whose forbidden ear The distant strains of triumph Burst agonized and clear!” (Lines 9-12) as she implies that the defeated is the one that actually feels what success is, even though he is not the one that achieved it.
She implies that the message of triumph is louder in the ears of those who do not have it; those who have reached success have not felt what it is like without success.
Emily’s theme is not atypical; she sends the message that one never fully appreciates what one has until it is no more, because an abundance is usually taken for granted. In this case, the possession that is not appreciated by those who have it is success, because not being victorious is surely a greater loss than being victorious is a gain.