On this day in 1869 the poet Edwin Arlington Robinson was born in Maine. Robinson published his first work while at Harvard where he seems to have set his sights low.
He left after two years following the death of his father. At the age of 24 he wrote: “Writing has been my dream ever since I was old enough to lay a plan for an air castle.” Gradually his work gained recognition and in his lifetime he won three Pulitzer Prizes.
Here is part of his early poem, Ballad of a Ship:
Down by the flash of the restless water
The dim White Ship like a white bird lay;
Laughing at life and the world they sought her,
And out she swung to the silvering bay.
Then off they flew on their roistering way,
And the keen moon fired the light foam flying
Up from the flood where the faint stars play,
And the bones of the brave in the wave are lying.
‘T was a king’s fair son with a king’s fair daughter,
And full three hundred beside, they say,
Revelling on for the lone, cold slaughter
So soon to seize them and hide them for aye;
But they danced and they drank and their souls grew gay,
Nor ever they knew of a ghoul’s eye spying
Through the mist of a drunken dream they brought her
(This wild white bird) for the sea-fiend’s prey:
The pitiless reef in his hard clutch caught her,
And hurled her down where the dead men stay.
A torturing silence of wan dismay –
Shrieks and curses of mad souls dying –
Then down they sank to slumber and sway
Where the bones of the brave in the wave are lying.
Today I will reflect that small steps are sometimes the best.