“Fog” and “Richard Cory”
The poem is basically an extended description of a man, a very rich, successful man, named Richard Cory. The narrator of the poem spends a full three quarters, the first three stanzas, of the poem only complimenting this man. He portrays this Richard Cory as the rival of all those around him, the object of everyone’s attention as “we people on the pavement looked at him”. He refers to Cory as a “gentleman from sole to crown”, and even uses language that sounds suited to describe royalty when he calls Cory “Clean favored, and imperially slim.”
The second and third stanzas go on in much the same way. In the second stanza, the narrator describes Cory’s social caste. In the narrator’s eye’s, Cory continues to be the perfect, polite gentleman, as he was “always human when he talked.”. Cory was certainly not the picture of a snobbish or rude man. Cory was also a very popular fellow, as he “fluttered pulses” with a simple “Good-morning”. Add that he “glittered when he walked.”, and Cory is an poignant social figure indeed.
In the third stanza, the narrator’s picture of Richard Cory’s perfect life is completed, as the narrator goes on to tell us about Cory’s financial success and his refined nature. Cory is described as “richer than a king” and “schooled in every grace.” To finish this wonderful picture of this wonderful man the narrator simply says, “we thought that he was everything / To make us wish that we were in his place.”
However, the poem takes a sudden, dark twist in the last stanza. Robinson does this by first revealing a little more about the narrator. In the first two lines of the fourth stanza, the narrator says: “So on we worked, and waited for the light/ And went without meat and cursed the bread . . . .” This is obviously a reference to the narrator’s own poor financial and social state. For the narrator, work is a place of darkness and hardship where you simple “wait for the light.” For the narrator, there is no meat to eat at dinner-time, and after so many meals without it, you begin to curse the cheap bread that you do have to eat. This is a sharp and stark contrast to the fairy-tale like glory that is the life of Richard Cory, and reminds the reader of the poem that for every Cory in the world, there is someone less fortunate looking upon that same Cory in awe.
Also, this revelation puts everything that the narrator has said about Cory into a new light. As a poor, destitute man/woman, the narrator had every excuse to be envious or jealous of Cory’s luck in life–not just envious, but downright hateful, and spiteful of Cory. However, not one bad word about Cory passes from the narrator’s lips. This speaks volumes about Cory’s character, and makes the reader think that maybe this Richard Cory is as great a guy as he seems. If even the poor and unfortunate, the very people that have every excuse to curse him and his success, say all of these wonderful things about him, then he must be truly great. It’s that very idea that makes the last past of the poem such a shock.
In the last two lines of the last stanza, with a minimum of detail and no explanation Robinson simply tells how Cory “…one calm summer night,/ Went home and put a bullet through his head.”
With that, the poem ends, but the questions remain. Robinson never even gives us a clue as to why this successful, good-natured, popular, and rich man would do a horrible thing such as this. The questions are all left for us, and the narrator, to ponder and the irony from the narrator’s line about how he/she/they “wish that we were in his place” leaves readers baffled.
“Fog” by Carl Sandburg is a poem of free verse and metaphor. The cat and fog are being compared and are quite similar, moving in stealthily upon a final destination; in this case, the harbor in the city. “On silent haunches” describes the lurking nature of fog and how it appears with no warning signs. Cats are much the same way, landing and pouncing as if out of nowhere. Cats and fog are alike in being able to move quietly and fluidly, and also shrouded in mystery. It is implied that the fog is like a cat. Since there is no rhyme pattern, this is a free verse type of poetry. We are able to get a mental picture of the fog moving in like a cat, sits on its haunches waiting, and then moves on. Fog is shown here as noiseless, swift, and silent. Cats and fog move on, like life. This poem could be about life. Sandburg chose few words but the meaning here is very deep.