Richard Cory by Robinson and Death, Be Not Proud by Donne

Pages: 3
Words: 926

The essay will compare two poems, namely “Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson and “Death, be not proud” by John Donne. Mays (2019) suggests that poetry varies as much as the individuals who create and interpret themes. Essentially, the theme selected for the analysis is identity position. The poems’ genre is different, “Richard Cory” is a narrative poem that recounts a storyline, and “Death, be not proud” is a sonnet, or in particular, an elegy. A narrative poem contains a plot delivered by a narrator; nonetheless, the story may be based on actual occurrences rather than imagined experiences (Mays, 2019). As a result, narrative poetry stimulates readers to ponder character and narration. Mays (2019) states that a sonnet traditionally has fourteen lines; if defined broadly, an elegy is a poem about death (p. 734). Reading these poems on similar themes side by side may reveal how each is unique in what it has to say and how it says it—its theme and tone.

Both selected poems are about dying, although they lay their final focus in distinct ways. “Death, be not proud” directly questions death, suggesting that it is weak. Death serves as a short nap between worldly existence and everlasting eternity; “one short sleep past, we wake eternally” – death, in summary, is nothing to dread (Mays, 2019, p. 1136). John Donne expressly opposes the presentation of death as something powerful and significant. In general, he argues that no one who dies is genuinely dead. “Richard Cory” is the story of a wealthy individual who frequently walks the streets of a poor town whose citizens all admire his seeming greatness. Nonetheless, the piece’s final line shows that, despite appearing to have everything he could want, Cory commits suicide; he “put a bullet through his head” (Mays, 2019, p. 735). Consequently, the author demonstrates that riches do not always bring happiness; thus, the main character opts to die.

The poet’s word choice and a poem’s diction determine not just meaning but also nearly every effect the poem generates. Many of the poem’s internal qualities distinguish it, such as the tone and characteristics of its speaker, context and setting, and themes, as well as its “diction, imagery, and sounds” (Mays, 2019, p. 951). The tone is deeply linked to style and diction; it is a consequence of the author’s emotions, as though demonstrating a real person’s sentiments, manner, attitude, or connection to a reader and the specific subject or context (Mays, 2019). Before the final line of “Richard Cory,” the entire poem exudes affection and respect. Richard Cory is characterized as a wealthy gentleman in the poem; he is a symbol of success and high society. The poet’s tone in “Death, be not proud” appears to be mocking death and its exaggerated sense of power.

Both authors have distinct stylistic inclinations, including figures of speech and imagery. Imagery applies metaphorical language to elicit a sensation, recall a concept, or explain an item (Mays, 2019). Both poems use figurative language, for instance, “rest of their bones” in “Death, be not proud” (Mays, 2019, p. 1146) and “he glittered when he walked” (Mays, 2019, p. 735). It is also crucial to analyze poems’ external forms and how it is divided into visual and verbal sections. These standard features are external because they are like the manner and fabric of clothes that convey a person’s individuality; the outward form is a fitting garment for the poem’s distinctive interior activity and significance (Mays, 2019). Most poems with fewer lines are broken into stanzas, which are groupings of lines separated by white space on the page (Mays, 2019). Leaving some space between sets of lines provides the effect of partitioning a poem (Mays, 2019). Consequently, it gives it a sequence of splits that sometimes correlate to twists of thoughts, transformations of setting or imagery, or other structural or direction alterations.

Notably, both poems are composed in traditional stanza form. In terms of meter, “Richard Cory” and “Death, be not proud” are written in Terza Rima and iambic pentameter. Mays (2019) claims that in Terza Rima, each stanza’s initial and third lines rhyme, and “the middle line then rhymes with the first and third lines of the next stanza” (p. 952). A typical note links the poem’s lines of this stanza form: one rhyming sound from each stanza is taken up in the following stanza, and so on until the poem ends (Mays, 2019). Nonetheless, portions of poetry in this style may have various rhyme systems.

Most classic stanza forms have both a metric pattern and a rhyme scheme. Like most English fixed stanza and verse forms, Terza Rima has an iambic meter, alternating unstressed and stressed syllables, and each line contains five beats, which is a pentameter (Mays, 2019). For instance, “Death, be not proud” comprises four-line stanzas, each with an abab rhyme pattern. In the sonnet’s first stanza, “thee” and “me” rhyme, as do “so” and “overthrow” (Mays, 2019, p. 1136). In “Richard Cory” third stanza, “king” and “everything” rhyme, as do “grace” and “place” (Mays, 2019, p. 735). There are three units of four lines each (quatrains) and frequently a final block of two lines, and the line spacing occasionally follow this split (Mays, 2019). Typically, its rhyme scheme mirrors the structure: the abab scheme is the standard one, although numerous variants on that pattern still reflect the core 4-4-4-2 division (Mays, 2019). In the case of “Richard Cory,” the final block has four lines. Therefore, the poems have similar themes, rhyme, and meter but differ in context and tone.


Mays, K. J. (2019). The Norton introduction to literature (shorter thirteenth edition). W. W. Norton & Company.