Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday's Poetry: "Richard Cory"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today's selection, Richard Cory by Edward Arlington Robinson, is another gem that I first came across in an American literature class in high school.  It's message is simple:  while the rich may have a better life than the poor by almost all measures, they are also human and suffer from things that money cannot cure.  And yes, we have all heard stories about celebrities and the ultra-rich who have led unhappy lives, but I believe that more often than not, all of that money has been quite the pleasant balm.

One of the reasons that American slave owners were so quick to foist Christianity on their slaves was to keep them in line with the notion that while they might living in misery in this life, there would be pie-in-the-sky by-and-by when the meek inherit the earth.  Well, good luck with that!

Richard Cory was written in 1897, at a time in history when the contrast between the rich and poor was as stark as it is today.  Simon and Garfunkel turned the poem into a song which they recorded, and it has since been recorded by Van Morrison and the group Them.  This work supports the view of Ernest Hemingway who reportedly said that "the rich are no different than you and I."  That may be so, but they seem to fight awfully hard to keep their advantages!

Richard Cory
by Edward Arlington Robinson

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.

1 comment:

bK in MO said...

I've always wondered about the back story on this one. Why did he do it? Was he just a victim of manic depression, or was there a deeper, darker reason behind the suicide? What do you think?