There are several poets who discuss themes of seizing opportunities and achieving success. Some of these works include: "Success is Counted Sweetest," "After Apple-Picking" and "Mowing." Each writer has their own style to portray these themes in their works. These themes are timeless and also relevant to today's world. People are always looking for success in the world and embracing or straying away from opportunities.
In Emily Dickinson's work, "Success is Counted Sweetest," the theme of achieving success is evident. She talks about how "those who ne'er succeed" place a higher value on success and "count it sweetest." People tend to desire things more when they don't have them. When they finally achieve that success, it is more meaningful to them because they have worked hard to get it, rather than someone else who always succeeds.
The nectar she writes about is a symbol for victory and luxury. In order to "comprehend a nectar" you must require the "sorest need," meaning that the only way you will understand the worth of a victory is if you want it bad enough. For example, the defeated, dying man understands victory more clearly than the triumphant army does. Although the man is losing his life, he is reimbursed by gaining an understanding of what victory is. In a way, the theme is ironic because the soldier may never find the success in
being a soldier because the success of a soldier is often dying with honor for the good of their country. The soldier has a "forbidden ear" because he has never won and feels even more defeated when he hears the cheers of the victorious army or "purple Host." Although the "purple Host" won, they are not able to define success because they win all the time. Only those who have worked hard for it can clearly define it.
Robert Frost's poem, "After Apple-Picking," talks about the opportunities in life. He uses apples as symbols for new opportunities. The speaker is tired after a long day's work of picking apples. Although he is done with his work, he hasn't filled one of the barrels and has also left a few apples on the tree. He also feels that a strange sleep is overpowering him.
The speaker says "there's a barrel that I didn't fill" which gives a sense of incompleteness. He also says that "there may be two or three apples I didn't pick." Each apple he left behind represents a missed opportunity in life. Later, he wonders how his life would've been different if he had seized those opportunities. This also symbolizes a person's regrets of missed opportunities and bad choices that affected their life.
He also gives clues that winter is coming, which can metaphorically mean death. The "woodchuck" hibernates during the winter, and the apple's scent is the "essence of winter sleep." The speaker also says "I am overtired/Of the great harvest I myself desired." He means that because he has desired a great harvest, he has strained himself. There were too many apples, and he both mentally and physically exhausted himself trying to pick them all. The "long sleep" he describes is his final rest that he won't wake up from. He is unsure whether this sleepiness he feels is death or if he is just very tired
and needs to rest. "Mowing," by Robert Frost, talks about the success you achieve from hard work and doing your job. "The sweetest dream that labor knows" is the rest you get after you work all your life. The greatest thing about life is that you work hard all your life, and when you complete everything you die. By completing your work you achieve success.
These themes apply to our own lives because we feel success when we achieve something that we have worked hard for. We also pass by many opportunities and seize the ones that will have a positive effect on our lives. For example, some of us feel we have achieved success by studying hard and being rewarded by a good grade. Like the soldier in Dickinson's poem, we may study hard but do poorly while other people who don't study as hard do better. Someone who doesn't study as hard and gets good grades doesn't appreciate success as much as someone who gives it their best and fails.
There are many opportunities in life. We must be able to decide which ones we will be able to handle so we are not overwhelmed with an impossible task. For example, taking more honors and advanced placement classes than you can handle will make it impossible to do well in all of them. But, if you don't take those classes, you might feel that you have missed the opportunity of getting into the college of your choice.
After looking at these examples we see that these themes are truly timeless and just as relevant then as they are now. The success of our lives is evident in what we have achieved and the choices we have made. By making mistakes along the way, our successes become even more meaningful when we achieve them. The harder we work, the sweeter the success will be.