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Form in poetry, however, as has been said, involves not only adherence to a central story or theme, but some kind of progress or development toward a final effect to which each particular part has made its particular contribution.

A simple and famous illustration is Richard Cory . . . .

We need not crush this little piece under a massive analysis; a few more or less obvious comments will suffice to show how carefully the poem is put together. The first two lines suggest Richard Cory's distinction, his separation from ordinary folk. The second two tell what it is in his natural appearance that sets him off. The next two mention the habitual demeanor that elevates him still more in men's regard: his apparent lack of vanity, his rejection of the eminence that his fellows would accord him. At the beginning of the third stanza, "rich" might seem to be an anticlimax—but not in the eyes of ordinary Americans; though, as the second line indicates, they would not like to have it thought that in their eyes wealth is everything. The last two lines of the stanza record a total impression of a life that perfectly realizes the dream that most men have of an ideal existence; while the first two lines of the last stanza bring us back with bitter emphasis to the poem's beginning, and the impassable gulf, for most people—but not, they think, for Richard Cory—between dream and fact. Thus the first fourteen lines are a painstaking preparation for the last two, with their stunning overturn of the popular belief.

To repeat this sort of analysis for each of Robinson's poems would be as profitless as tedious to most readers, who will want to do it themselves if they want it done at all. We may, however, dwell a little on some of the patterns that the poet likes to follow. And first of all, it is to be observed that the structure of Richard Cory—the steady build-up to the surprise ending in the last line, is not characteristic. This fact fits in with what was said in the preceding chapter about Robinson's handling of the sonnet, and the quiet, unhurried close that he most often gives it; as well as with what has been all along implied concerning his distaste for every sort of sensationalism. But sometimes, as in Richard Cory, a different turn of mind reveals itself, perhaps sprung from the perception that life does have surprises, that sometimes only at the very last do we find the key piece that makes the hitherto puzzling picture all at once intelligible.