‘Ricard Cory’ is a paradoxical poem which raises the popular issue of worldly image and inner reality. Depicting the difficult times of the economic depression in 1893, the poem shows the plight of the commoners who could not afford to meat and had to be content eating bread.
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The traditional verse style juxtaposed with the simple language used by Arlington is typical of American literary modernism. The theme of the poem fits it perfectly in the genre of American Modern poetry which aims at destroying the traditional myths held by society in general. The poem has a universal appeal and even though it was written so many years ago, continues to be appropriate in today’s times.
The subject is modern and is valid even today. In modern times when wealth is equated with happiness, the poem destroys the myth that being rich can be equated with being happy. Arlington’s poem Richard Cory is a modern attempt by the poet to “scatter conventional taboos” (Perkins & Perkins 130).
Richard Cory who is a wealthy and powerful gentleman, commits suicide despite the luxuries he enjoys. The poet remarkably presents the case that money and power do not guarantee inner peace and happiness. The poem is an interesting account of the rich and famous Richard Cory who is envied by the poor townspeople.
He is stylish and elegant and has all the riches in the world to keep him happy. The towns people are floored by his personality and adore his good looks. Not only do they admire his physical traits but also his kindness reflected in his manners which were “always human when he talked” (Richard Cory, line 6).
Richard Cory is a gentleman from “soul to crown” with his “clean-favored and imperially slim” (Richard Cory, line 3 & 4) persona which “fluttered pulses” when he greeted people humanely (Richard Cory, line 7). The narrator is so much in awe of Richard Cory that he thinks he is “richer than a king” with his perfect “grace” (Richard Cory, line 9,10).
The townspeople considered him ideal in every way and desired strongly to be “in his place” (Richard Cory, line 12). Richard Cory was deemed a superior being by the people of the town that they simply adored him in every way.
However, ironically, while the entire town admired Richard Cory and strongly desired to be in his place, one night Richard Cory “went home and put a bullet in his head” (Richard Cory, line 16). While he appeared to have all the riches in the world, he was spiritually hollow. He was apparently not as calm as visible on the exterior. His calm and poised exterior were a contrast with his unhappy and the stormy mental state.
In the poem, Arlington juxtaposes two important elements, worldly wealth and spiritual happiness. While Richard Cory had all the luxuries, he lacked inner peace, happiness and content. Externally he was the object of envy while internally he was depressed and sad. The poem presents the severe reality that richness and grandeur are certainly not indicators of happiness and spiritual peace.
The song is based on the poem Richard Cory. The theme is identical and majority of the song is similar to the poem. However, there are few changes to add more punch to it. In keeping with the modern times, the singer has added that Richard Cory was powerful due to his political connections.
Also, in the original poem, there are no yacht parties which are common to the rich and famous people in todays times. There are some omissions from the original poem which depict Richard Cory as a quiet gentleman, whereas in the song he is shown to be a flamboyant man enjoying his wealth and riches. It is obvious that modifications to the song have been made to depict the character of the modern man today.
Perkins, George, & Barbara, Perkins. The American Tradition in Literature, Volume II. 12th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill. 2007. Print.
Robinson, Edwin Arlington. “Richard Cory.” Print.