Text of the Poem

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.


  1. Ultimately, Robinson’s poem seems to challenge ideas about wealth representing material success. The townspeople, who are understandably frustrated with living in poverty, refuse to accept Richard Cory as part of their community because of his wealth. They ignore his attempts to connect with them and conclude that he exists to emphasize their class differences, or “to make us wish that we were in his place.” Yet, Richard Cory’s isolation leaves him impoverished on the inside—so much so that he becomes severely depressed and takes his own life.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Lines thirteen and fourteen feature alliteration, or the repetition of consonant sounds. The speaker creates a musical, almost pleasant tone by repeating the soft liquid consonant “w” in the words “we,” “worked,” “waited,” “went,” and “without.” However, the gentleness of that tone is at odds with the grim cycle of work and hunger that is being described. The contrast between the lines’ tone and their content foreshadows r the news that Richard Cory has died by suicide, thus sharpening the emotional impact of the tragic event. As a result, the reader experiences some of the shock that the townspeople presumably felt when they discovered that such a rich man was so unhappy that he ended his life

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Lines eleven and twelve use enjambment, in which an idea or phrase that begins in one line continues into subsequent lines. Here, enjambment creates anticipation for the climax in the final stanza by unexpectedly speeding up the poem’s rhythm.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Robinson makes use of polysyndeton in these lines. Polysyndeton is a device in which conjunctions like “and,” “or,” or “but” are used in rapid succession, often when they would not otherwise be needed. By repeating the conjunction “and” in lines nine and ten, as well as in lines five and six, Robinson draws the reader’s attention to important information about Richard Cory’s character.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. Line nine features a caesura, or a break within a line of verse caused by punctuation. The speaker emphasizes Richard Cory’s wealth by interrupting his description with an em dash (—). Robinson’s use of a caesura also augments the power of the hyperbole he employs when comparing Richard Cory’s wealth to that of a king by isolating it within the line.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. The speaker employs a hyperbole, or an exaggeration made for the sake of emphasis, by declaring that Richard Cory is “richer than a king.” It is quite unlikely that a gentleman would be richer than a king; however, such an exaggeration suggests that the townspeople are incapable of imagining Richard Cory as a regular person, despite his efforts to treat them as his equals.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. Robinson repeats the phrases “And he was always” and “when he” in lines five, six, seven, and eight, the speaker calls attention to important aspects of Richard Cory’s character: he is modestly dressed, polite, and wealthy. The emotional impact of what happens to Richard Cory later is heightened by this repetition.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. Lines five and six feature anaphora, or the repetition of words at the beginning of successive lines or phrases. Here, the repetition of the phrase “And he was always” reinforces the poem’s rhythm while also highlighting important qualities of Richard Cory’s character—specifically, that he is consistently humble and never treats the townspeople like his inferiors.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. In this context, the verb “to array” means to be dressed or clothed. Richard Cory does not showcase his wealth or attempt to distinguish himself from others; instead, he dresses “quietly,” or modestly, and speaks to them as his equals. Nevertheless, the townspeople cannot ignore his wealth and the differences between them.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. The adjective “imperial” means royal, superior, or otherwise similar to an emperor. Richard Cory’s slim frame indicates his high class, possibly because his slenderness is not due to starvation.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor