Her Kisses Were the Keys to Paradise Kaitlyn Cornell In Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poetry, haunted houses sound like hanunted houses, dark hills sound like dark hills, but to Robinson it goes beyond that. By the metaphors, images, and emotion he puts into his writing, it is clear that he is feeling something beyond the paper and ink. Many of his works are dark and melancholy and reflect something that may have happened in his own life. There is a reoccuring theme that symbolizes his wife or significant other walking out on him.
Other poems reflect his feelings about that situation. Robinson shares with his readers the anguish and recovery of the woman leaving him. .Perhaps Robinson’s most famous poem, “Richard Cory”, tells the story of a “perfect man” who everyone envys, but when he gets home his life is not what it seems. In this poem, Richard Cory is Robinson. He is using an outside character as the speaker to narrate the life of Robinson. That third person symbolizes everyone he encounters on a day-to-day basis. They only see the outside of his ife, but they don’t know the kind of home life he has. 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. ” (Richard) shows the contrast between the outsiders view and the insiders view. No one on the outside would expect him to “put a bullet through his head” when his life seemed so perfect. However, they did not know what went on in the privacy of his own home. One common thing that breaks apart a household is a broken marriage. Like Robinson, Richard Cory does not have a good home life in the least, so the build up of pain lead to death.
This reflects the feelings of Robinson about his own life and his broken relationship with his spouse. The rising tension at home caused his wife to leave and as a result, it kills him. In the poem it is portrayed as a physical death, but to Robinson it is an inner, emotional death. In a different style, “The Dark Hills” symbolizes the fading relationship between him and his wife before she leaves. The scene description in the poem is a sun setting and everything in the picture is going to rest. Robinson is the speaker and is directing this poem to his wife. You fade–as if the last of days/Were fading, and all wars were done”(Dark) is meant for her. He realizes that she is fading away from him and he knows that if she leaves “all wars” will end between them. This poem is a little more peaceful and Robinson sounds as if he is ready to let go and let her leave, but in reality it is killing him. Robinson goes back in time in “Her Eyes” to when he first met the girl of is dreams. Robinson desperately looked for his soul mate and didn’t give up. “There are women enough, God knows” (Eyes) is showing Robinson’s determination to find the one.
After waiting for so long, when the time finally came to meet her he glorified her even more. “All but the eyes. — They were there, but yet/They seemed somehow like a soul half done. /What was the matter? Did God forget? . . . ” (Eyes) are Robinson’s first thoughts when he meets her. She seems so perfect in every way except for one flaw. “But he wrought them at last with a skill so sure/That her eyes were the eyes of a deathless woman, –/With a gleam of heaven to make them pure,/And a glimmer of hell to make them human” (Eyes).
From the beginning of their relationship, Robinson notices something different about her and that is the one thing that will ruin their relationship. “And he wonders yet what her love could be/To punish him after that strife so grim;/But the longer he lives with her eyes to see,/The plainer it all comes back to him ” (Eyes) shows Robinson looking back to when they met and realizes that he should have done something about their problem before it was too late. “The Story of the Ashes and The Flame” is another symbol of the relationhip between him and his wife.
A difference in this poem is it actually states that “she fled” and he is left with just the “story of the ashes and the flame”, which is the story of their marriage. “There she was always coming pretty soon/ To fool him back, with penitent scared eyes” is Robinson’s wife coming back in his dreams. The way he descroibes her as “the laughter of the moon” and “her kisses her the keys the Paradise” shows how much he loves her. He mentions “Faithful or not, he loved her all the same” hich acknowledges that she has a flaw, but he still is in awe around her. Also, he mentions her eyes once again which relates to “Her Eyes”. Robinson uses this poem to reflect on “that lonely night she fled” and expresses just how much he cares for her even after she left. Similarly, “Another Dark Lady” uses Robinson as the speaker and he again says that “she fled”. He says “I cannot hate you, for I loved you then” which ties his feelings back to “The Story of the Ashes and the Flame”.
Robinson expresses that she is still beautiful even after what she has done to him and he still loves her when she is gone. In “The House on the Hill” Robinson portrays his relationship with his wife through a house. “The House is shut and still, there is nothing more to say” creates an image of an old boarded up house which symbolizes their relationship. “Why is it then we stray/Around the sunken sill? ” is Robinson saying that it is time to let go and there is no use staying in the lifeless situation.
Robinson, as the speaker, uses “they” as themselves when he says “They are all gone away” in the sense that neither him nor his wife are in the relationship anymore and it is done. The poem sounds like a letter to Robinson and he is telling himself that it is over and he needs to move on. Robinson mentions the house again “Up the old hill to the old house again/Where fifty years ago the friend was young”(Long) to relate back to “The House on the Hill”. Robinson uses an analogy of “The Long Race” as himself trying to win over his emotions.
He is letting his wife get the best of him after she left, and he feels that he has lost. “Down the old hill to the old road again,/It seemed as if the little horse had won” (Long) shows Robinson’s depression even years after his wife left “fifty years ago”. Robinson uses this symbol to paint a different picture of his emotions. He seems completely lost after he is left alone, and so it is a fight to be happy again. In “An old story”, Robinson compares himself from before his wife left and after she left. “I would have rid the earth of him/ Once, in my pride… I never knew the worth of him/ Until he died”(Old). Robinson sees totally different people in himself. There is happy side of him that “[he] did not know then”. “Then” is the time when he was together with his wife and he could not be happy. “He” is the happy side of him that he never showed. “I did not even show him then/ One friendly sign”(Old). It was hard to Robinson to be happy when he was with his wife, yet he was miserable without her. Robinson symbolizes a lot of his own emotions and thinks of creatve ways to express them.
Throughout this series of poems, Robinson completely displays how he felt before, during, and after his wife left. He knew something was different about her when they met, then he did not realize until later in the relationship that he could’ve prevented all of his pain, and after she leaves, he is lost and disoriented because he loved her. Through images, description, and symbolzing, Robinson shares his frustration, pain, and most importantly the piece of him that his wife took with her.