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I died for beauty but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed?
‘For beauty,’ I replied.
‘And I for truth,–the two are one;
We brethren are,’ he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.

Short Poem Analysis

"I Died for Beauty but was Scarce" by Emily Dickinson is a contemplative and introspective poem that explores the themes of death, beauty, and the shared experience of individuals who have passed away. Through its metaphorical language and philosophical exploration, the poem delves into the interconnectedness of life, death, and the pursuit of artistic and spiritual ideals.

The poem's title immediately sets the tone by introducing the idea of dying for beauty, suggesting a sacrifice made for something ethereal and intangible.

The poem presents a dialogue between two speakers who have died for different ideals—beauty and truth. They find themselves "tomb to tomb" and communicate across the boundary of death. This dialogue creates a sense of connection beyond mortality.

Dickinson employs metaphors to convey the idea of beauty and truth as abstract concepts. Beauty is described as a "balm" that "sought" them, while truth is likened to a "sorcerer" who "meant" them. These metaphors reflect the notion that these ideals hold a powerful allure and beckon those who seek them.

The poem's use of the words "scarce" and "striving" implies that the pursuit of beauty and truth is difficult and rare. It suggests that these ideals are not easily attained, but those who strive for them share a common purpose.

The poem's concluding lines, "And then the looks were gone / They dropped the fingers, and passed on," suggest the fleeting nature of existence and the impermanence of both beauty and truth.

"I Died for Beauty but was Scarce" encourages readers to contemplate the transient nature of human life and the pursuit of ideals such as beauty and truth. The dialogue between the two speakers transcends the physical realm and emphasizes the shared human experience, even in death. Through its introspective and philosophical language, the poem prompts reflection on the connections between life, death, and the enduring pursuit of higher ideals.

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