"Richard Cory" is a narrative poem written by Edwin Arlington Robinson. It was first published in 1897, as part of The Children of the Night, having been completed in July of that year; and it remains one of Robinson's most popular and anthologized poems. The poem describes a person who is wealthy, well educated, mannerly, and admired by the people in his town. Despite all this, he takes his own life.
Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935), American poet, attended Harvard (1891–1893). At his death, many critics[who?] considered Robinson the greatest poet in the United States. He is now best remembered for his short poems characterizing various residents of Tilbury Town, which was based on his hometown, Gardiner, Maine. A quiet, introverted man, Robinson never married and became legendary for his reclusiveness. Although his later poetry reveals a deep consciousness of social issues, an experimentation with symbolism, and an increasingly optimistic view of human destiny, his most lasting work is probably his early verse. "Miniver Cheevy" and "Richard Cory" are among the most famous of his brief, dramatic poems.
The composition of the poem, while the United States economy was still suffering from the severe depression of the Panic of 1893 and during which people often subsisted on day-old bread, alluded to in the poem's prominence of poverty and wealth, and foodstuffs.
The poem "Richard Cory" has multiple themes. One theme is that people should be judged based on who they are, not the items they possess. Another theme is that people or situations aren't always the same as they appear. An additional theme is that money cannot buy happiness.
Text of 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.
- As music
The poem was adapted by the folk duo Simon & Garfunkel for their song "Richard Cory", which has also been performed by Them, Van Morrison, Cuby + Blizzards and The Chicago Loop. The song has been played live by Paul McCartney & Wings, Denny Laine singing lead. The Simon & Garfunkel version of the song's ending differs from the poem in that the speaker still wishes he "could be Richard Cory", even after Cory has killed himself. The Latter-day Saint folk trio "3Ds" performed a musical adaptation of the poem in their 1970s album Rhyme Rhythm and Reason.
The Jamaican singer Ken Boothe performed a version of the Paul Simon song in an early reggae style for his 1968 album More of Ken Boothe. It was recorded in the famous Studio One and produced by C. S. Dodd.
The punk band The Menzingers wrote a song titled "Richard Coury" which was inspired by the poem. The difference in spelling from Cory to Coury is because the band has a personal friend whose last name is Coury.
The American composer John Duke wrote Three Poems by Edwin Arlington Robinson, which includes the full text of the poem Richard Cory.
The American Oi band Youngblood did a version of the poem set to music written by the band.
A. R. Gurney wrote a play based on the poem, also titled Richard Cory. The play, which is presented with a nonlinear timeline, suggests the reasons Cory killed himself, including family problems and changing views on humanity.
Carolyn Mullen wrote a short story titled "Poetic Justice" which, via a surprise ending, turns out to be an "alternative history" version of "Richard Cory". Edwin Arlington Robinson appears as a character in the story, which is included in The Rich and the Dead, a 2011 short-story anthology.
- William J. Scheick. "Richard Cory." Magill’s Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition. Salem Press, 2007. eNotes.com. 2006. 18 May 2011
- http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.proxy.cecybrary.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=5&sid=99dcc2e6-a756-4704-aab4-ef084e2b8b79%40sessionmgr113&hid=108&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aph&AN=39028773[dead link]
- Garrison Keillor (1993) The Book of Guys. London: Faber & Faber.
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