Study Guide

If Loss, Defeat, and Destruction

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Loss, Defeat, and Destruction

For a poem that, at the end of day, seems pretty triumphant or uplifting, there sure are plenty of references to things getting broken, lost, and destroyed. All these references reiterate the idea that things don't always go as planned. That's just life. But none of these things are permanent. There are ways to overcome life's setbacks and defeats, and this emphasizes the importance of rebuilding after a loss.

  • Lines 1-2: "To lose one's head" is a metaphor for going crazy, completely losing it, and it's a pretty common thing (at least according to the speaker).
  • Lines 11-12: "Triumph and Disaster" represent classic personification. Triumph and Disaster aren't people, and they aren't really impostors, but both success and failures are dangerous. It can be really easy to get carried away by the emotions they cause. 
  • Lines 13-14: A truth isn't literally "twisted," so this is a metaphor for people misinterpreting one's words in order to deceive, or "trap," others ("trap" being another metaphor).
  • Lines 15-16: Some things might be literally "broken," but this could also just be a metaphor for things changing, not going as planned, and completely imploding.
  • Lines 17-20: To "risk" and "lose" all one's winnings is a metaphor for taking any kind of chance. Life is about taking risks, that's for sure, and losses will happen. One can always start over, however, and that's what matters. 
  • Lines 21-24: "Gone" is here a metaphor for exhaustion, fatigue, or something like that. The body's muscles ("nerve and sinew") can be defeated, but the powerful Will is strong enough to overcome that defeat.

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