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Walt Whitman -- Edwin Arlington Robinson

I wish I had found this one last week...
(Poem #250) Walt Whitman
The master-songs are ended, and the man
That sang them is a name. And so is God
A name; and so is love, and life, and death,
And everything. But we, who are too blind
To read what we have written, or what faith
Has written for us, do not understand:
We only blink, and wonder.

Last night it was the song that was the man,
But now it is the man that is the song.
We do not hear him very much to-day:
His piercing and eternal cadence rings
Too pure for us --- too powerfully pure,
Too lovingly triumphant, and too large;
But there are some that hear him, and they know
That he shall sing to-morrow for all men,
And that all time shall listen.

The master-songs are ended? Rather say
No songs are ended that are ever sung,
And that no names are dead names. When we write
Men's letters on proud marble or on sand,
We write them there forever.
-- Edwin Arlington Robinson
A beautifully elegiac poem. The sentiments expressed aren't particularly
original, and the hyperbole is perhaps slightly overdone; nevertheless, the
overall effect is both sombre and dignified.


[Poetic Career}

Edwin Arlington Robinson's most memorable poems portray people trapped in
painful lives and unable to return to the security of the past. Like his poetic
characters, Robinson suffered hardships throughout his life. His father's
business failed in the Great Panic of 1893, one brother became a drug addict,
another brother became an alcoholic, and Robinson himself struggled for years
trying to earn money as a poet. After his first two volumes of poetry received
favorable notice, he moved from his home in Gardiner, Maine, to New York City.
His financial and critical status improved with his first Pulitzer Prize in
1922, and he went on to win two more Pulitzers in the following five years.
Robinson's works include Children of the Night (1897), The Man against the Sky
(1916), Avon's Harvest (1922), Collected Poems (1922), and Tristram (1927).


We've done one poem by Edwin Robinson before this, Miniver Cheevy. You can read
it (and the EB biography) at poem #234

An essay on Robinson's importance as a poet can be found at
[broken link]
This essay also has a bit about the themes that inform much of his work.

There's a rather more general piece on Robinson's poetry at
[broken link]

My favourite elegy is Auden's wonderful poem in memory of Yeats, at poem #50

And of course, you can browse through all our previous poems at

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