Children of the Night, from 1897, is Edwin Arlington Robinson's second book of poetry. He self-published his first book, The Torrent and the Night Before, in 1896; most of the poems in it also appear in this volume. This book already contains one poem destined to become known as one of his masterpieces, namely the famous portrait of a suicide, "Richard Cory" - the man who "glittered as he walked," the character who may have been inspired in part by Ediwn Arlington Robinson's own brother.
In 1921, Edwin Arlington Robinson was only 52 and many of the pieces in his Collected Poems were written long before that. Yet he shows gifted understanding of old age, the passage of time, the slow decline that everyone must suffer, and the final cease and release of death. Isaac, in Isaac and Archibald, puts it very well to the poet's twelve-year-old alter ego.
In Merlin, Edwin Arlington Robinson delves into the minds and hearts of a gallery of characters from the story Camelot. He places the action at the moment when Guinevere and Lancelot have fled to Joyeux Gard, and Arthur, goaded on by Modred and Gawaine, is reluctantly preparing an army to make war on them. It is at this time that he needs the advice and support of his old mentor, Merlin, more than ever before in his reign and his life, but it is at just this crucial time that Merlin has found that the love of Vivian is more important to him than kings, knights, or Camelot itself.
In The Man Against The Sky, Edwin Arlington Robinson presents us with a gallery of characters drawn from the streets, homes and gathering places of Tilbury Town, his fictional Northeastern dwelling place. A mysterious compelling stranger, a woman living on charity, a welcoming home - this and other portraits give us a compelling and perceptive view of the range of human character and feeling.
In Avon's Harvest, Edwin Arlington Robinson devotes the majority of the audiobook to one long narrative poem of the same title, which tells the story of how a man's life was destroyed by the slow canker of an unreasoning hatred he formed as a young man, and of a sudden act of violence that flared out of it. Robinson's wields his sparse, simple, yet brilliantly polished verse like a scalpel, dissecting layer after layer of Avon's mind until the whole is laid bare as if on an operating table.
In this collection of dramatic narratives, Robinson explores his key interests: character and man's confrontation with the rocks and hard places of human existence. He gives us a fascinating piece of alternate history: a dialogue between Alexander Hamlton and Aaron Burr, testing who will betray and who will resist. He gives that bitter old man, John Brown, full scope to vent his deep-seated anger, and lets Rahel Varnhagen, in her old age, touch us with her memories of love.
The beautiful, elegant, heartbreakingly sad story of Lancelot, Guinevere and Arthur is Edwin Arlington Robinson's subject in his 1920 novella in verse, Lancelot. His focus throughout is on one side of the triangle, that of Lancelot and Guinevere. Robinson does not give us Malory's tales of jousts and tournaments; he sets his poem instead in the quiet moments of reflection, hope, anger, forgiveness, remorse and honesty that allow him to explore the meaning of this, one of literature's most enduring love stories, in the depths of the hearts and minds of his characters.
In 1910, when Edwin Arlington Robinson published The Town Down the River, he included what has become one of his most famous poems: "Miniver Cheevy". His portrait of this man, a "child of scorn" who "wept that he was ever born," who "sighed for what was not", who "scratched his head and kept on thinking", captures Arlington's sense of life in 32 immortal lines. The other poems in the book, though not as famous as "Miniver Cheevy", amplify and explore Arlington's sense of the fate of humankind in ways both serious and comic.