• Robinson's Miniver Cheevy and Richard Cory: Poem …
  • Miniver Cheevy : Poetry Out Loud
  • Richard Cory--Miniver Cheevy Flashcards | Quizlet

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn, Grew lean while he assailed the seasons; He wept that he was ever born, And he had reasons. Miniver loved the days of old

Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;

When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;

Miniver sighed for what was not,
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And dreamed, and rested from his labors;

Moreover, even those poems most clearly identified with the myth, with personalhistory, often transcend the strictly individual and personal life of the characterdescribed. In "Miniver Cheevy," without question a self-portrait, Robinson couldlaugh at the contradictions in his own life; but, while laughing, he could see thatMiniver was a character to be projected into the universal. If he held the glass beforehis eyes and saw through himself, that was one thing and was important because it gave thepoem substance and a sense of the real. But Robinson was acutely aware of the complex andhighly structured nature of poetry; and he was, moreover, too skillful a craftsman not toinsist upon excellence in poetic form. Further still, he was especially conscious of thequality 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 moneyand a recognized need for it, of Art and Romance on the one hand and vagrancy on theother: these are the elements that lift the poem onto a high plane of artisticachievement. Language and structure agree perfectly; and, as Robert Frost once noted, thatfourth "thought" in the last line of the seventh stanza, lying in wait for thereader just around the corner of the preceding line, is a crashing crescendo of the ironyinfused into the whole poem. [. . . ] In "Miniver Cheevy" Robinson portrays withwry irony a chap who misses, and complains about missing, all the beauty and all theglorious evil of the past. Paradoxically, the reader smiles and is sad; for Miniver is ahumorous figure and at the same time one to be pitied. Unredeemed and unredeemable, Cheevyscratches his head and coughs; he keeps on swigging his liquor and sinks into acomfortable oblivion.


He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,

It should be unnecessary to say that such a lining-up of the parallels between Robinsonand his character is no substitute for a close critical analysis of the ways in which thepoem works. My purpose in calling attention to the analogy is twofold. First, toillustrate the earlier generalization that Robinson wrote at his best level in the TilburyTown poems when he wrote about a projection of an aspect of himself; and second, toprepare the way for a further conclusion, namely, that the side of himself that Robinsoncould stand off from and smile at was the side, never the deeper selfthat felt only the grief.

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

Minever mourned the ripe renown

But unlike the Captain, Miniver is Robinson, or at least that part of Robinson thatRobinson recognized as being romantic and idealistic. He too had "thought, andthought, and thought, / And thought about it," without arriving at any conclusionsdefinite enough to be stated very clearly, even to himself. He too had resented hispoverty while condemning practical materialism and popular notions of success. He too had"called it fate" and for many years "kept on drinking." A good deal ofthe time he was almost as convinced as Miniver that he had been "born too late."

That made so many a name so fragrant;

Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
But sore annoyed was he without it;
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
And thought about it.

He mourned Romance, now on the town,

"Miniver Cheevy" is generally regarded as a self-portrait. Thetone, characteristics sketched by Robinson and shared by the poet and Miniver,and the satiric humor of the poem all lead to that interpretation. Yet, althoughas a satire of the poet himself it is a delightful poem, Robinson jousts with adouble-edged satiric lance. More than a clever spoof of Robinson as Miniver, thepoem satirizes the age and, especially, its literary taste.

He would have sinned incessantly

The brilliance and sharpness, however, of the Miniver edge of the satiricblade (to use the metaphor that seems in keeping with Miniver's visions ofswashbucklers) or, more precisely, the reader's tendency to see the poet inMiniver, put into shadow the other edge of the blade, the poem as a satire onthe age. Although Robinson recognized himself as out of step with the time inwhich he lived, the anomaly was based on his choice to continue as a poetdespite the public's lack of acceptance of his poetry. He objected, also, to theideology of materialism and was not alone in criticizing the age. In "MiniverCheevy" three aspects of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Americanculture, as analyzed by T. J. Jackson Lears, resonate: materialism, which withits components of work, action, and acquisition formed the ethos of the age andthe measure of progress; militarism, a manifestation of the effort to overcomethe ennui of the age and what was perceived as the feminization of Americanculture in the latter nineteenth century; and antimodernism, an expression ofthe desire to escape the material-spiritual dilemmas that persisted and aneffort to retrieve, if only in the imagination, the glories and principles of anearlier time. Clearly, the three are inter-related and all find satiricalrendering in Robinson’s poem.