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Poetry Month

Mr. Flood's Party


Portrait of Edwin Arlington Robinson. By Lilla Cabot Perry. On exhibition at the Braus Galleries, New York., Digital ID 2006485, New York Public Library If you are of a certain age, you may be familiar with Edwin Arlington Robinson from a Simon and Garfunkel song, "Richard Cory." The words of the song were changed somewhat from what Robinson wrote but it still ended with the same shocking, brutal conclusion. Here’s the whole 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.

"Children of the Night" (1910)

Edwin Arlington Robinson grew up in Gardiner, Maine, but spent part of his career in the Village, residing at 51 Washington Square South, 121 Washington Place and 28 W. 8th Street. December 22 is his birthday.

The other Edwin Arlington Robinson poem that made an impression on me, for obvious reasons, was "Mr. Flood’s Party."

My parties are nothing like Mr. Flood's.


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Richard Cory

Richard Cory is a paradoxical song. It has a very upbeat tempo, it is loud and lilting, it portrays Cory as someone who is blessed in every way, someone who walks with honor and nobility, and in the shadow of his footsteps diamonds fall. He is one whom everyone respects, and few are awed as well as envious. He is a quiet person, a mysterious person, one whom few dare to approach, as they see him far above them. The ending of the song is so brutal and surprising. I believe that the song indicates that a person can own the whole world, and yet have nothing. Richard Cory was empty, devoid of emotion, and feeling separated from his Creator. When people hear the song, "Richard Cory," they should glean from it the need to treat every person they encounter as if he or she is touched by divinity, because one never knows what level of hope or despair another person is capable of.

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