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Edwin Arlington ROBINSON

Male 1869 - 1935  (65 years)

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  • Name Edwin Arlington ROBINSON 
    Born 22 Dec 1869  Head Tide, Lincoln County, ME Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Occupation Poet 
    Died 6 Apr 1935  New York City, New York County, NY Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Oak Grove Cemetery, Gardiner, Kennebec County, ME Find all individuals with events at this location 

    • (1) "Edwin Arlington Robinson," Encyclopædia Brittanica, 2010, © 2010 Encyclopædia Brittanica, Inc.:

      Edwin Arlington Robinson, (b. Dec. 22, 1869, Head Tide, Maine, U.S. - d. April 6, 1935, New York, N.Y.), American poet who is best known for his short dramatic poems concerning the people in a small New England village, Tilbury Town, very much like the Gardiner, Maine, in which he grew up.

      After his family suffered financial reverses, Robinson cut short his attendance at Harvard University (1891-93) and returned to Gardiner to stay with his family, whose fortunes were disintegrating. The lives of both his brothers ended in failure and early death, and Robinson's poetry is much concerned with personal defeat and the tragic complexities of life. Robinson himself endured years of poverty and obscurity before his poetry began to attract notice.

      His first book, The Torrent and the Night Before, was privately printed at his own expense. His subsequent collections, The Children of the Night (1897) and The Town Down the River (1910), fared little better, but the publication of The Man Against the Sky (1916) brought him critical acclaim. In these early works his best poetic form was the dramatic lyric, as exemplified in the title poem of The Man Against the Sky, which affirms life's meaning despite its profoundly dark side. During these years Robinson perfected the poetic form for which he became so well known: a structure based firmly on stanzas, skillful rhyming patterns, and a precise and natural diction, combined with a dramatic examination of the human condition. Among the best poems of this period are "Richard Cory," "Miniver Cheevy," "For a Dead Lady," "Flammonde," and "Eros Turannos." Robinson broke with the tradition of late Romanticism and introduced the preoccupations and plain style of naturalism into American poetry. His work attracted the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt, who gave him a sinecure at the U.S. Customs House in New York (held from 1905 to 1909).

      In the second phase of his career, Robinson wrote longer narrative poems that share the concern of his dramatic lyrics with psychological portraiture. Merlin (1917), the first of three long blank-verse narrative poems based on the King Arthur legends, was followed by Lancelot (1920) and Tristram (1927). Robinson's Collected Poems appeared in 1921. The Man Who Died Twice (1924) and Amaranth (1934) are perhaps the most often acclaimed of his later narrative poems, though in general these works suffer in comparison to the early dramatic lyrics. Robinson's later short poems include "Mr. Flood's Party," "Many Are Called," and "The Sheaves."

      (2) Obituary published in The New York Times on April 6, 1935, Copyright © The New York Times:


      Succumbs in Hospital After Long Illness - Won Fame After Years of Writing.


      Contemporaries Paid Homage on 50th Birthday - Europe Added Its Praise.

      Edwin Arlington Robinson, one of the most famous poets of America, died at 3 o'clock this morning in New York Hospital, where he had been under treatment for a chronic ailment since Jan. 17. He was 66 years old.

      Mr. Robinson underwent an operation recently and had been reported near death for the last few days. He was unmarried.

      In a literary period of best sellers, hurried writing and vast quantity of prose and poetry, the art of Edwin Arlington Robinson was for many years reserved for the elite of discerning readers.

      His mature and sensitive works were not to be denied, however, though Heaven knows that Mr. Robinson was the last to push himself forward in the scramble for recognition. His attitude, indeed, was one of retirement amounting almost to shyness. His dislike for publicity was as intense as his contempt for the modes, trends and tempo of our day.

      Pulitzer Prize Winner.

      Three times crowned with the Pulitzer Prize, he was not the type of man to become intoxicated by success. In his little apartment on East Forty-second Street, facing the East River, Mr. Robinson wrote many of the volumes that have caused him to be regarded as one of the most significant figures in modern poetry, not merely in this country but anywhere.

      Charles Cestre, head of the English department of Sorbonne University, ranked him as one of the outstanding American writers of all time. Mr. Robinson appeared serenely indifferent to praise and he had no occasion to worry about adverse comment, for none of his latter-day reviewers had any fault to find.

      Mr. Robinson's poems stood out like poppies in a dandelion field. Take some of his more recent lines,
      from "Nicodemus."

      I am always right.
      If I were wrong I should not be a priest.
      Caiaphas rubbed his hands together slowly,
      Smiling at Nicodemus, who was holding
      A black robe close to him and feeling it
      Only as darkness that he could not see.
      All he could see through tears that blinded him
      To Caiaphas, to himself, and to all men
      Save one, was one that he had left alone.
      Alone in a bare room, and not afraid.

      The poetry of Mr. Robinson revealed the stylist and the purist articulate. He had acquired - or it was born in him - that sureness of expression and keen sense of rhythm which have made poetry worth its name remain with us from the earliest bards. He had also a power to place his reader in a far-away period of enchantment, as in his Arthurian poems, though most of his verse was of this day.

      Described Himself as Fatalist.

      Although a retiring man, Mr. Robinson abhorred false modesty. He was loath to talk about himself and he refused absolutely to recite any of his verse in public. He had no sympathy for rhymesters. He said on one of the few occasions that he consented to being interviewed:

      "I am a fatalist as far as poetry is concerned. If a man has poetry in him, it will out; if not, he will produce only verse. There is too much verse and too little poetry in the world today."

      It was not until twenty-five years after Mr. Robinson had published his first volume, "The Torrent and the Night Before," that he won the Pulitzer Prize. By that time - in 1921 - he had ceased to remain comparatively unknown.

      The same prize came again with "The Man Who Died Twice" - in 1925 - and for the third time with "Tristram," in 1927. The latter work was considered by many his chef d'oeuvre.

      In an article entitled "The First Seven Years," which appeared in 1930 in The Colophon and which was perhaps his only contribution of that nature, Mr. Robinson recalled his early struggles in the search for words.

      "In those days," he wrote, "time had no special significance for a certain juvenile and incorrigible fisher of words who thought nothing of fishing for two weeks to catch a stanza or even a line, that he would not throw back into a squirming sea of language where there was every word but the "one he wanted. * * * He wanted fish that were smooth and shining and subtle, and very much alive, and not too strange; and presently, after long patience and many rejections, they began to bite."

      So much for his own critical mind. Then came the struggle for recognition by editors and publishers.

      Mr. Robinson recalled that "my collection of rejection slips must have been one of the largest and most comprehensive in literary history."

      After fruitless attacks on publishers, he became resigned and finally decided to have his first volume of poems printed at his own expense.

      "By degrees," wrote Mr. Robinson, "I began to realize that those well-typed and harmless looking verses of mine might as well be written, so far as possible attention or interest on the part of editors and publishers was concerned, in the language of the Senegambians."

      When he was 17, Mr. Robinson made a metrical translation of Cicero's first oration against Catiline. It was written and rewritten with a prodigality of time that only youth can afford.

      "It must have been about the year 1882," he wrote, "when I realized finally, and not without a justifiable uncertainty as to how the thing was to be done, that I was doomed, or selected, or sentenced for life, to the writing of poetry. There was nothing else that interested me."

      One of those who "discovered" Mr. Robinson was President Theodore Roosevelt. The President had read his second volume of poems, "The Children of the Night," and with characteristic spontaneity he offered the young writer a position in the Custom House in New York, which he accepted. Some years later Mr. Roosevelt offered him the post of Consul General in Mexico, D. F., but this he declined. He resigned his Custom House post after several years.

      To the chorus of approval which had already begun Mr. Roosevelt added, writing in The Outlook in August, 1905:

      "There is an undoubted touch of genius in the poems collected in this volume ('The Children of the Night'), and a curious simplicity and good faith, all of which qualities differentiate them sharply from ordinary collections of the kind."

      When Mr. Robinson was 60 years old there was no bustle or dinners of honor. The newspapers published a paragraph headed "Robinson, Poet, 60 Years Old."

      "Edwin Arlington Robinson, American poet, thrice winner of the Pulitzer Poetry Prize," said the paragraph, "celebrated his sixtieth birthday yesterday by working in his studio on East Forty-second Street, overlooking the East River. When in this city Mr. Robinson resides in a room above the apartment of his friend, James Earle Fraser, the sculptor, where he does much of his work."

      On Mr. Robinson's fiftieth birthday, Dr. Bliss Perry, writing in THE NEW YORK TIMES Book Review section, made the following observation:

      "He (Mr. Robinson) has an ascetic hatred of the trite word, the facile phrase, the rhetorical cadence. His individual idiom - as clearly marked as John Donne's, whom he resembles in many ways - was apparent from the first, even in the villanelles and ballads and octaves of 'The Children of the Night.'

      "His most obvious triumphs have been in the creation of imaginary personalities and in revealing them through the medium of the dramatic monologue and dramatic lyric."

      Eloquent Tributes Paid Him.

      Edwin Markham added that "as a psychologist he approaches the power of Browning, yet in style he is as simple as Whittier."

      Others who joined In the tributes included Anna Hempstead Branch, Witter Bynner, Hermann Hagedorn, Louis V. Ledoux (a friend who had been Mr. Robinson's business adviser for many years), Vachel Lindsay, Amy Lowell, Percy Mackaye, John G. Neihardt, Josephine Preston Peabody, Corinne Roosevelt Robinson, Sara Teasdale and Ridgely Torrence.

      A New Englander by birth, Mr. Robinson was of New York by long residence. He maintained, however, his Yankee traditions and never allowed himself to fly into ecstatic verbiage.

      He was born at Head Tide, Me., on Dec. 22, 1869, son of Edward and Mary E. Palmer Robinson. His father was a shipbuilder and timber merchant, and he came of old English stock, one of his ancestors having been John Robinson, a yeoman of Lincolnshire and an organizer of the Mayflower expedition. He did not, however, leave England. His son, Isaac, settled in New England in 1631.

      After attending public school at Gardiner, Me., he went to Harvard University, where he stayed from 1891 to 1893. The little town of Gardiner, close to his birthplace, was described by Mr. Robinson in some of his poems as "Tillbury Town."

      From his earliest childhood he preferred books to games, and as he grew up that thirst for reading became more acute. Tall and retiring, he developed early that love of solitude which remained with him through life.

      At Harvard Mr. Robinson saw his first poem in print in The Lampoon. It was entitled "Ballade of a Ship." The death of his father caused him to return home from college. His mother died in 1896 and that same year Mr. Robinson placed his first collection of short poems, "The Torrent and the Night Before," in the hands of publishers. This volume is now long out of print and is a rare item for the collector.

      In 1898 Mr. Robinson returned to Harvard and took up a position in the publishing office there, and at the close at the semester he came to New York City.

      The early years in the metropolis were by no means easy. He had to take work where he could find it, and for a time he was timekeeper for a gang of laborers in subway construction here. His third volume , "Captain Craig." did not appear until 1902, and after that there was an interval of eight years before "The Town Down the River."

      Two plays were next to appear, "Van Zorn" in 1914 and "The Porcupine" in 1915.

      From then on, however, Mr. Robinson devoted himself exclusively to the writing of poetry, and some of
      his finest works date from those years.

      Praised by Amy Lowell.

      "Edwin Arlington Robinson is poetry," said Amy Lowell. "I can think of no other living writer who has so consistently dedicated his life to his work. He is a poet for poets, his art becomes only the more interesting the more it is studied."

      After the Interlude of writing plays, Mr. Robinson wrote in succession "The Man Against the Sky" (1916), "Merlin" (1917), "Lancelot" (1920), "The Three Taverns" and "Avon's Harvest" (1921). The Pulitzer Poetry Prize was awarded for his Collected Poems.

      There followed "Roman Bartholow" in 1928 and "The Man Who Died Twice," which won for him his second Pulitzer award. Mr. Robinson's next works were "Dionysus in Doubt" and "Tristram." The latter won the third Pulitzer Prize.

      His collected poems in five volumes appeared in 1927. Mr. Robinson's last works were "Sonnets," "Cavender's House," "The Glory of the Nightingales," "Matthias at the Door," "Nicodemus," "Telifer" and "Amaranth." The last work, a dramatization of a dream, was published in 1934.

      Shortly before the publication of "Tristram" Mrs. August Belmont read parts of the poem to a crowded
      audience in the Little Theatre. Mr. Robinson refused to be present during the reading. More than 75,000 copies of the volume were sold in the next two years.

      Some years ago Mr. Robinson said:

      "The real poet, like the real artist, is a freak of nature, and for this reason no man would attempt to prophesy the future developments in this field of letters. No poet can be an adequate judge of his own writing, and only the passage of time can set the seal of authentic genius on anything written today. Whatever laurels I receive must, to be good for anything, be green long after I and my generation have withered."

      Mr. Robinson passed many Summers at the MacDowell Colony at Peterboro, N. H. In 1927 he was elected a member of the National Academy of Arts and Letters and in 1929 the National Institute of Arts and Letters, of which he had long been a member, awarded him a gold medaI. In 1931 he was selected by the students of Barnard College as their favorite poet.

      Among the most famous of all his lines are those on Lincoln:

      For he, to whom we have applied
      Our shopman's test of age and worth,
      Was elemental when he died.
      And he was ancient at his birth:
      The saddest among kings of earth,
      Bowed with a galling crown, this man
      Met rancor with a cryptic mirth,
      Laconic - and Olympian.

      Mr. Robinson had often been pointed out as the poet who thought failure was really more interesting, and possibly even better, than success. His ideas are set forth in "Miniver Cheevy."

      Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
      But sore annoyed was he without it;
      Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
      And thought about it.

      Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
      Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
      Miniver coughed, and called it fate.
      And kept on drinking.

      In his first hard days of struggle in New York, when he lived in tiny rooms on Twenty-third Street, in Yonkers, and in the back room behind a saloon, he got to know more than one Miniver Cheevy.

      Those were the days before the letter from President Roosevelt was pushed under the poet's door.

      A well-known part of one of the early sonnets from "Children of the Night," runs:

      O brother men. if you have eyes at all,
      Look at a branch, a bird, a child, a rose,
      Or anything God ever made that grows -
      Nor let the smallest vision of it slip
      Till you can read, as on Belshazzar's wall,
      The glory of eternal partnership!

      Dr. Robinson received the degree of Doctor of Literature from Yale University in 1922 and from Bowdoin
      College in 1925.


      Edwin Arlington Robinson
      Birth: Dec. 22, 1869
      Death: Apr. 6, 1935


      Burial: Oak Grove Cemetery, Gardiner, Kennebec County, Maine, USA
      Plot: Lot 508

      Maintained by: Find A Grave
      Record added: Jan 01, 2001
      Find A Grave Memorial# 881
    Person ID I15563  Frost, Gilchrist and Related Families
    Last Modified 5 Aug 2021 

    Father Edward ROBINSON 
    Mother Mary Elizabeth PALMER 
    Family ID F6984  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

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    Edwin Arlington ROBINSON
    Edwin Arlington ROBINSON