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My Writing Journey

The Poem that Inspired Simon & Garfunkel

Richard Cory – the poem that inspired Simon & Garfunkel

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went downtown,

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.

~Edwin Arlington Robinson~

~

In 1966, Simon & Garfunkel borrowed Robinson’s poem, “Richard Cory,” modernized the language, and set it to music. The song is both thought-provoking and astonishing – just like Robinson’s poem – and was included in the duo’s hit album, Sounds of Silence.

I personally think the song lyrics are infinitely better than the poem. But, listen for yourself!

~

Bio: While Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935) is not remembered much now, he was a highly prolific and enthusiastically praised poet in his time. He often wrote on “themes of personal failure, artistic endeavor, materialism [and wealth], and the inevitability of [progress and] change” (Robert Gilbert). Robinson self-published his books of poetry until Houghton Mifflin agreed to publish his book of poems, Captain Craig, in 1902. The book was not successful, and Robinson became a drifter and alcoholic. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt became aware of Robinson and his book, The Children of the Night. Roosevelt convinced Charles Scribner’s Sons to republish the book. He also obtained a job for Robinson at the New York Customs House. Job security allowed Robinson to continue with his writing. Robinson won a Pulitzer Prize for his Collected Poems in 1922. He won a second Pulitzer Prize in 1924. In 1927, he won a third Pulitzer Prize. Robinson died of cancer in 1935.

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Dawn Pisturino

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