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 fatally shoots himself in the head.
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.
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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 Coury" which was inspired by the poem. The difference in spelling from Cory to Coury is because the band has a personal friend whose last name is Coury.
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.
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.