The power of a poem

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.     

Richard Cory
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.

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7 thoughts on “The power of a poem

  1. It seems many of us are moved by poetry, and poetry set to music. I knew of this fine poem through the Paul Simon song that is based on it. But my favorite version, though they all give me a chill, is Denny Laine singing it with Paul McCartney’s band, Wings, on the Wings Over America album.

    My younger brother introduced me to that version; he was a huge Beatles fan. He favored Paul, I idolized John. As the years went by, I lived a dissolute life and my brother was a pillar of the community, known and loved by many. A wife, two dogs, a nice home, a successful career. Then one day, two years ago, my brother walked into his bedroom and put a bullet through his head.

    I will never hear that poem, or that song or many others, the same way again.


  2. i would like to make an observation regarding the top picture. it sort of just stuck out at me! the structure in the front left has what appears to be a penis made of snow on one of the walls dead set in the middle of it. does anyone else see it or do i just have penis on the brain?


  3. I read that one recently. I found it in a old College literature textbook. It reminds me of the Beatles “A day in the Life.”

    “He blew his mind out in a car
    He didn’t notice that the lights had changed
    A crowd of people stood and stared
    They’d seen his face before
    Nobody was really sure if he was from the house of lords”

    Lennon’s delivery is haunting – truly sticks in your brain.


  4. Oh, wow. Now I remember reading that one years ago, but I had totally forgotten it. The thing is, those we admire and love don’t always know it, and instead feel worthless and hopeless. Thanks for the reminder to compliment people more often, and to tell those I love how I feel about them more frequently than I already do.


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