Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
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.
"Richard Cory" is a narrative poem written by Edwin Arlington Robinson. It was first published in 1897, as part of The Children of the Night, having been completed in July of that year; and it remains one of Robinson's most popular and anthologized poems. The poem describes a person who is wealthy, well educated, mannerly, and admired by the people in his town. Despite all this, he takes his own life.
The composition of the poem occurred while the United States economy was still suffering from the severe depression of the Panic of 1893, during which people often subsisted on day-old bread, alluded to in the poem's focus on poverty and wealth, and foodstuffs.
Robinson wrote "Richard Cory" around the same time as "Reuben Bright". David Perkins, in his A History of Modern Poetry (first published 1976), called some of those early poems including "Reuben Bright" and "Richard Cory" "revolutionary", with narrative elements of prose fiction brought into a lyric poetry written about realistic subject matter in vernacular language.
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The poem was adapted by the folk duo Simon & Garfunkel for their song "Richard Cory". The Simon & Garfunkel version of the song's ending differs from the poem in that the speaker still wishes he "could be Richard Cory", even after Cory has killed himself.
The punk band The Menzingers wrote a song titled "Richard Corry" which was inspired by the poem. The difference in spelling from Cory to Corry is because the band has a personal friend whose last name is Corry.
The American composer John Woods Duke wrote Three Poems by Edwin Arlington Robinson, which includes the full text of the poem "Richard Cory".
Martini Ranch recorded a song based on the poem on their album Holy Cow.
Melbourne band Tiny Little Houses released a song titled "Richard Cory" based on the poem, in October 2020.
A. R. Gurney wrote a play based on the poem, also titled Richard Cory. The play, which is presented with a nonlinear timeline, suggests the reasons Cory killed himself, including family problems and changing views on humanity.
The character Ben Nicholson, played by Paul Lambert (actor) misquotes the poem in the episode "The Case of the Envious Editor" of the CBS television series Perry Mason (1957–66) starring Raymond Burr.
Author George Flynn also directly references the original poem (and Simon and Garfunkel version) prominently in his novel Richard Cory Revisited as a thematic device.
- Richard Cory, by Edwin Arlington Robinson." poets.org.
- William J. Scheick. "Richard Cory." Magill’s Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition. Salem Press, 2007. eNotes.com. 2006. 18 May 2011
- Perkins, David (1987). A History of Modern Poetry: Modernism and After (revised ed.). Harvard UP. ISBN 9780674399471.
- Bennighof, James (2007). The Words and Music of Paul Simon. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-275-99163-0.
- Womack, Kenneth (2014-06-30). The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four [2 volumes]: Everything Fab Four. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-39172-9.
- Gussonv, Mel (1976-03-12). "Theater: 'Who Killed Richard Cory?'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-02-11.
- Garrison Keillor (1993) The Book of Guys. London: Faber & Faber.
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