Ideas of success are often expressed in poetry, and often these ideas are mixed
between poetry from different authors. Two poems that express these feelings of success
are Emily Dickinson’s “Success is Counted Sweetest” and Edwin Arlington Robinson’s
“Richard Cory”. In both of these poems success is dealt with in sort of the same way this
is that the theme of both is that success can only be realized in death in the Dickinson
poem the success was attained by the characters and only realized in death and in the
Robinson poem success was always there but the man only thought death would bring
him success.
In Emily Dickinson’s poem “ Success is Counted Sweetest” an overlying theme is
present this is that success is only realized in death. At the start of the poem there is brief
description of success that says that success is the sweetest to those who never have it.
Dickinson also in the first stanza of the poem explains that to understand success an
individual must first have a need to have this success. In the whole first stanza Dickinson
is setting up the basis for her story. In the first two lines of the second stanza Dickinson
says “Not one of all the purple Host Who took the Flag today” this is saying that a group
of people one a battle or had a triumph of some sort. Dickinson continues in this stanza
saying “Can tell the definition So clear of Victory” These last two lines say that nobody
in this group can tell what the greatness of their victory is and that they don’t think of it
being successful at all. The first line of the third stanza reads “As he defeated-dying-”
this is simple one of this group is now dying. The rest of the poem reads “On whose
forbidden ear The distant strains of triumph Burst agonized and clear!” What happens
here is that this one man realizes the success of his group at the time of his death and that
he lived his whole life not knowing it and not being able to enjoy it. The main idea of this
poem was that people strive for success but when they get it they want more and only at
the end do they realize what they had but will never enjoy.
In the poem “Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson the overlying theme is
no matter how successful one is sometimes it isn’t realized. In the first stanza of this
poem Robinson gives the reader the picture of a wealthy man walking through a town,
and people are watching him. Also in the first stanza the reader gets the feel that Richard
Cory is clean cut gentleman. In the second stanza Robinson uses terms like “quietly
arrayed”, “always human”, and “fluttered pulses” to describe Cory’s personality these
terms give the reader the sense that Cory is not a person that flaunts his wealth. In this
same stanza Robinson also writes that Cory says good morning and that he glitters when
he walked giving the reader the impression that he was a down to earth easy to talk to
man. In the third stanza Cory is described as “ richer than a king” and “ schooled in every
grace” this tells the reader that Cory has always had money and was schooled at the best
institutions, probably a very intelligent man. By the end of the third stanza the reader gets
the feel that if you knew Cory that you would want to switch places with him. In the last
stanza of “Richard Cory” the first two lines give the feel of life going on as usual . The
last two lines of this poem are drastically different “And Richard Cory, one calm summer
night, Went home and put a bullet through his head.” this is a drastic and ironic end to
this poem. All through this poem the reader gets the impression that Cory was a happy
content man but this is a wrong impression. Richard Cory believed that the only way that
he could feel his life could be a success was to end it.
In both “Success is Counted Sweetest” and “ Richard Cory” death and success are
interlocked. In the Dickinson poem success was only realized in death and in the
Robinson poem death was thought to be the only form of success. I believe an important
point in this is that this happens to often and if people would