Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: Reuben Bright

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

E.A. Robinson, one of Maine’s most important poets, used traditional forms to create characters and tell stories. In this sonnet, he narrates a tale of death and inconsolable grief.

Reuben Bright by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Because he was a butcher and thereby
Did earn an honest living (and did right),
I would not have you think that Reuben Bright
Was any more a brute than you or I;
For when they told him that his wife must die,
He stared at them, and shook with grief and fright,
And cried like a great baby half that night,
And made the women cry to see him cry.
And after she was dead, and he had paid
The singers and the sexton and the rest,
He packed a lot of things that she had made
Most mournfully away in an old chest
Of hers, and put some chopped-up cedar boughs
In with them, and tore down the slaughter house.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetryis produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright public domain. Reprinted from “The Maine Poets” (Down East Books, 2003). Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to David Turner, Special Assistant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at poetlaureate@mainewriters.org or 207-228-8263.