Robinson's Miniver Cheevy and Richard Cory: Poem Summaries & Analysis

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  • 0:07 America's Poet…
  • 0:44 Miniver Cheevy
  • 3:43 Richard Cory
  • 6:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

E.A. Robinson wrote poems with traditional rhyme and meter but with very Modernist views. Read on to analyze two of his most famous poems, 'Miniver Cheevy' and 'Richard Cory.'

E.A. Robinson: America's Poet Laureate of Unhappiness

American Modernist poet E.A. Robinson
E A Robinson

E.A. Robinson was an American Modernist poet. Unlike some of the later Modernist poets, Robinson wrote in traditional rhyme and meter. What made Robinson a Modernist was his simplified language and his pessimistic view of the world. While most of the poets that came before him shied away from writing about dark and depressing topics, Robinson's poems were filled with characters who were miserable. Because of this, Robinson has been called 'America's poet laureate of unhappiness.' Let's take a closer look at two of Robinson's poems and what makes them interesting.

Miniver Cheevy

One of Robinson's most famous poems is 'Miniver Cheevy.' Let's read the poem and then see what it means and why it's important.

Miniver Cheevy

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,

Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;

He wept that he was ever born,

And he had reasons.

Miniver loved the days of old

When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;

The vision of a warrior bold

Would set him dancing.

Miniver sighed for what was not,

And dreamed, and rested from his labors;

He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,

And Priam's neighbors.

Miniver mourned the ripe renown

That made so many a name so fragrant;

He mourned Romance, now on the town,

And Art, a vagrant.

Miniver loved the Medici,

Albeit he had never seen one;

He would have sinned incessantly

Could he have been one.

Miniver cursed the commonplace

And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;

He missed the mediaeval grace

Of iron clothing.

Miniver scorned the gold he sought,

But sore annoyed was he without it;

Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,

And thought about it.

Miniver Cheevy, born too late,

Scratched his head and kept on thinking;

Miniver coughed, and called it fate,

And kept on drinking.

The poem is about a man, Miniver Cheevy, who spends all his time wishing he'd been born in an earlier era. He thinks the olden days of ancient Greece or King Arthur's Camelot were much better than the modern days. But instead of doing something productive about his love of the past, such as becoming a history teacher, he resigns himself to wishing he was born back then and (in a comedic twist) drinking away his misery.

Miniver Cheevy follows an ABAB rhyme scheme
Miniver Cheevy Rhyme Scheme

'Miniver Cheevy' uses a traditional rhyme scheme known as ABAB, which means that every other line rhymes. It also has a set meter: every stanza has four lines. The first and third lines of each stanza have eight syllables, the second line of each stanza has nine syllables, and the last, shorter line of each stanza has five syllables.

Why does Robinson use lines of differing lengths instead of making all the lines have eight syllables? By making longer and shorter lines in each stanza, Robinson creates an uneven feeling to the poem. Just as Miniver Cheevy feels out-of-sync with his era, the meter of the poem seems a little out-of-sync and off-kilter as well.

Some people believe that 'Miniver Cheevy' is about Robinson himself, but others dispute that. After all, Robinson was busy changing the way poems were written: he was looking forward into the future, not backward into the past. Whether or not it's a self-portrait, it is an amusing and interesting poem.

Richard Cory

Another one of Robinson's poems is less amusing but no less interesting. Like 'Miniver Cheevy,' Robinson's poem 'Richard Cory' gives a darker view of life than many people were used to. Let's take a look at this poem.

Richard Cory

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,

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