The Man Against the Sky
by E. A. Robinson
Poet X's
Poetry index

A few comments of my own about the poem

Here's a poem I went searching the Internet for and couldn't find so I decided to enter it myself. I've found plenty of other favorite poems on-line but not this. I did find some other stuff of E. A. Robinson's but not this.

It's a long poem, eight pages in the book I'm typing from, and if you ever want to prompt me, I can recite it from memory with only a nudge here and there. I dare you to pick any line from the poem and have me recite the next many, many lines. Challenge me.

I've only ever read one critical essay that mentions the poem and I think that essayist, long forgotten whom, didn't know how to interpret the poem. It's obviously a very Biblical poem given all the Biblical references. (The essayist said the poem was about having seen a man's silhouette climbing a hill which, even if so, doesn't incur the explanation I'm about to propose.)

I think it's one of the most marvelous constructions I've ever read and I don't like much of any of Robinson's other writings which is weird. But I think it is so philosophical and all-encompassing.

Mark 13:14  "But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains;" (Also Matt 24:15, Luke reads "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies..." John doesn't cover it.)

Daniel 12:11  "And from the time that the continual burnt offering is taken away, and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days."

These are about the most specific citings in the bible for specific signals that the end of the world is upon us. I think Robinson's poem is addressing that subject matter, end times in the biblical account. The man against the sky would be the person responsible for interpreting (or detonating) the sign that is meant by the passage.

But in examining that, Robinson comes down to the realization that each of us too is that person. ("We must each await alone at our own height...") 

And, like in the bible passage, there's that mysterious parenthetical. Not to mention so many wonderfully turned phrases: "Not looking far enough ahead/ To see by what mad couriers we are led/ Along the roads of the ridiculous..."  "A living reason out of molecules/ Why molecules occurred..." Such a great poem.