Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Birthday, Edwin

EA Robinson
Today in Head Tide, Maine, in 1869, Edwin Arlington Robinson was born. His poetry was unsuccessful to begin with, and he lived on the brink of starvation. Then one day, or so the story goes, Kermit Roosevelt read some of the poems and gave them to his father, Theodore Roosevelt. TR gave him a cushy job in a Customs House, saying, "I expect you to think poetry first and customs second." All Robinson had to do was show up, read the morning newspaper, and leave it on his chair to prove he had been in. In 1922, the first year the Pulitzer Prize for poetry was awarded, he won - and again in 1925 and 1928.

This poem is very long - 314 lines, too long to post it all - but it's my favorite of his. Select the title to read it all.

The Man Against the Sky

BETWEEN me and the sunset, like a dome
Against the glory of a world on fire,
Now burned a sudden hill,
Bleak, round, and high, by flame-lit height made higher,
With nothing on it for the flame to kill
Save one who moved and was alone up there
To loom before the chaos and the glare
As if he were the last god going home
Unto his last desire.

Dark, marvelous, and inscrutable he moved on
Till down the fiery distance he was gone,
Like one of those eternal, remote things
That range across a man’s imaginings
When a sure music fills him and he knows
What he may say thereafter to few men,—
The touch of ages having wrought
An echo and a glimpse of what he thought
A phantom or a legend until then;
For whether lighted over ways that save,
Or lured from all repose,
If he go on too far to find a grave,
Mostly alone he goes.

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