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Even though the general idea of "Miniver Cheevy" is clear, the reader who does not know what is meant by the expression "on the town" misses half of the humor and irony of the poem. To be "on the town" means to be supported by the town, a charity case. Miniver, in other words, is the town ne'er-do-well, the town loafer. The poem is built on the ironic contrast between the unheroic Miniver as be is and his dreams of adventure, romance, and art associated with heroic figures of the Trojan War in ancient Greece, King Arthur's knights in the Middle Ages, and the dazzling brilliance and corruption of the Medici in the Renaissance. What a great figure he might have been, Miniver reasons, had he been born at the right time. That he has not succeeded is not his fault; he uses the classic excuse: the world is wrong! But that in all likelihood he would not have achieved much at any time is made clear by the way Robinson handles his material. The sequence of verbs is used with telling effect: assailed, wept, loved, sighed, dreamed, rested ("from his labors!"), mourned, cursed, scorned. Mainly, what Miniver did was think. Added irony and humor come from Miniver's attempts to apply his "intellect" to his situation:

Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,

    And thought about it.

Ordinarily two "thoughts" would have been sufficient to make a point; three "thoughts" would have emphasized the idea of real, intense thinking; but the addition of the fourth "thought" changes the tone of the stanza entirely, making it absurd. What all this thinking amounted to is indicated by the continuation of the sequence to its conclusion in the final stanza, where "thinking" is paralleled by "drinking" ("kept on thinking . . . "kept on drinking"). The repetition of "thoughts" creates an impression of circularity, of going round and round, and establishes a link with "and he had reasons" in the first stanza. Miniver escapes from the world of reality into a world of dreams induced by alcohol. To each stanza the short last line with its feminine ending gives an appropriately tipsy rhythm. The name Miniver with its suggestion of the Middle Ages, patchwork royalty, and minuteness, coupled with the diminutive Cheevy, sums up his minimal achievement. The tone of the poem is one of humor, pathos, and sympathetic understanding, but there is a mocking note also that intimates that Miniver's unfortunate situation is not the result of any cosmic flaw.