When I first came across this poem in High School I was shocked and confused. Reading it many times over it never became clearer. I was 16 yrs. old and knew little of the world. However it stayed with me always, yet I did not recall the title or the author. I searched for it many a time to no avail. Then this morning on Stumbleupon I came across a comprehensive poetry site and for nearly 3 hrs. I searched by various means, for I knew I would remember it once I saw it. My search was a success and as I anxiously read it again, as if reading for the first time, the power of the words struck me as they did back in school. I have lived an entire lifetime since then, and perhaps sadly or maybe just realistically, I understand it now. I also understand why it essentially haunted me all these years. The reason is simple; I know this character and have met him many times. There is a saying that I associated with this poem back then “All that glistens isn’t gold.” Perhaps I did understand it as a kid after all.
by Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935)
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.