Inspired by yesterday's poem...
(Poem #636) Aaron Stark
Withal a meagre man was Aaron Stark, -- Cursed and unkempt, shrewd, shrivelled, and morose. A miser was he, with a miser's nose, And eyes like little dollars in the dark. His thin, pinched mouth was nothing but a mark; And when he spoke there came like sullen blows Through scattered fangs a few snarled words and close, As if a cur were chary of its bark. Glad for the murmur of his hard renown, Year after year he shambled through the town, -- A loveless exile moving with a staff; And oftentimes there crept into his ears A sound of alien pity, touched with tears, -- And then (and only then) did Aaron laugh.
Robinson has written a large and diverse body of poetry; however, when I think of him what I mostly light upon are his devastating little character sketches. Today's poem is somewhat less famous than the biting 'Miniver Cheevy' or the haunting 'Richard Cory', but no less enjoyable - the caricature is overexaggerated, true, but it's a deft caricature for all of that. As in yesterday's Browning monologue, we are treated to the always-enjoyable spectacle of a despised person being vilified in verse - I shall not attempt to analyse the attraction of such a spectacle, but attraction there definitely is. The character assassination is not untempered with sympathy, though - in fact, that is one of the things I enjoy about Robinson's sketches. They appear overly simplistic, and yet there is always the feeling that Robinson has truly gotten into the mind of the character, the suggestion of both perceptiveness and sympathy that colour the poem and flesh out the starker ink lines of caricature.  which shall make its appearance on Minstrels - watch this space  if done well, of course - if not, the results are exceedingly painful. Notes: withal (adv): Along with the rest; in addition; besides; moreover; likewise; as well. Often in the collocations chary (adj): Careful not to waste or part with, frugal, sparing (of). -- OED Links: The aforementioned Browning poem: poem #635 'Miniver Cheevy', and a biography of Robinson: poem #234 And here's the other Robinson poem we've run: poem #300 We've done several other character sketches, by a variety of poets, but I'm too tired to look for them :) -martin