November 08, 2004

Robinson Readings

ROBINSON, Edwin Arlington (22 Dec. 1869-6 Apr. 1935), poet, was born in Head Tide, Maine, the son of Edward Robinson, a timber merchant and civic leader, and Mary Elizabeth Palmer. Shortly after his birth the family moved to nearby Gardiner, where he grew up; the town later provided the model for a series of poems that he wrote throughout his career.

Robinson attended Harvard from 1891 to 1893 despite his father's doubts about the value of a higher education. During the early 1890s the family's fortunes began to decline, triggering a series of tragedies that influenced Robinson's life and poetry. In 1892 his father died, and the panic of 1893 and the lingering aftermath slowly bankrupted the family over the next seven years. Robinson's brother Dean became addicted to morphine and returned home in failing health. Robinson was forced to leave Harvard because of the family's financial difficulties and his mother's failing health. She died in 1896 of "black diphtheria," and because no mortician would handle the body, the brothers had to lay out their mother, dig the grave, and bury her. During this time Robinson wrote the poems that were later published in 1896 as The Torrent and the Night Before and in 1897 as The Children of the Night.

From the first, Robinson's poetry was noted for mastery of conventional forms, be it the sonnet, the quatrain, or the eight-line stanza. The characters of works like "Richard Cory," "Luke Havergal," "Aaron Stark," and "John Evereldown" are faced with failure and tragedy.

After 1911, Robinson spent his summers in New Hampshire, and spent much time writing and publishing his poetry. By this time his books supported him for the rest of his life.

Robinson died on April 6th, 1935 in New York City. By this time all his immediate family had died. He wrote many popular and great poems during his days, some of these are: "Merlin", "Lancelot", "Richard Cory", "Miniver Cheevy", "Mr. Flood's Party", "For a Dead Lady", and "Luke Havergal".

Robinson was the first major American poet of the twentieth century, unique in that he devoted his life to poetry and willingly paid the price in poverty and obscurity.

Now, that you have an idea of what type of person Robinson is, I would like to share my opinion on two readings that sparked my interest.

Richard Corey
This short poem is about a young man who looked decent and was polite when approached by strangers. He was a rich man and people did respect him. It was kind of shocking, that one summer night; he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. People have so much that they got out of life, but still they are not satisfied. It is true how the rich and poor people suffer the most. The rich may have wealth, but not happiness. The poor are just unforunate because they have to battle to stay alive in society. It's only the middle class people, who are better off. They don't have to worry as much, and are the happiest group.

The Mill

In this reading, it talks about the miller's wife who waits for her husband. There are context clues that the husband will not return, such as "The tea was cold, the fire was dead.." The husband committed suicide by hanging himself off a beam. After this discovery, the miller's wife drowned herself. At least, this is how the author wanted the readers to view this story. Actually, we really don't know if the miller hanged himself or if the miller's wife drowned herself. Perhaps, it's all just a hallucination as indicated by Locklear's article.

I did realize the pattern how Robinson has tragedy and sadness in his poems. Since Robinson's life wasn't as pleasant, you can tell that his poems are reflecting of his feelings and emotions of his life.

In Mindy's presentation, there were a lot of good points brought up. Mindy got my attention when Robinson's parents wanted a girl, but had a boy instead. They just ignored him, like his didn't exist. Robinson didn't like his name because the neighborhood people picked his name by a drawing it out of a hat. It was sad how Robinson was not very close to his family.

I liked how Mindy got the class involved by having different groups write interpretations and drawings of the characters. I learned more about the readings. Our group had Thomas Hood. He had a split personality, because he was happy in the outside, but was really depressed in the inside. The second group had Miniver Cheevey, which a man who was drunk and lazy. He liked medieval period, so he enjoyed observing paintings. The third group did Richard Corey. Richard Corey was viewed as a gentleman who society liked. Also, he was a rich man. However, he was miserable and shot himself in the head. It just shows how money doesn't buy happiness. The fourth group did Aaron Stark. He was a creepy man who just laughed at anything. Even if it's not the right time to laugh, he did. Finally, the last group did Mr. Flood. Mr. Flood was a lonely man who just remembers war experiences. He only time pass activity was drinking and he was attached to his jug.

Dr. Jerz noticed how Robinson hated his own name and he would draw special attention to his character's names. Dr. Jerz also discussed about "Mr. Flood's Party" in great detail. It resembles to "A Christmas Carol" written by Charles Dickens. In this story, there is a character named Ebeneezer Scoorge and he is visited by three ghosts. In the story, "Mr. Flood's Party, the name Eben is mentioned and it talks about Flood's past experiences. Mr. Flood invites himself to drink and he is affectionate towards his jug because that's his only relationship. He also talks about his war experiences, but no one seems to believe his stories. He is a very lonely man.

Posted by NabilaUddin at November 8, 2004 02:29 PM


I enjoy reading your blogs. What was your favorite Robinson story. As for me I enjoyed Mr. Flood because when I imagine him in my mind I see him and a drunk that has an hump back. You can see more of my thought on my page.

Posted by: Se-Ann Williams at November 30, 2004 06:57 PM


I am glad that you like my blogs. :) My favorite story would be Richard Corey, because it ties in with reality and how people act. This is true that movie stars are not really happy. Money and fame does not bring happiness. It is amazing that the rich are miserable people. I would think that they got everything that they wanted, but it's untrue for them.


Posted by: NabilaUddin at December 1, 2004 12:05 AM
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