A perfectly unforgettable poem, and an exemplification of the darkness of American literature. What sort of a culture produces as its greatest literary works the obsessively forlorn “The Raven,” the bleakly comedic Moby-Dick, the compellingly morbid “To Build a Fire,” the ruthlessly wrenching Death of a Salesman? If a people are defined by the stories they tell, then what shadows enshroud the American soul? Slavery? War? Assassination? Gunplay? Suicide? Is the United States to be believed? Could ever such a society actually have existed?
⁓The Voice before the Void
Edwin Arlington Robinson
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.