Philosophy in the Poetry of Edwin Arlington Robinson

Philosophy in the Poetry of Edwin Arlington Robinson

Philosophy in the Poetry of Edwin Arlington Robinson

Philosophy in the Poetry of Edwin Arlington Robinson

Excerpt

ROBINSON'S THINKING centers in four chief themes, which apparently occupied his mind successively, so that one can distinguish roughly four stages in his philosophical development. Even more significant than this is the fairly definite growth in perspective and analysis within each of these stages. The theme of tragedy remains constant in spite of the variation of subject, but Robinson's conception of the nature of tragedy deepens. Most of the poems written before 1916, notably Captain Craig and The Man against the Sky , are concerned with the tragedy of "light." Although the products of a later date, the poems of "the valley of the shadow," The Man Who Died Twice , and Amaranth , must be included in this group, for they, too, in a more mature form, reflect Robinson's transcendental skepticism with its emphasis on light in darkness.

Light and darkness, peace and fear, failure and destiny are the outstanding themes in these poems. Thus we have the peace of Captain Craig, who realizes his material failure, but is happy with his grim, laughing faith in a "laughing" God. The peace of Fernando Nash, in The Man Who Died Twice , is attained by losing his musical soul and finding a new, pathetic, satisfaction in "drumming for God" in the Salvation Army. Several characters, such as Pink, in Amaranth , turn to suicide, instead of to the peace of resignation. Fargo, in the same poem, illus-

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