Sometimes a poem stays with me, not because it is, necessarily, one of my favourites, but due to the memories associated with it. One such poem is Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson:
“Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.”
I remember going to meet a friend in a local pub. It was a beautiful summer evening and I was looking forward to seeing my friend and enjoying good conversation over a few cooling pints.
When I got to the pub we did indeed enjoy a few pints whilst sitting in the pub garden, close to the fish pond.
My friend is, I’m pleased to say still very much alive and kicking. So why does that poem resonate with me so powerfully? Perhaps because it poignantly evokes the fragility of life and how death comes to us all (including those who we least expect it to visit as a consequence of their own actions.)
Having written the above, I am not entirely convinced by my own answer. Yet, whenever I think of Richard Corry, I remember walking to the pub to meet my friend and discussing the poem with him (albeit briefly) over a few convivial pints on a beautiful summer evening.
Memories are indeed strange things.