by EDWIN ARLINGTON ROBINSON (1869-1935)
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.
It has been speculated that Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem, Richard Cory, is based upon the life of his older brother, Herman Robinson. Their relationship became acrimonious when Herman married the woman Edwin was in love with. Herman’s bad habits led to the dissipation of the family’s fortune and Edwin ended up supporting him in his last years. Other possible inspirations for the poem that have been offered are Frank Anne, a West Gardiner man who committed suicide and Sedgewick Plummer, a well-heeled attorney in the same town who drank and gambled away his wealth and literally wound up in the poor house.