Tried and failed: in short, my literary life. But many things that are finished endure, myself included.
When I was seventeen I played guitar in a band and after a show late at night walking back to my car I made a remark about wanting to be a famous guitarist and someone I respected made me feel guilty about wanting fame and I did feel guilty and I've felt guilty ever since. Never before but always after: guilt at desiring fame. But I've never stopped wanting it.
Fame is a bee.
It has a song—
It has a sting—
Ah, too, it has a wing.
— Emily Dickinson, courtesy of the Poetry Foundation website
Only two verbs, "is" and "has", both of them elemental or rather elementary. The same sentence structure repeated four times with only a small interjection of "Ah, too," to break the litany. Of eighteen words only five carry any real imaginative weight: "Fame", "bee", "song", "sting", and "wing". Humble words stitched together with plain thread. None of the riddling or high-diction we find in Dickinson's more famous poems.
She's belittling fame while admiring it. She's giving it a body to make it graspable (Ouch!) but acknowledging that that body is independent of her own—it takes wing.
This poem couldn't have made Dickinson famous. If this poem alone of her many had survived she would have been considered at best a minor talent. From a certain point of view, it's a failure. She knew it. The poet writes another poem because the last one wasn't enough. Try and fail and try again and fail again. But what failures! Tried and failed: a literary life.