Richard Cory Poem By Edwin Arlington Robinson Summary, Notes And Line By Line Analysis In English


Richard Cory is the title of the poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson. Rich, sophisticated, intelligent, and well-spoken, Richard was royalty. The poem  demonstrates the contrast between the unhappy, frustrated lives of residents of small towns and Richard Cory’s ostensibly prosperous life.

This poem demonstrates why we shouldn’t base judgments on someone’s appearance because it distorts our expectations and leads to confusion. In essence, Richard Cory is a satirical poetry. It addresses the paradox that wealthy individuals are not content with their lives while the underprivileged believe that having money will make them happy.

About The Poet

American poet Edwin Arlington Robinson lived from December 22, 1869, through April 6, 1935. Robinson was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times and won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry three times.

Stanza 1

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.

Richard Cory, the central character, is introduced. The residents of the community highly value him. The fact that they ‘looked at him’ and remarked that “He was a gentleman from sole to crown’ shows that he captures their attention. The last word of this verse says that he was a morally honest man.

Stanza 2

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.

He was always a human, that illustrated his authenticity. Despite his wealth and attractiveness, he spoke to people in a humble and unpretentious manner.  Although he was “quietly arrayed,” there was something enticing about him that caused him to “flutter pulses” as he passed. Young women fanning themselves and taking gasps as he passed is the first thing that comes to mind.

Stanza 3

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.

We believe that Richard Cory hailed from a wealthy family, and now we are informed that this was certainly the case. Richard Cory seems to have inherited his wealth, by the virtue of a king.  He was regarded by the neighbourhood as everything that made  them wish they were in his position.

Stanza 4

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.

The speaker makes a reference to the challenges that the town’s residents have to endure. The gentleman Richard Cory’s life and the lives of those who look up to him are in stark contrast. The poor don’t have enough money to even have access to the most basic of things.

Thus, there is a difference between their life and Cory’s, but they are not the only ones that suffer. His demons are so strong that when he returns home from one of his town strolls “and put a bullet through his head,” he surprises them all.