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Nimmo



Since you remember Nimmo, and arrive
At such a false and florid and far drawn
Confusion of odd nonsense, I connive
No longer, though I may have led you on.

So much is told and heard and told again,
So many with his legend are engrossed,
That I, more sorry now than I was then,
May live on to be sorry for his ghost.

You knew him, and you must have known his eyes,—
How deep they were, and what a velvet light
Came out of them when anger or surprise,
Or laughter, or Francesca, made them bright.

No, you will not forget such eyes, I think,—
And you say nothing of them. Very well.
I wonder if all history’s worth a wink,
Sometimes, or if my tale be one to tell.

For they began to lose their velvet light;
Their fire grew dead without and small within;
And many of you deplored the needless fight
That somewhere in the dark there must have been.

All fights are needless, when they’re not our own,
But Nimmo and Francesca never fought.
Remember that; and when you are alone,
Remember me—and think what I have thought.

Now, mind you, I say nothing of what was,
Or never was, or could or could not be:
Bring not suspicion’s candle to the glass
That mirrors a friend’s face to memory.

Of what you see, see all,—but see no more;
For what I show you here will not be there.
The devil has had his way with paint before,
And he’s an artist,—and you needn’t stare.

There was a painter and he painted well:
He’d paint you Daniel in the lion’s den,
Beelzebub, Elaine, or William Tell.
I’m coming back to Nimmo’s eyes again.

The painter put the devil in those eyes,
Unless the devil did, and there he stayed;
And then the lady fled from paradise,
And there’s your fact. The lady was afraid.

She must have been afraid, or may have been,
Of evil in their velvet all the while;
But sure as I’m a sinner with a skin,
I’ll trust the man as long as he can smile.

I trust him who can smile and then may live
In my heart’s house, where Nimmo is today.
God knows if I have more than men forgive
To tell him; but I played, and I shall pay.

I knew him then, and if I know him yet,
I know in him, defeated and estranged,
The calm of men forbidden to forget
The calm of women who have loved and changed.

But there are ways that are beyond our ways,
Or he would not be calm and she be mute,
As one by one their lost and empty days
Pass without even the warmth of a dispute.

God help us all when women think they see;
God save us when they do. I’m fair; but though
I know him only as he looks to me,
I know him,—and I tell Francesca so.

And what of Nimmo? Little would you ask
Of him, could you but see him as I can,
At his bewildered and unfruitful task
Of being what he was born to be—a man.

Better forget that I said anything
Of what your tortured memory may disclose;
I know him, and your worst remembering
Would count as much as nothing, I suppose.

Meanwhile, I trust him; and I know his way
Of trusting me, and always in his youth.
I’m painting here a better man, you say,
Than I, the painter; and you say the truth.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:59 min read
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Edwin Arlington Robinson

Edwin Arlington Robinson was an American poet who won three Pulitzer Prizes for his work Edwin Arlington Robinson won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry three times in 1922 for his first Collected Poems in 1925 for The Man Who Died Twice and in 1928 for Tristram Robinson was born in Head Tide Lincoln County Maine but his family moved to Gardiner Maine in 1870 He described his childhood in Maine as stark and unhappy his parents having wanted a girl did not name him until he was six months old when they visited a holiday resort other vacationers decided that he should have a name and selected a man from Arlington Massachusetts to draw a name out of a hat Robinsons early difficulties led many of his poems to have a dark pessimism and his stories to deal with an American dream gone awry His brother Dean died of a drug overdose His other brother Herman a handsome and charismatic man married the woman Edwin himself loved but Herman suffered business failures became an alcoholic and ended up estranged from his wife and children dying impoverished in a charity hospital in 1901 Robinsons poem Richard Cory is thought to refer to this brother In late 1891 at the age of 21 Edwin entered Harvard University as a special student He took classes in English French and Shakespeare as well as one on Anglo-Saxon that he later dropped His mission was not to get all As as he wrote his friend Harry Smith B and in that vicinity is a very comfortable and safe place to hang His real desire was to get published in one of the Harvard literary journals Within the first fortnight of being there The Harvard Advocate published Robinsons Ballade of a Ship He was even invited to meet with the editors but when he returned he complained to his friend Mowry Saben I sat there among them unable to say a word Robinsons literary career had false-started Edwins father Edward died after Edwins first year at Harvard Edwin returned to Harvard for a second year but it was to be his last one as a student there Though short his stay in Cambridge included some of his most cherished experiences and there he made his most lasting friendships He wrote his friend Harry Smith on June 21 1893 I suppose this is the last letter I shall ever write you from Harvard The thought seems a little queer but it cannot be otherwise Sometimes I try to imagine the state my mind would be in had I never come here but I cannot I feel that I have got comparatively little from my two years but still more than I could get in Gardiner if I lived a century Robinson had returned to Gardiner by mid-1893 He had plans to start writing seriously In October he wrote his friend Gledhill Writing has been my dream ever since I was old enough to lay a plan for an air castle Now for the first time I seem to have something like a favorable opportunity and this winter I shall make a beginning With his father gone Edwin became the man of the household He tried farming and developed a close relationship with his brothers wife Emma Robinson who after her husband Hermans death moved back to Gardiner with her children She twice rejected marriage proposals from Edwin after which he permanently left Gardiner He moved to New York where he led a precarious existence as an impoverished poet while cultivating friendships with other writers artists and would-be intellectuals In 1896 he self-published his first book The Torrent and the Night Before paying 100 dollars for 500 copies Robinson meant it as a surprise for his mother Days before the copies arrived Mary Palmer Robinson died of diphtheria His second volume The Children of the Night had a somewhat wider circulation Its readers included President Theodore Roosevelts son Kermit who recommended it to his father Impressed by the poems and aware of Robinsons straits Roosevelt in 1905 secured the writer a job at the New York Customs Office Robinson remained in the job until Roosevelt left office Gradually his literary successes began to mount He won the Pulitzer Prize three times in the 1920s During the last twenty years of his life he became a regular summer resident at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire where several women made him the object of their devoted attention but he maintained a solitary life and never married Robinson died of cancer on April 6 1935 in the New York Hospital now New York Cornell Hospital in New York City more…

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