Does one really understand the value of what he wins? Or does one really understand what he loses?
Does it take loss to truly understand the value of something?
What is the aim of desire? To achieve the thing that one desires and thus lose all desire for it?
Or is the aim of desire to not achieve the thing and thus make the desire last forever?
There questions are answered by Emily Dickinson:
Success is counted sweetest
By those who never 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
Burst agonized and clear!
In the first stanza she states her philosophy: you really understand the value of what you desire but do not have.
She says that to truly understand the sweetness of nectar you have to be very thirsty. But after drinking the nectar you cannot
be thirsty anymore and thus by definition will lose all “comprehension” of its sweetness.
In the second stanza she takes us to a scene of victory. The victorious army is carrying the flag of victory.
But The poet states that none of the people in the army can really understand or define their success.
And then she takes us to the scene of the defeated and dying. A member of the losing army is able to hear the
distant sounds of the victorious army’s celebration. He is the one who really understands the value of victory
and that is because he has not got it. And he will never get it. His understanding is rooted in the agony of not
having achieved what he really wanted.
He who binds to himself a joy
does the winged life destroy
he who kisses joy as it flies
lives in eternity’s sunrise