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Robinson's language, however, is always the result of taste and temper, not of conscious theorizing; and therefore in each poem it adapts itself without difficulty to the materials and the mood. Hence, the range of his interests and sympathies, the sweep and intensity of his vision, give birth to more various forms of expression than are to be found in the work of most of his contemporaries. The words are not always those of simple men, nor the music always the steady elemental rhythm of the outward movement of daily life. Beneath the surface of even normal existence are unsounded depths of endurance, unsuspected surgings of desire. To deal justly with these is a task to which the poet must devote the full resources of language, however long and often some of them may have been used before. To reject the old because it is not new is mere affectation.

So it is without hesitation that Robinson resorts at times to the grand style and to the rhetorical devices that have been for centuries an accepted part of the poetic craft of the Western world. The sober and serviceable words that fit the unreflective Reuben Bright, gripped suddenly by dumb grief, yield in the portrait of Eben Flood, for whom derelict years have not dimmed the remembrance of other days when stately doors stood wide to receive him and a world of achievement lay all before him, to a rich and resonant music only a little thinned by distance.

Alone, as if enduring to the end

A valiant armor of scarred hopes outworn,

He Stood there in the middle of the road

Like Roland's ghost winding a silent horn.

Below him, in the town among the trees,

Where friends of other days had honored him,

A phantom salutation of the dead

Rang thinly till old Eben’s eyes were dim.

On this passage we may pause for a brief analysis of sound effects and the devices by which they are secured. Of these, two are dominant, assonance and alliteration: the placing near each other of stressed syllables in which the same or similar vowel sounds occur in conjunction with different consonant sounds; and the spacing at close intervals of stressed syllables beginning with the same or similar consonant sounds followed by different vowel sounds. Something halfway between these two is the use of differing vowel sounds at the beginning of stressed syllables. Further, the use of the same consonant sound at the end or in the middle, as well as at the beginning, of adjacent words is not without effect.

Thus, in the stanza quoted, we find instances of assonance in such combinations as "valiant," "armor," and "scarred"; "road," "Roland's," "ghost," "below," and "town"; "winding" and "silent"; and "phantom," "salutation," and "rang." Alliteration occurs unobtrusively in "scarred," "stood," and "silent"; and more obviously in "town" and "trees." Different vowels at the beginning of stressed syllables are found in "end," "armor," and "outworn"; in "other" and "honored"; and in "old" and "eyes." The most obvious repetition of a consonant, leaving aside alliteration and rhyme is that of d in "end," "scarred," "stood," "middle," "road," "had," "honored," "dead," and "old"; but the repetition of 1 and n also contributes to the total effect.

There seems no point in carrying such analysis further. If the reader chooses, he may note in the quotations throughout this study the constant presence of the devices just described. The main concern of the critic is not with the process but with the result: with how the sound supports the meaning, how it clarifies or intensifies the character, the mood, or the philosophic conception that the poet is striving to incarnate in words.

[. . . ]

Only, an age of doubt has intervened, and his most common moral is that moralizing is dangerous.

From this attitude springs the practice, already noted in the sonnets, and followed also in some of the finest of his other short poems, of simply telling his story and leaving the application to the reader, only attaching at the end a summary or restatement that may give rise to reflection. Here we find The Gift of God, The Poor Relation, Miniver Cheevy, Vickery's Mountain, and Mr. Flood's Party. The last of these will show the poet's gift for compressing into a few seemingly effortless concluding lines the mood and theme of the whole. Mr. Flood's party—attended by his two selves, his jug, and two moons—is ended, and the hard reality presses in upon him once more:

There was not much that was ahead of him,

And there was nothing in the town below—

Where strangers would have shut the many doors

That many friends had opened long ago.