In The Man Against The Sky, Edwin Arlington Robinson presents us with a gallery of characters drawn from the streets, homes and gathering places of Tilbury Town, his fictional Northeastern dwelling place. A mysterious compelling stranger, a woman living on charity, a welcoming home - this and other portraits give us a compelling and perceptive view of the range of human character and feeling.
As if to widen the horizons of Tilbury Town, he also imagines people from distant times and places. We hear Ben Jonson speculating about Shakespeare; we see Galahad at the moment of taking his seat at the Round Table, and Cassandra in her old age. At the end of the book, he sums them all up in the brilliant and troubling poem that gives the title to the book, a portrait of a man seen against a fiery sky, a lonely man, unknown, yet representative of all humanity and of the human struggle to achieve - or, at the very least, continue the struggle.
"There can be no doubt of the high position he holds in American poetry when we examine 'The Man Against the Sky,' published in 1916. It would seem as though his previous books were merely working up to this achievement, so far beyond them is this volume. A little book of 149 pages, and yet, in reading it, one experiences a sensation akin to that of the man who opens a jar of comopressed air. It is a profound wonder that so much can have been forced into so small a space. For 'The Man Against The Sky' is dynamic with experience and knowledge of life." (Amy Lowell, Tendencies in Modern American Poetry)
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