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Imagery by Edwin Arlington Robinson

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Mrs. Hawks English CP 1 10 April 2012 Imagery by Edwin Arlington Robinson Edwin Arlington Robinson was born in Head Tide, Maine on December 22, 1869. He moved to a town named Gardiner where he grew up; the town later provided the model for a series of poems that he wrote throughout his career as a poet (Peschel). Robinson attended Harvard from 1891 to 1893 even though his parents were against going to a school of higher value for the education. President Theodore Roosevelt helped Robinson get a job at the New York Custom House as a clerk in 1905. There, he realized his true passion in life was writing (Scott). Robinson became 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” (Peschel).

He was a great poet and could use metaphors to enable the reader to be able to picture his characters and scenes in their minds. Many of Robinson’s works follow the same patterns. He describes his characters personality through adjectives of the person or of the setting. Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poems “Miniver Cheevy”, “Charles Carville’s Eyes”, and “Richard Cory” use imagery to create men who are not satisfied with themselves. Imagery is “the formation of mental images, figures, or likenesses of things, or of such images collectively.” or “pictorial images and mental images” (Quinn). Edwin Arlington Robinson usually doesn’t use imagery from the natural world, but if or when he does, the images are functional and are made from metaphors and symbolic context (Scott). Every metaphor or simile that Robinson uses while writing his poems constitutes an image of some sort. His imagery tends to engage the readers on their “sense experience” (Quinn) and this enables them to re-create the story. Robinson uses words like “grew lean”, “bright”, “iron clothing”, or “insufficient eyes.” These words help the reader to visualize how the characters in the poem look or their demeanor. Robinson wants the reader to feel like they are in the poem.

In the poems, “Miniver Cheevy”, “Charles Carville’s Eyes”, and “Richard Cory” Robinson lets the reader be able to picture the men and how they are feeling like they are never satisfied. “Miniver Cheevy” portrays a man who misses and complains about missing the past. He not only misses the good, but also the bad. Cheevy is usually described as “a mocking self-portrait” (Squires) The way Robinson’s tone is in this poem, it gives the reader imagery of a tired and grumpy old man who is never satisfied with anything in his life. The reader could imagine him as being mean. Cheevy is described as “lean”. Robinson says, “Swords were bright and steeds were prancing;” and “warrior bold”. He goes on to say in his poem “He missed the mediaeval grace Of iron clothing.” The way Robinson uses his imagery here, he gives the impression that he used to be in the military or he lived during a time of war. The reader gets the image of the art era, or Renaissance. Robinson writes “Miniver scorned the sought; but sore annoyed was he without it;”. Again, this is Miniver Cheevy not being satisfied with himself. By the end of the poem, Miniver Cheevy has come to terms with the fact that he no longer lives in the times of the past. Robinson says, “Miniver Cheevy, born too late, / scratched his head and kept on thinking; / Miniver coughed, and called it fate, and kept on drinking.” “Richard Cory” is about a man who is the richest man in town and everyone wants to know him and everyone wants to be him but despite all of his great qualities and possessions, he still is not satisfied with himself.

The way Robinson describes Cory is that “He was a gentleman from sole to crown, / clean-favoured and imperially slim.” The reader would have a mind picture of a tall man who is nice and “king like” (Anderson). He portrays images or royalty when he says “We people on the pavement looked at him” (Robinson). When Robinson writes the words, “imperially slim” it shows how empty and fragile he is (Bruccoli). Also, when Robinson writes, “quietly arrayed” and “he was always human when he talked” it shows that he is normal on the inside and he wants to be normal to the people in his town, again, showing that he is not satisfied with himself. Richard Cory was so unsatisfied with himself, that “one calm summer night” (Robinson) he went home and “put a bullet through his head.” (Robinson) The fact that it was a “calm summer night” shows imagery of it all being normal and that he did not kill himself on any particular night. This shows that he is unhappy on good and bad days. The poem “Charles Carville’s Eyes” is about a man who tries to appear happy to everyone but realistically, he is mourning on the inside. In this, it shows that he is not satisfied with himself for unknown reasons.

The reader gets the mental picture that Charles Carville’s eyes are dull and lifeless. Robinson says, “His insufficient eyes, forever sad: / in them there was no life-glimpse, good or bad, / nor joy nor passion in them ever gleamed” (Robinson). Robinson says, “Once you knew him, for his mouth redeemed”. All Carville wants is to be peoples friend and once he was, his image changed. “His mouth was all of him that ever beamed, / his eyes were sorry, but his mouth was glad”, said Robinson. Robinson also portrays him as being unheard and “out of touch” with the rest of society. The reader might think that he is not satisfied with himself because he wants to be heard by the rest of the community. In Edward Arlington Robinson’s poems “Miniver Cheevy”, “Charles Carville’s Eyes”, and “Richard Cory” Robinson uses similes and metaphors and shows three different men’s personality but all three men have something in common, they all are not satisfied with themselves. In “Richard Cory” and “Charles Carville’s Eyes” Robinson shows all of the men’s characteristics, physically and mentally. In “Miniver Cheevy” Robinson portrays the man’s mental issues more that his physical. Overall, all three men are not satisfied with themselves.

Works Cited

Anderson, Wallace L. “On “Richard Cory”’ Modern American Poetry. American National Biography. Web. 29 February 2012. Bovee, Timothy. “‘Miniver Cheevy.”’ DayPoems. The DayPoems Poetry Collection. Web. 22 March 2012 Bruccoli, Matthew. “‘Richard Cory.”’ Student’s Encyclopedia of American Literary Characters. 2012 Bloom’s Literary Reference Online. Web. 26 February 2012. Fetzer, Scott. “Robinson, Edwin A.” The World Book
Encyclopedia. 2010 ed. Print. Peschel, Bill. “Edwin Arlington Robinson’s Life and Career.” Modern American Poetry. American National Biography. Web. 26 February 2012 Quinn, Edward. “Imagery” A Dictionary of Literary and Thematic Terms. 2012 Bloom’s Literary Reference Online. Web. 10 April 2012 Robinson, Edwin Arlington. “Richard Cory” Poem Hunter. Web. 31 December 2002 Robinson, Edwin Arlington. “Charles Carville’s Eyes” Poem Hunter. Web. 3 January 2003

Squires, Rodcliffe. “On “‘Miniver Cheevy”’ Modern American Poetry. American National Biography. Web. 29 March 2012

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