Monday, April 15, 2019

Edwin Arlington Robinson

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869—1935) is an American poet who began his career publishing with a vanity press and receiving little attention.

In response to a critique of his first book, where he was accused of having the bleak view that our world is a prison, Robinson replied, “The world is not a prison house, but a kind of spiritual kindergarten, where millions of bewildered infants are trying to spell God with the wrong blocks.”

In 1904, Theodore Roosevelt’s son, Kermit, brought Robinson to his father’s attention. President Roosevelt convinced Charles Scribner's Sons to republish Robinson’s second book, The Children of the Night, and reviewed it himself.

In his poem “The Children of the Night” he says:
-----“For those that never know the light,
-----The darkness is a sullen thing…”
After which the poet poses erroneous views — such as that this life is all there is, that God is a lie, or that there is only chaos — which God will respond to in love:
-----“…God counts it for a soul gone mad,
-----And if God be God, He is just…”
The poet concludes the poem:
-----“...Let us, the Children of the Night,
-----Put off the cloak that hides the scar!
-----Let us be Children of the Light,
-----And tell the ages what we are!”

The following poem is from the same book.


Friendless and faint, with martyred steps and slow,
Faint for the flesh, but for the spirit free,
Stung by the mob that came to see the show,
The Master toiled along to Calvary;
We gibed him, as he went, with houndish glee,
Till his dimmed eyes for us did overflow;
We cursed his vengeless hands thrice wretchedly, —
And this was nineteen hundred years ago.

But after nineteen hundred years the shame
Still clings, and we have not made good the loss
That outraged faith has entered in his name.
Ah, when shall come love's courage to be strong!
Tell me, O Lord — tell me, O Lord, how long
Are we to keep Christ writhing on the cross!

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.