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 — Themself 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 —

Analysis, meaning and summary of the poem by

28 Comments

  1. Glenda Stewart Burianek says:

    I believe that brethren may, in a poetic sense, refer to a close relationship between a male and a female. The “Kinsmen met a night”, I believe, speaks of a romantic love between a man and a woman and that their love ran deeply, because, though they were not in any way related, they felt as one – perhaps even one in Christ.

    As much as I appreciate the sublime genius of Emily Dickinson, to me the imagery would be greater if the last word of the poem were tombs.

  2. Wow says:

    It angers me how F-ING IGNORANT some of these interpretations are.

    The one that died for Beauty is NOT a woman,
    YOU GODDAMN ILLITERATES.
    Consider the diction “Brethren” and “Kinsmen” that Dickinson used to describe the relationship between the two – they are two male companions.
    Not that gender of these subjects would matter much,
    but it is highly annoying as people automatically assume that a woman must be the one that died for beauty because apparently women aspire to become beautiful.
    And thinking that Emily Dickinson died aspiring to be beautiful is simply absurd and just stupid and just f-ing stupid and dishonoring of Emily Dickinson’s transcendental genius.
    Emily Dickinson did not bother herself with those worldly, futile, trifling matters; she was an enormously talented literary genius – She didn’t wallow in trivialities such as outward appearance as some of you seem to be presuming her to be.

    Of course the narrator that died for beauty is not an ugly girl that wanted to be beautiful. DUMBF*CKS.

  3. Mallory Smith says:

    In the second line, the word, “tomb” rhymes with “womb” and I believe this is done purposely.

    Dickinson wanted to bring together these two words to express that fact that she greatly enjoyed being penetrated rectally.

    This may very possibly be true.

  4. Jim says:

    if you like this poem and the imagery you will also enjoy “A Boy and a Girl” by Octavio Paz! Enjoy

  5. Anna says:

    I believe that when she refers to “bretheren” and “kinsmen” she is referring to truth and beauty, and not to the characters themselves (although, I would argue that they embody beauty and truth respectively). By saying “We bretheren are” she is speaking of the purposes of mardyrdom, and that truth and beauty are synonymous. However, the ultimate message in this poem is that mardyrdom is useless, and fails the mardyr, because eventually the message is lost as the moss “covered up- our names-“

  6. Paul says:

    this poem is a direct reference to John Keats Ode to a Grecian Urn written about 60 years before this poem was written. The obvious meaning is that Keats is the man who died for Truth and Dickinson died for Beauty, however, time eventually destroys them both, refering to the fact that Keats died before his poems became famous, and Dickinson felt that the same would happen to her.

  7. Kiley says:

    In analyzing this poem for my english class, I have come to several conclusions. Dickenson is using “Beauty” and “Truth” to represent the goals we all strive for throughout our lives. It is not possible to achieve these goals, however, (who can achieve complete beauty or truth?) but nonetheless, we strive for them, and in the end, fail. In my opinion, the speaker is a woman, and is laid next to a man after death. They converse, sharing their lives and goals, and share solidarity with one another and every other being who strives for goals in life. The moss covering up the lips and the names of the speaker and her companion is very significant. It represents the memories being forgotten, and the lives of the speaker and companion not being remembered. They were unable to make themselves remembered through beauty and truth, and so failed.

  8. asha says:

    when i read this poem like most of you all i was deeply entranced in emily’s use of language to express her uttermost inner perception on death and failure. if i was skeptical id say she was insane, but as morbid as this poem seems i see reason to it. and it was clarified to me the first time i read it too; death is the altimate removal of personality and i dentity (i would say another factor is time). no matter what circumstances under which you die or how renown you were in life or what dictated the passion of your life be it aspiration for beauty or belief in truth Death is our altimatum.

  9. sofia says:

    I am researching this poem for a project and I have interpreted it this way: This poem is basically about two men who have died each for one reason (truth, beauty). They were not particularly punished through death for their truth and beauty, but died unhappy because they were always thriving for these qualities and never achieved them. They call eachother brethren, not because they were particularly related, but because they both “failed” for similar reasons and were forgotten. This is just my interpretation of this poem.

  10. Angeren says:

    There is ofcourse many interpretations to this poem and not one can be the right one, unless one has talked to Emily Dickinson herself then ofcourse one can enlighten everyone else because her poems are quite hard to understand. Well I believe the poem itself is two martyrs talking to eachother. They have both lived and protested in what they believed in (beauty and truth) and in doing so they were killed therefore they failed and eventually they were forgotten. Thats what I think.

  11. n0Rmie says:

    I wrote my thoughts about this poem in a paper. The first time I read it I thought it was a woman who died for beauty, in her tomb, she met a guy who died for truth and they fall in love. But I was like..there has to be something deeper to this.
    I read it a second time and thought it was about how people are always concerned about how they look so much that ”theycovered” themselves to the point where tehyre not themselves anymore..and that theyre conceited and stuff..and when she says that she died for beauty..i thought it mean that she was so conceited and thought herself beutiful even when she died, but in reality, she wasnt.
    Th third time I read it i thought it was about someone that didn’t think she was beautifel (‘but was scarce’) But she died accepting that..and theyre..both one,
    I dont really know how to explain it, I may be completely worng, but everyone has different opinions and takes in stuff differently.
    But now I read someone’s comment and it may be about self conflict….

  12. Bertha says:

    The poem is about 2 people beating the hell out of eachothers very souls. They are both in a war with themselves. One lacks beauty, the other lacks truth, who will win this war? Find out next time at BullCrapComments.com

  13. Jess says:

    it seems that people percieve the speaker as a woman. yes Dickinson was a woman, but if u pay close attention to the the quote made by the man in the “ajoining room” he says “we brethrens” which is a plural for brothers. the actually use of brothers could mean something different than the idea that the two people were LITERALLY brothers. Then again just a line down “kinsmen” is used. which can be translated into a MALE RELATIVE. Obvioulsy both are men and closely related from what I see.

  14. aaron says:

    it took me a while, this stuff is friggin confusing. i never thought to include truth and beauty in my analysis though, then again i’ve never heard of john keats. it never even ocurred to me that the poem went that deep, i just assumed she wrote because she was bored of staying in her parents house and having no life. i agree with whoever said that the speaker is a guy, but i was also thinking it could be an ugly girl (…i died for beauty…). the whole tomb thing threw me off for like half an hour, and i assumed it was a sort of egyptian-like tomb, where it’s literally rooms with coffins in it. but after reading the last line a couple times i figurred out that ‘tomb’, in it’s context, is grave, like with grass and tombstones. the moss covering the names gave that one away. i hate how she capitalizes everything, it makes irelevant things seem important.

  15. lowlife says:

    First and formost im no expert on poetry and or liturature as a hole i dont think i even spelled it right .Im not emily dickinson nor did i ever know of her as of a few months ago.I am not going to critisize or even attempt to justify her words with any other meening nor choose any other words ,or order there of.And definatly not insult any of the comments or commenters by regergitating ‘what is already said and done so in such a well mannor.What i do know is I opened a friends Book,and opend some where around the middle or so .This poem was for some reason stood out and commanded and then forced my attention to read it.For the past few years ive been reading and writing alot,I hate sleeping,and lost rhe taste for T.V. when used for anything other than a back round light.BOTTOM LINE AGAIN HAHAHA I READ IT TWO GOOD TIMES wispered it to my self with out really too much thought ,a second after i had wispered “names” i took my nose out of the book looked streight forward AND GASPED looked down read the last few lines again dropped my arms to the sides of the chair i was in took in a deep breath and gasped again. Thats all i know ,about this poem…

  16. Anonymous says:

    one just has one time to die. Hence, we should live so meaningfully in order that when we die we can proudly say the “I died for beauty”

  17. Miguel says:

    Wow, wverybody else is like “wow this is so great!”
    I Think it’s extremely morbid! I mean, look at her hundreds of other poems about death…doesn’t that say something? For a person who spent most of the latter half of her life in her own house, and never even let her visitors see her. sounds like a kook to me! She needed to have gotten out and gotten some inspiration from something. William Dean Howells, a fellow realist, was a strong advocate of only writing about the sweeter side of life, and I agree!

  18. Wilson says:

    This poem is so beautiful. I believe there are two aspects of the poem you can deal with: The one that concentrates on her transitus into the afterlife and focuses on her death, and the one that deals with the parallel between truth and beauty and how both are significant to the true understanding and meaning of the poem… It is weird that the Dickinson would use the word “fail” as a metaphor for death. This is especially interesting and significant because when the narrator of the poem remarks that she “died for beauty” earlier in the poem, one would think she actually meant that she “lived” for beauty. Subsequently, she equates “living,” “dying” and “failing,” and does all these things for truth and beaut (two equivalent things). But why would Dickinson who loved the beauty and nature have two people who died for beauty and truth be nullified by the covering of the moss. Why aren’t their deaths significant?

  19. Katie says:

    I Love this poem, and so many people interpret it incorrectly! Emily Dickinson very rarely wrote with herself as the narrator, she is not the “I” in the poem, she is just relating. I think the focus is on the personifications of Truth and Beauty dying, failing, in their attempts and then after they have accepted their fate and found fellowship in each other’s company, they plight worsened in that they were forgotten.
    The poem is one of her greatest and people get so caught up with the details they miss the point!

  20. Emma says:

    I do not think that the speaker is a woman that died for love, love is beautiful, but the connection is between truth and beauty. They are tied together and no matter what a person says or does it will eventually fade and it will be forgotten/covered with moss, that they are not seen as the same until someone else dies for the same reasons and they are tied once again for people to recognize.

  21. King Mongo says:

    I don’t think there’s any reason to assume the speaker is a woman, other than that Emily Dickinson was a woman, and/or beauty is an attribute typically tied to the female.

    The 8th line says “Brethren.” I don’t think a woman could be brethren to anyone–the word is an antiquated plural of “brother.”

  22. Rachel says:

    I just discovered this poem for a nui project, and i loved it from the first read! Amazing. To take something as poignant as ‘truth is beauty, beauty truth’ and turn it into a poem which is inspiring in its own right- i love it. Of course, i have to have a bit of a femminst gripe about the fact that it is the woman who died for beauty… 🙂

  23. vania says:

    Eu morri pela beleza, mas não me acomodava na mortalha
    Quando alguem que morre pela verdade é colocado na tumba ao lado.
    Ele suavimente questionou-me:
    Porque havia fracassado? e eu respondi: – pela beleza.
    E eu pela verdade, ambas são uma. Somos irmãos, ele disse.
    E então como antiquarios encontraram uma noite, conversávamos por entre as salas.
    Até que o lôdo ( lama esverdeada) atingiu os nossos lábios e cobriu os nossos nomes.

    COMENTÁRIO: Beleza e verdade são um porque são subjetivas. Não são eternas os valores e padrões estão em constante mudança e o que era novo passa a ser antiquadro em outra realidade, é coberto por outra visão de mundo, por outra realidade.Beleza e verdade apesar de serem motivo de paixão e luta morrem e são apagadas.

  24. Shimon Weinroth says:

    Dickinson expounds young Keats ( who died at the age of 25) intrigue with truth and beauty. there is a harmony and dis harmony in this equasion. which spurred the birth of this poem

    Disharmony of Keats

    Truth is beauty, beauty is truth
    Can one be constant, the other vary
    Still be equal to each other
    Mystery of beauty, Miracle of truth

    Shimon Weinroth

  25. Sho says:

    i like this poem, and i chose it for a project in one of my college courses a while back. i feel the man died for truth and the woman for death; however, they both ‘failed’ since their dead. when the moss covered them up to their lips, which led to them not being able to talk to themselves anymore. so in the end you live for whatever and then you die, but in the end you’ll be forgotten anyways.

  26. Sally says:

    John Keats said ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’
    Beauty and truth are One, and only death can bring them together, into One. Death helps keep beauty and truth in their peaks, and to their eternity… Great minds think alike.

  27. Ken says:

    I love this poem,because it gives me a very shock and a
    bright picture.I seem see the Moss covered the two persons, covered Truth and Beauty ,then they become one..

  28. ENG Student says:

    to quest for beauty is to live
    on life’s wake
    The other, a path for those
    who wait,
    and live and die for death’s
    sake

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