Guest poem submitted by Siddarth Kalasapur:
(Poem #1317) Richard Cory
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.
Here's a poem that I first read back in 1994, and it has been one of my favorites since. Isn't there a Simon & Garfunkel song titled "Richard Cory"? [Yes; see notes -t.] E. A. Robinson is not among my favorite poets (e e cummings and Kahlil Gibran are). This poem however, always reminds me of a friend who, in 1994 who actually put a bullet thruugh his head - and we were left to speculate the reason, for it seemed like he had everything. He was indeed quietly arrayed and human, rich and graceful, well-liked and well-schooled. To date we don't know the reason my friend did what he did - one calm summer night - and this poem will serve as a constant reminder that things aren't always what they appear to be. -Siddarth. [Notes] "Richard Cory" is from Robinson's collection "The Children Of The Night". The poem was written in 1897, after Robinson read a newspaper clipping of one Frank Avery, who "blew his bowels out with a shotgun". Here's Paul Simon's version of the story, from the "Sounds of Silence" album, 1966: "Richard Cory" They say that Richard Cory owns one half of this whole town, With political connections to spread his wealth around. Born into society, a banker's only child, He had everything a man could want: power, grace, and style. But I work in his factory And I curse the life I'm living And I curse my poverty And I wish that I could be, Oh, I wish that I could be, Oh, I wish that I could be Richard Cory. The papers print his picture almost everywhere he goes: Richard Cory at the opera, Richard Cory at a show. And the rumor of his parties and the orgies on his yacht! Oh, he surely must be happy with everything he's got. But I work in his factory And I curse the life I'm living And I curse my poverty And I wish that I could be, Oh, I wish that I could be, Oh, I wish that I could be Richard Cory. He freely gave to charity, he had the common touch, And they were grateful for his patronage and thanked him very much, So my mind was filled with wonder when the evening headlines read: "Richard Cory went home last night and put a bullet through his head." But I work in his factory And I curse the life I'm living And I curse my poverty And I wish that I could be, Oh, I wish that I could be, Oh, I wish that I could be Richard Cory. -- Paul Simon Spencer Leigh, in "Paul Simon - Now and Then" (1973) comments: "Simon also retains this surprise but in neither version do we receive any explanation as to why Richard Cory should have shot himself. Robinson dwells on his material possessions and Simon updates this to include orgies and yachts. Simon may well have added a subtlety to Robinson's poem by repeating the chorus after Richard Cory has shot himself, thus implying that the workers also envy Cory's courage in being able to do away with himself. It is easy to see why E.A. Robinson's poetry appealed to Paul Simon. They both understood this feeling of being lonely in a crowd. Indeed a university thesis in years to come may well show the parallels between the two writers and songs like 'A Most Peculiar Man' and 'I Am A Rock' certainly mark Simon out as a latter-day Robinson." -- [broken link] http://www.ckk.chalmers.se/guitar/richard.cory.html