Four Poems by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Song Collection

Date: 1948Composer: John Woods DukeText: Edwin Arlington Robinson

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    Robinson’s famous triptych set to music by John Duke limns portraits of three men living lives of silent despair. Each has an autobiographical parallel in the poet’s own existence. The outwardly successful Richard Cory, who one day surprises his townsfolk by putting a bullet through his head, is a portrait of Robinson’s brother Herman, who effectively committed suicide with alcohol after a series of disastrous business investments, dying prematurely in 1893.

    Miniver Cheevy, with his fatal Romanticism and self-destructive drunken passivity, again alludes to Herman, but also suggests the poet himself, in his perennial sense of being unappreciated and misunderstood as an artist and intellectual.

    Luke Havergal’s mourning of a dead love, and his epiphany that only through the western gate of death can there be true union of souls, is an aching hymn to Robinson’s passion for his sister-in-law, Emma Shepherd.

    –Thomas Hampson and Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold, PBS I Hear America Singing


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