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Moreover, even those poems most clearly identified with the myth, with personal history, often transcend the strictly individual and personal life of the character described. In "Miniver Cheevy," without question a self-portrait, Robinson could laugh at the contradictions in his own life; but, while laughing, he could see that Miniver was a character to be projected into the universal. If he held the glass before his eyes and saw through himself, that was one thing and was important because it gave the poem substance and a sense of the real. But Robinson was acutely aware of the complex and highly structured nature of poetry; and he was, moreover, too skillful a craftsman not to insist upon excellence in poetic form. Further still, he was especially conscious of the quality of language; the variable responses that words can and do elicit. In Cheevy, juxtaposed contrasts of past and present, of ideality and reality, of contempt for money and a recognized need for it, of Art and Romance on the one hand and vagrancy on the other: these are the elements that lift the poem onto a high plane of artistic achievement. Language and structure agree perfectly; and, as Robert Frost once noted, that fourth "thought" in the last line of the seventh stanza, lying in wait for the reader just around the corner of the preceding line, is a crashing crescendo of the irony infused into the whole poem. [. . . ] In "Miniver Cheevy" Robinson portrays with wry irony a chap who misses, and complains about missing, all the beauty and all the glorious evil of the past. Paradoxically, the reader smiles and is sad; for Miniver is a humorous figure and at the same time one to be pitied. Unredeemed and unredeemable, Cheevy scratches his head and coughs; he keeps on swigging his liquor and sinks into a comfortable oblivion.

. . . [Robinson] seems usually to have been most sharply aware of structure; aware, too, of the particular impact upon the reader he could expect by arranging his words in particular relationships. Seldom did he conceive a poem in his head and dash it onto paper as rapidly as it had come to him. His irony, especially in the short poems, is sharper or more humorous, as the case may be, when he put a word in a certain position in a line. Robert Frost, as has been said, saw the power in the repetition of the word "thought" as it appears in the next to last stanza of "Miniver Cheevy."

Miniver thought and thought and thought

            And thought about it.

The position of the fourth "thought" accounts for the weighted irony of the entire stanza. Similarly, the adjective "ripe" in the first line of the fourth stanza ("Miniver mourned the ripe renown") enhances the irony of the first two lines. We could insist that Robinson was concerned with alliteration chiefly in this instance; or we could likewise note that the word "ripe" has a peculiarly effective meaning as well. But its position in the sentence, a position of emphasis, is equally significant. Looking backward to "mourned" and forward to "renown," it becomes the key to the ironic statement.