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 Emily Dickinson's poem I died for Beauty — but was scarce


  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.

    • Jeremy says:

      Their names are Truth and Beauty – it’s Keats

      So it is important that they talked [through showing their names side by side] until their names were covered.

  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,
    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.

    • Jeremy says:

      Emily Dickinson is referring back to Keats’ Ode to a Grecian Urn – which ends

      “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
      Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

  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.

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