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Robinson Monument,
Gardiner Common

Shortly after Robinson’s death, Laura E. Richards promoted a public memorial to the poet. She was outstandingly successful in raising needed funding from poetry lovers around the nation, and on October 18, 1936 the monument was unveiled in a ceremony with Herman Hagedorn, then writing the Robinson biography, as the keynote speaker.

Participants in the dedication ceremony of October 18, 1936, pose in front of the Edwin Arlington Robinson memorial in the Common. From left to right are Henry E. Dunnack, state librarian; Edwin P. Ladd, mayor of Gardiner; Henry Richards, whose wife Laura spearheaded the erection of the monument; Louis J. Brann, governor of Maine; Hermann Hagedorn, a biographer of Robinson who delivered the dedication address that day; the scholar-poet Harold T. Pulsifer; James M. L. Bates, the Gardiner resident who inventoried the Robinson papers now at Colby Collage; William Tudor Gardiner, former governor of Maine; and Henry R. Shepley, Gardiner’s brother-in-law and the monument architect.

The program of the ceremony together with the text of Hagedorn’s address was published in a commemorative booklet, Programme on the Occasion of the Unveiling of a tablet to the Memory of Edwin Arlington Robinson, Gardiner, October Eighteenth, Mdccccxxxvi (Portland, Maine: Bradford Press, 1936), 36 pages.

The kin of Edwin Arlington Robinson on October 18, 1936, the day of the dedication of the monument on the Gardiner Common, from left to right: David Shepherd Nivison, Emma (Shepherd) Robinson, Ruth (Robinson) Nivison, William Nivison Sr., Marie (Robinson) Legg, and William Nivison Jr. The poet’s two grandnephews, at either end, later that day unveiled the monument at the focal point of the ceremony.

The poets two grandnephews, David Shepherd Nivison and William Nivison Jr., unveiled the monument at the ceremony. The architect of the monument was Henry Richardson Shepley, internationally famous architect based in Boston. Shepley was married to Anna Gardiner, younger daughter of Robert Hallowell Gardiner III (1855–1920). Originally the monument was in the northwest corner of the Common and flanked by two granite benches in the style of the monument. After the benches were vandalized in 1972, the monument was moved to the southwest corner of the Common. The benches should be replicated in order to restore the architect’s excellent design.

The inscription on the monument was written by Laura E. Richards:
To the Memory of
Edwin Arlington
Robinson
1869 1935
Thinker Seer Poet
Whose Childhood and Youth
Were Spent in Gardiner
A Man of Heroic Character
Steadfast Purpose and
Shining Genius
Whose Poems Have Kindled
In Many Hearts an Undying
Flame
This Tablet is Dedicated
A D. MCMXXXVI

The poem “Sonnet” from Robinson’s first publication is selected here because it is the best statement of what his life’s goal was: to champion a radically new form of poetry. Robinson mastered classical forms of poetry, but his bold choices of subject matter, never before addressed by poets, turned twentieth-century poetry towards fundamentally new directions.


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Sonnet
Oh, for a poet—for a beacon bright
To rift this changeless glimmer of dead gray:
To spirit back the Muses, long astray,
And flush Parnassus with a newer light:
To put these little sonnet-men to flight
Who fashion, in a shrewd mechanic way,
Songs without souls that flicker for a day
To vanish in irrevocable night.
 
What does it mean, this barren age of ours?
Here are the men, the women, and the flowers,—
The seasons, and the sunset, as before.
What does it mean?—Shall not one bard arise
To wrench one banner from the western skies,
And mark it with his name for evermore?


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EDWIN ARLINGTON ROBINSON
A Virtual Tour of Robinson's Gardiner, Maine

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This website is maintained by the Gardiner Public Library (Anne E. Davis, Director)
152 Water Street, Gardiner, Maine 04345, and the Gardiner Library Association.

This website is sponsored by the Kennebec-Chaudière Heritage Commission and Maine Humanities Council,
the J. W. Robinson Welfare Trust Fund, the Gardiner Library Association, and the Gardiner Board of Trade.

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