Emily Dickinson's Use of Loss in Poem 67 and Poem 1036

Emily Dickinson's Use of Loss in Poem 67 and Poem 1036

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Emily Dickinson's Use of Loss in Poem 67 and Poem 1036


Many of Emily Dickinson's poems touch on topics dealing with loss. While loss is generally considered a sad or unfortunate thing, Dickinson uses this theme to explain and promote the positive aspects of absence. Throughout many of her poems, one can see clearly that she is an advocate of respecting and accepting the state of being without. Dickinson implies that through these types of losses, one can gain a richer and stronger appreciation for both success and belongings. Poems 67 and 1036 are two that capture the extent of Dickinson's feelings on loss. By understanding and comparing these two works, it is easy to recognize that Dickinson believes that possessing neither material possessions nor the joy of success are the real keys to happiness.

Poem 67 focuses on a battle that could be considered both literal in the sense of a war, or more symbolic as it could act as the anthem for any type of loss or failure. Lines 1 and 2 of the poem explain that success or winning is most valued by those who never prevail. Dickinson is saying that loss creates the strongest appreciation for a win. The lines 3 and 4 state "To comprehend a nectar/ Requires sorest need." This implies that necessity is the only way in which to understand what you want. Next, in the second stanza, Dickinson uses words that denote an actual battle has taken place by saying:

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

She is suggesting that winners cannot value their victory. The final stanza emphasizes the fact that the defeated group understands the meaning of victory when she says that "The distant strains of triumph/ Burst agonized and clear!" Dickinson describes the dying soldiers comprehending the meaning of winning the battle in a way that the victors never will. The reason that the winners can't understand the significance of their victory is that they did not taste defeat. The loss of a battle demonstrates to the unsuccessful how far they are from feeling the exuberation of success. Poem 67, as in line with Dickinson's theme of loss, suggests that being in a losing state, at least sometimes, is better than winning all the time. The deflated feeling of being unsuccessful increases the state of appreciation one has for winning.

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In Poem 1036, Dickinson remains consistent in her theme of loss but takes an approach that is more appropriate for everyday life. She claims that one is happier and more contented when they are in a state of want. To Dickinson, it is the moment before one receives what one wants that are the most fulfilling. The anticipation of obtaining the objects of desire, such as victory in Poem 67, creates an appreciation for the object that is lost upon possession. In the first stanza of 1036, Dickinson states that:

Satisfaction - is the Agent
Of Satiety -
Want - a quiet Commisary
For Infinity.

She implies here that being excessively full is a short lived feeling. This satisfaction inhibits one's motivation to strive for more. To want, as suggested in lines 3 and 4, will be one's companion forever because we will always tend to want either something else or more of the same. A "commisary" as defined in Webster's Dictionary, is a person to whom special duties or trust is assigned. Want as this personified companion, is an unavoidable and persistent being. The second stanza contains Dickinson's opinion on the fulfillment of human desire. She says that "Immortality contented/ Were Anomaly." In other words, to be fully satisifed wold be an abnormal and unnatural state for human beings. This emphasizes her point that the anticipation of being satisfied creates the most joy. Dickinson takes note of the fact that humans are rarely completely satisfied but that this state of desire and necessity is a positive thing. Not only does it help one to appreciate gaining what they do not have, but it also creates a motivation that keeps one striving for higher goals. If we all had everything we wanted, what would keep us going?

Both of these poems demonstrate Dickinson's positive point of view of loss, and through that loss the feeling of want and desire. She explains through Poems 67 and 1063 that these states of being are natural and that they inspire people to strive for more and better things. Whether that motivation be to win a battle or obtain a material possession, the goal is still the same. In turn, that goal can't exist without the feeling of loss. The unfortunate people, in Dickinson's mind, are those who win or possess things too easily. They do not have an appreciation for the things they ahve or their success because losing is the best way to relish victory.
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