"Richard Cory" was written by Edwin Arlington Robinson in 1897. It is a type of narrative poem. Robinson was a famous American poet. Also, he won three Pulitzer Prizes for his work. Moreover, this poem was adapted to a song by Simon and Garfunkel in early 1965. Their song "Richard Cory" is one of the tracks on their second studio album. Simon and Garfunkel are the most famous and successful American singer-songwriter duo in the history of American pop music. This is a reason why "Richard Cory" is more familiar and famous poem to the public. In both Edwin Arlington Robinson and Paul Simon's versions of the poem "Richard Cory", the author examines the supposedly unnamed surfaces of life in a peculiar and rather mysterious manner. These men describe, through the use of one man, Richard Cory and his experiences to view the contrast between those surfaces, the torture and torment that could lie beneath them. There is an equal premise in both the poem and the song; Richard Cory who is a wealthy man in town, He is glorified and envied by poor townspeople who believe themselves less fortunate, but he commits suicide. Although there are many comparisons between the poem and the song, both versions have slight differences in tone, meter, and the overall character of Richard Cory. Robinson's "Richard Cory" is better than Simon and Garfunkel's lyrics to give deep meanings and evidences of Richard Cory's real character to readers because poem has rich complexities that become more and more gratifying with each reading.
In the second stanza of Robinson's poem, the speaker describes Richard Cory as a true gentleman. "And he was always quietly arrayed" and "And he was always human when he talked." (lines 5-6). He never publicly displays his wealth and believes even the poorest man deserves his good manners and respect. Robinson's word chooses to describe Richard Cory such as the use of the phrases "He was a gentleman from sole to crown" and "Clean favored and imperially slim" categorizes and abandons Cory in an elevated class he loathed being associated with (lines 3-4). Thus, Cory is seen as a regal figure that is unwillingly cast apart, torn away from society and his admiring subjects.
Nowhere does the speaker give direct and specific proofs of Richard Cory's real character. The reader is only given the comments of the people about him, except about his last act, which speaks for itself. There is a difference between Richard Cory and the people that is seemingly weighted in favor of Richard Cory in the first three stanzas. Ironically, Richard Cory's suicide brings about a sudden reversal of moral issue between himself and the townspeople. As Richard Cory is dethroned by his own demise, the virtue of the people is elevated. This contrast is carried through the first two lines of the last stanza, which show that even though the people were unhappy, at least they went on living. Cory, with all of his wealth and glittering and successful position, did not.
In forth stanza, Robinson read words in the poem into his hidden messages and meanings. "So on we worked, and waited for the light/ and went without meat, and cursed the bread." (lines 13-14). In opposition to meat and bread, which are both symbols of nourishment and even materialism, the presence of the light suggests that there is a spiritual sustenance that is more imperative to the people. Belief in the light is one thing that the people had that Corey lacked. In addition, his life was meaningless and senseless to him, because of his lack of spiritual values.
Robinson's poem focuses on agony of Richard Cory more than Simon's lyrics. He ranges over failure in our lives by his poem. Meanings of the poem said that even though Richard Cory has wealth and glittering status, he also has profound agony and then he suffers from his agony. In Edwin Arlington Robinson, author Franchere, explains that failure in our lives with Robinson's poem:
The first of these types is not so numerous as the second, but he is distinctly marked, even then. While in another relationship Richard Cory was considered in the preceding chapter, he falls into the general class of the failure; and the poem in which he is the central figure lives because it is a powerful statement of an inner, even if an undefined, Tragedy in the life of one man. The external man the "people on the pavement" praised and envied and acknowledged; for Cory, to them, seemingly had everything what private sense of failure, what personal recognition of his own inadequacy, or what secret unfulfilled longing drove Cory to suicide Robinson does not say; he leaves the reason for his readers to determine. But the crashing climactic moment of the night that Richard Cory "went home and put a bullet through his head" appalls every reader with its sudden upon the intensity of the poem created by the contrast of the somber people of the community on the one hand and the brilliant heroic stature of Cory on the other, the reader is left with a sharp sense of emptiness, of a life wasted, of failure and of Cory's hidden agony. (Franchere)
Even though poor people who consider themselves less fortunate want to be like Richard Cory, He just commits suicide because of his agony.
On the other hand, Paul Simon's lyrics, among the vast amount of differences, were written in a faster meter. The lyrics were written in AABB format as opposed to Robinson's, which was written in ABAB. The overall tone of Simon's "Richard Cory" is much bitterer than Robinson's dreamier and more thought provoking work.
If Edwin Arlington Robinson read the words which chosen by him into religious symbolism in his poem, Simon chose to annihilate it from his. This is most likely due to the time period in which Paul Simon wrote these lyrics.
Music of the 1960s was characteristic of the revolution that was going on during the decade. It was a time of rebellion and counter-culture in which the younger people were questioning everything, including authority, corporations, the government, and other aspects of everyday life. It was essentially a revolution of the status quo. This gave rise to the Civil Rights Movement of the decade along with other movements that affected the rights of society as a whole. The movements and policies created in the 1960s continue to ripple through our society today. Along with the social movements, the 1960s also influenced the history of music with innovative artists who dared to make a stand against the establishment. Whether this is looked upon as a positive or negative effect that emerged from the era, it is still a necessary idea to maintain our culture. The artists of the 60s not only exemplified this ideal, but it also made it a popular thing to do that continues to this day. (Music)
The common liberal viewpoint of songwriter's in the 1960's was "going against the system." This "system" consisted basically of government but also encompassed going against what they considered to be antiquated, organized religious beliefs.
From the first line of the first stanza, Simon focuses directly on Richard Cory's wealth and status. He appears to be a much more prominent societal figure than in Robinson's poem. In the Simon's lyrics, Richard Cory is described like a politician; he owned "one-half of this whole town" and had "political connections to spread his wealth around." He was "born into society" and flaunted his money as an escape from his unhappy life. While Robinson's Richard Cory was "a gentleman from sole to crown," (line 3). There are astonishing rumors about Simon's Cory's parties and "the orgies on his yacht." The Singer in this lyrics possibly does not care about Richard Cory really is; he just idolizes and admires Richard Cory's ability to do whatever he wants because he has money and status. The community seems more uninteresting about their position than in Robinson's poem. Once more, there is no proof of Richard Cory's real character, only the shell of materialism that surrounded him. In both the poem and the lyrics, the very thing that served to give Cory status also reveals their inner emptiness that led him to take his own life.
The last two stanzas of this poem are what make this poem unique. After it becomes known to the singer about Cory's suicide, the chorus ends the poem saying that the singer really hates his impoverished and miserable life. And then, the singer wishes he could be as Richard Cory. This could be explained as if he envies Richard Cory even in death. Another elucidation is that if Richard Cory did not believe that he could continue in life, how could the speaker believe it either?
Simon's lyrics focus singer's desire and emotion. Singer really wants to resemble Richard Cory and curses his impoverished life. Even though after Richard Cory committed suicide, the singer still express his desire and emotion. Distinctly, Simon's singer still obsesses about Richard Cory even though object of his envy is not existed. It shows that people in the world obsess about money, material things, and their desire.
In conclusion, both the poem and the song seem lackluster and inanimate until they are exposed and all of their hidden and symbolic meaning is unveiled. The poet uses the usual lyrical, inspired, and poetic way of self-expression that is used in most poetry. Except at the end, in both the poem and the song, the poet selected the most typical incidents as the point of focus and plays down all emotion, making the reaction to Richard Cory's suicide even more shocking and unsettling. Both the poem and the song "Richard Cory" have each attractive advantage to fascinate people. The song conveys meaning of the poem easily. It also makes understandable and becomes familiar than Robinson's. On the other hand, Robinson's "Richard Cory" has rich complexities and profundities which become more and more gratifying and abundant with each reading. Also, the poem is more helpful to understand Richard Cory's profound agony because the poem tells the reader not only Richard Cory's wealth and status but also his feeling, thought, and agony.
Franchere, Hoyt C. Edwin Arlington Robinson. New York: Twayne, 1968. Print
"Music Played in the 1960's Popular Music From the 60's Bands groups singers memories." The people history. 2009. Web. 24 Apr. 2010.
Robinson, Edwin Arlington. "Richard Cory" Reading Literature and Writing Argument. Ed. Missy James and Alan P. Merickel. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008. 192. Print.
Simon and Garfunkel. "Richard Cory." Sounds of Silence. Sony, 2001. CD.