In the famous poem Richard Cory by E.A. Robinson, given below are the lines of my interest

So on we worked, and waited for the LIGHT,
And went without the MEAT, and cursed the BREAD
capitalisation mine

I'm trying to critically analyse this poem and paused at the lines above

Do the lines (with the capitalized words) allude to the Bible, meaning that working class people anticipated a saviour for themselves or do they merely represent food habits of the working class of those days, reflecting their financial hardship?

Moreover, does the phrase "cursed the bread" symbolically speaks of any particular historical event back in the time period of the poet in America?

1 Answer 1


It seems unlikely that the quoted couplet is a Biblical reference, for the simple reason that there are no other Biblical allusions in the poem. Rather, its focus is on class differentials and the impact of the Great Depression on the lives of ordinary working people.

The confusing aspect of the statement is the opening, the word "so" which implies that the speaker is somehow waiting for something, hoping to gain something by forgoing meat and hating the bread. But this isn't a definitive implication and is rather undone by the "cursed the bread" statement. What would the speaker gain by cursing bread? Rather, we can understand that the speaker is going without meat and having to endure terrible bread due to their poverty. "Cursing" the bread is also indicative of the dissatisfaction that arises when poor bread is all that's available to the masses.

Why open the line with "so"? Well, it keeps the poem's meter for starters - it's in iambic pentameter and needs the extra syllable. The choice of "so" is perhaps because it is soft, like a sigh, revealing both the desperation and implicit acceptance of the plight of poverty.

  • I do agree that "SO" is implicit acceptance of poverty . Commented May 1 at 16:26
  • Not being in a position to change their lives, they are waiting for "THE LIGHT" (a saviour ????) Besides, a little bird tells me " cursed the bread" has historical meaning Commented May 1 at 16:39
  • @Selfie-grofie I have made a minor edit. It might help if you were to actually articulate what this "little bird" is so we can explore it further rather than playing guessing games with us?
    – Matt Thrower
    Commented May 1 at 16:48
  • It could be of help:- en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/…. Commented May 1 at 17:02
  • I' ve heard old folks saying "breadlines" were formed during the american economical crisis. May be, the poet is saying they cursed long tiring "breadlines" (synecdoche) Commented May 1 at 18:41

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