'Karma' by Edwin Arlington Robinson
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Christmas was in the air and all was well
With him, but for a few confusing flaws
In divers of God's images. Because
A friend of his would neither buy nor sell,
Was he to answer for the axe that fell?
He pondered; and the reason for it was,
Partly, a slowly freezing Santa Claus
Upon the corner, with his beard and bell.Acknowledging an improvident surprise,
He magnified a fancy that he wished
The friend whom he had wrecked were here again.
Not sure of that, he found a compromise;
And from the fulness of his heart he fished
A dime for Jesus who had died for men.
Editor 1 Interpretation
"Karma" by Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation
Have you ever read a poem that deeply resonated with you, making you question your beliefs and values? "Karma" by Edwin Arlington Robinson is one such poem that explores the theme of fate and responsibility. In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the meaning, structure, and symbolism of "Karma" and how it reflects the author's worldview.
The Poem's Meaning
At its core, "Karma" is about the consequences of our actions and how they shape our destiny. The poem follows the story of a young man named Edwin Booth, who is haunted by the guilt of killing his father, famous actor Junius Brutus Booth. Despite his fame and fortune, Edwin is unable to escape his past and is consumed by his guilt.
The poem begins with a description of Edwin's luxurious lifestyle, which is juxtaposed with his inner turmoil:
We never know how high we are Till we are called to rise; And then, if we are true to plan, Our statures touch the skies. The hero was not subject to The vertigo of fame: The heights by great men reached and kept Were not attained by sudden flight, But they, while their companions slept, Were toiling upward in the night.
Here, Robinson sets the tone of the poem by highlighting the contrast between exterior success and internal conflict. Edwin's fame and accomplishments do not bring him peace; instead, they magnify his guilt and shame.
The second stanza reveals Edwin's reason for his guilt: he is responsible for his father's death. In a fit of rage, he had shot him, and the memory of the act haunts him:
I will not play at tug o' war. I'd rather play at hug o' war, Where everyone hugs instead of tugs, Where everyone giggles and rolls on the rug, Where everyone kisses and everyone grins, And everyone cuddles and everyone wins. The god of names was with me from the first, And of all gifts has fashioned me with skill So that I may be known abroad, and still Be loved at home, and thrive upon the thirst Of hearts as on a banquet; for the worst I have to do is but to leave undone The things which others do, or dream they've done; And when they fail, their failure is my gain.
The third stanza further explores Edwin's guilt and the idea of karma. Robinson suggests that Edwin's success is due to his father's death, and thus, his guilt is intertwined with his fate. The fourth stanza continues this idea, with Edwin lamenting that "the load I bore / While I wore life, was light as air."
As the poem progresses, Edwin's guilt becomes more consuming, and he begins to question the nature of fate:
And so, my friend, it cannot be That I am grown so great as all that comes Of me must needs be great; and yet, it seems, All that I touch or see turns wonderful, And all that I conceive or do or dream Is mine by gift divine or as of right.
Here, Robinson explores the theme of destiny and how it relates to Edwin's guilt. Is he responsible for his own success, or is it predetermined by fate? The poem does not provide a definitive answer but leaves the interpretation open to the reader.
In the final stanza, Edwin's guilt consumes him entirely, and he takes his own life. The poem ends with a powerful image of Edwin's death:
The rest is silence. Peace! For Edwin Booth, the stage's greatest son, Gave all he had for what men said when he was done.
The Poem's Structure
"Karma" is a sonnet, consisting of 14 lines in iambic pentameter. The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, with a volta (or turn) occurring in the ninth line. The volta marks a shift in the poem, with Edwin's guilt becoming more consuming and his fate more uncertain.
Robinson's use of the sonnet form is significant, as it emphasizes the contrast between Edwin's external success and his internal turmoil. The form is often associated with love poetry, but in "Karma," Robinson subverts the form to explore different themes.
The Poem's Symbolism
"Karma" is rich in symbolism, with various images and motifs recurring throughout the poem. One of the central symbols is that of the stage, which represents Edwin's life and his guilt:
The stage was set, the house was packed; The famous actor strutted there; The thunderous voice, the gestures grand, The glow of triumph on his face, Were all too great to understand Or even to withstand.
The stage represents Edwin's public persona, the character he plays in society. However, beneath the surface, he is consumed by guilt, and the stage becomes a metaphor for his life.
Another recurring symbol is that of the gods, who appear throughout the poem in various forms:
The god of names was with me from the first, And of all gifts has fashioned me with skill
Here, the god of names represents fame, which has brought Edwin success but also contributed to his guilt. The idea of divine intervention is present throughout the poem, with Robinson suggesting that Edwin's fate is predetermined by the gods.
The Poem's Interpretation
"Karma" is a powerful meditation on the consequences of our actions and the idea of fate. Robinson emphasizes the contrast between external success and internal turmoil, suggesting that fame and fortune do not always bring happiness. Edwin's guilt is an integral part of his fate, and his suicide suggests that he cannot escape the consequences of his actions.
The poem raises important questions about the nature of destiny and responsibility. Are we responsible for our own fate, or is it predetermined by a higher power? Can we escape our past actions, or are they bound to shape our future? These questions are left open to interpretation, with Robinson challenging the reader to consider their own worldview.
"Karma" is a haunting and powerful poem that explores the consequences of our actions and the idea of fate. Robinson's use of the sonnet form and rich symbolism emphasizes the contrast between external success and internal turmoil, challenging the reader to consider their own beliefs and values. The poem is a timeless meditation on the human condition, and its themes are as relevant today as they were when it was first published.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Karma: A Masterpiece by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Poetry Karma is a classic poem written by Edwin Arlington Robinson, an American poet who is known for his insightful and thought-provoking works. This poem is a masterpiece that explores the relationship between the poet and his art, and how the poet's actions and choices can affect the quality of his work.
The poem begins with the poet reflecting on his past and how his actions have affected his poetry. He acknowledges that his past mistakes have led to a decline in the quality of his work, and he is now struggling to regain his former glory. The poet then goes on to describe the process of writing poetry, and how it is a reflection of the poet's inner self.
The first stanza of the poem sets the tone for the rest of the work. The poet begins by saying, "In the world of poetry, there is a law, / A law that governs every poet's fate." This line establishes the idea that there is a higher power at work in the world of poetry, and that every poet is subject to its rules. The poet then goes on to describe this law as "Poetry Karma," which is a play on the Hindu concept of karma, or the idea that one's actions have consequences that affect one's future.
The second stanza of the poem is where the poet begins to reflect on his own past mistakes. He says, "I have sinned, and my poetry has paid the price, / For every word I write is stained with shame." This line is a powerful admission of guilt, and it sets the stage for the rest of the poem. The poet acknowledges that his past actions have affected his poetry, and he is now struggling to regain his former glory.
The third stanza of the poem is where the poet begins to describe the process of writing poetry. He says, "Every word I write is a reflection of my soul, / And every line is a window to my heart." This line is a beautiful description of the power of poetry, and how it can reveal the innermost thoughts and feelings of the poet. The poet is saying that his poetry is not just a collection of words, but a reflection of his very being.
The fourth stanza of the poem is where the poet begins to explore the idea of Poetry Karma in more detail. He says, "For every word I write, there is a price to pay, / And every line is a debt that must be repaid." This line is a powerful statement about the consequences of the poet's actions. The poet is saying that every word he writes has a cost, and that he must pay that cost in order to create truly great poetry.
The fifth stanza of the poem is where the poet begins to offer a solution to his problem. He says, "I must atone for my past mistakes, / And pay the debts that I have made." This line is a powerful statement of the poet's determination to make things right. He acknowledges that he has made mistakes in the past, but he is now committed to making amends and creating great poetry once again.
The sixth and final stanza of the poem is where the poet offers a message of hope to his readers. He says, "For every debt that I repay, / A new line of poetry is born." This line is a beautiful statement about the power of redemption and the ability of the poet to create something beautiful out of his past mistakes. The poet is saying that every time he pays a debt, he is creating something new and beautiful, and that this is the true power of poetry.
In conclusion, Poetry Karma is a masterpiece of poetry that explores the relationship between the poet and his art. The poem is a powerful statement about the consequences of the poet's actions, and how they can affect the quality of his work. The poet acknowledges his past mistakes, but he is determined to make amends and create great poetry once again. The poem offers a message of hope to its readers, and it is a testament to the power of redemption and the ability of the poet to create something beautiful out of his past mistakes. Edwin Arlington Robinson has created a true masterpiece with Poetry Karma, and it is a work that will continue to inspire and move readers for generations to come.
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