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 reached our lips -
And covered up - our names -
Dickinson's "I died for Beauty - but was scarce" has a recurring theme of death. The speaker of the poem has died and explains that they have died for beauty. The idea behind the phrase "but was scarce" implies that the speaker died for a purpose but failed in their objective. The speaker mentions another person who died for the purpose of truth. This person is buried beside the speaker and they, the speaker and this other person, discuss death.
They both conclude that death is a form of failure. The "one who died for truth" asks why he died. The speaker says, "For beauty." The other supposes he also dies for truth and that truth and beauty are one in the same. The two believe that since they have failed in life, they are almost like brothers. They spend the rest of eternity conversing about their failure.
The general moral of this poem is that one should not waste their entire life trying to reach a goal that will only end in failure. The other person mentioned in the poem died searching for some truth while the speaker died searching for lost beauty. Dickinson implies that the ulimate failure of a long sought-after goal is death.