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RICHARD

CORY
Edward Arlington Robinson
THE POET
HIS LIFE...
 He described his childhood in Maine as "stark and unhappy.
 Robinson's early struggles led many of his poems to have a
dark pessimism and his stories to deal with "an American
dream gone awry”.
 At the age of 21, Edwin entered Harvard University as a special
student. He took classes in English, French, and Shakespeare,
as well as one on Anglo-Saxon that he later dropped.
 Edwin's father, Edward, died after Edwin's first year at Harvard.

 Edwin returned to Harvard for a second year, but it was to be


his last one as a student there.
 Though short, his stay in Cambridge included some of his
most cherished experiences, and there he made his most
lasting friendships
 Robinson never married.

 He died of cancer on April 6, 1935 in the New York Hospital


(now New York Cornell Hospital) in New York City
HIS WORKS...
 In 1896 he self-published his first book, The Torrent
and the Night Before, paying 100 dollars for 500
copies. Robinson meant it as a surprise for his mother.
Days before the copies arrived, Mary Palmer Robinson
died of diphtheria.
 His second volume, Children of the Night, had a
somewhat wider circulation. Its readers included
President Theodore Roosevelt's son Kermit, who
recommended it to his father. Impressed by the poems
and aware of Robinson's straits, Roosevelt in 1905
secured the writer a job at the New York Customs
Office.
 He won the Pulitzer Prize three times in the 1920s. and
posterity has him described as ' more artful than Hardy
and more coy than Frost and a brilliant sonneteer.
THE POEM
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,


And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
'Good-morning,' and he glittered when he walked.
 
And he was rich - yes, richer than a king -
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
 
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

 “Richard Cory,” which first appeared in The


Children of the Night and remains one of
Robinson’s most popular poems, recalls the
economic depression of 1893.
 At that time, people could not afford meat and had
a diet mainly of bread, often day-old bread selling
for less than freshly baked goods.
 This hard-times experience made the townspeople
even more aware of Richard’s difference from
them, so much so that they treated him as royalty.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
'Good-morning,' and he glittered when he walked.

 Although the people were surprised that Richard came


to town dressed “quietly” and that he was “always
human when he talked” (that is, he did not act superior),
they nonetheless distanced themselves from him.
 This distance is suggested by the narrator’s words
“crown,” “imperially,” “grace,” “fluttered pulses,” and
“glittered.”
 The townspeople never stopped to consider why Richard
dressed and spoke the way he did, why he came to town
when everyone else was there, or even why he tried to
make contact with them by saying “good morning.”
And he was rich - yes, richer than a king -
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

 Richard was wealthy, but (as his name hints)


he was not rich at the life-core of himself.
 Despite his efforts at communal connection,
Richard’s wealth isolated him from others. He
was alone.
 If the townspeople wished they were in his
place because of his wealth, he in turn wished
he were one of them because they were rich in
one another’s company.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

 The townspeople failed to appreciate the value of their


mutual support of one another, their nurturing communal
togetherness.
 So one hot, breezeless summer night (before the
availability of electric fans or air conditioners), Richard
lay awake, unable to sleep or to stop painful thoughts.
 Depressingly lonely, he ended his friendless life.

 The poem’s reader is supposed to understand what the


townspeople did not understand about Richard’s suicide:
that there was a price, in a human rather than in a
monetary sense, that he paid for being perceived to be
“richer than a king.”
BOTTOMLINES
 There are more to life than wealth, fame and
power.
 Not all that seem to have everything they
want do really have everything they need.