As an English teacher I was always looking for poems which would resonate with our young people intrigue and engage them. Because my students were not always in the mood to work… or should I say, were not often in the mood to work, shorter poems stood a better chance than longer ones; at the same time my students were not stupid, far from it, and they needed something which would capture their imagination and resonate with them… otherwise thy might start throwing things around the room, pens, paper airplanes, chairs, each other…
This poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson certainly did that; despite it having been written over a hundred years ago, it was easy for my clever students to envisualise Richard Cory, they could understand the point of view of the people watching him pass by, they ‘got’ that he could be popular and loved despite his riches and social standing, because of his grace and lack of arrogance.
I always got great work from them about this poem, and they got great marks in their work and ultimately their exams.
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favoured 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.