Emily Dickinson's poems in translation/Polish/Hope is the Thing with Feathers/Form vs meaning

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Virtually all of Dickinson’s poems are written in an iambic meter. The first stanza alternates an iambic tetrameter and an iambic trimeter. These changes in rhythm both reflect and reinforce a slight change in tone, as decisiveness crumbles in the face of a strained metaphor. The tetrameters are more positive in tone, whereas the trimeters are more negative, or realistic. The second stanza starts with iambic tetrameter and continues with iambic trimeter in the following three lines. It’s much harder to scan the third stanza, because it becomes irregular. It mixes iambic tetrameter with trochaic trimeter. One can assume that the natural forcefulness of trochees, gives us a sense of drive and purpose. The ultimate goal is not a victory but a defeat, as only those defeated can understand the essence of success.

Rhyme is most often used to punctuate the ends of lines. It’s the workhorse of poetry: it can hold lines together, it can signal their length, and it can bestow an overall sense of order. At the same time, rhyme also often suggests surprising connections between things. As in most of Dickinson’s poems, the stanzas here rhyme according to an ABCB scheme, so that the second and fourth lines in each stanza constitute the stanza’s only rhyme. A sland rhyme, however, appears in the second stanza (today, victory). Here Dickinson indicates by the use of this particular rhyme that victory is not as important as it may seems to be.

As far as figures of speech are concerned, paradox is the controlling figure of speech in the poem. It expresses the main theme: The person best qualified to evaluate the impact of success is the vanquished rather than the triumphant. Implicit in this paradoxical observation is that it can apply to anyone: the failed author, the defeated boxer, the election loser, the rejected job applicant, the bankrupt businessman. The following are the examples of figures of speech in the poem.


Success is counted sweetest (line 1)

Not one of all the purple Host

Who took the Flag today (lines 5-6)

As he defeated—dying— (line 9)


Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed. (lines 1-2)


Ne'er (line 2) is an example of syncope (SINK uh pe), the omission of letters from the middle of a word.

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