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Aaron Stark -- Edwin Arlington Robinson

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.
-- Edwin Arlington Robinson
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'[1], but no less enjoyable - the
caricature is overexaggerated, true, but it's a deft caricature for all of

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[2].

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.

[1] which shall make its appearance on Minstrels - watch this space
[2] if done well, of course - if not, the results are exceedingly painful.


 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


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 :)


38 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Emily M. Cowan said...

I think the writer is expressing anti-Semitism, among other things. The
subject has a Jewish-sounding name and Jews are often stereotyped as being
stingy, miserly, etc. And Jews have certainly been cursed thru the ages.

Rafael Díez Collar said...

Liked the poem "Aaron Stark".
Would like to know why poet chose this perspn to write a poem on. I'm a descendant of Aaron Stark and will try to do my best to traslate it into a good Spanish version for my children.
Carlos Claure McCalmont from Madrid, Spain

Aaron Starck said...

simply put, a masterpiece. through the author's words, i easily related to
the inner turmoil of Aaron - don't we ALL feel the cold ostracism that Aaron
experiences at times? his despicable nature is apparent, culminating with
the biting final stanza:

'And then (and only then) did Aaron laugh.'

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