ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Edwin Arlington Robinson's "Karma"

Updated on September 25, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Edwin Arlington Robinson

Source

Reading of Robinson's "Karma"

Karma

Christmas was in the air and all was well
With him, but for a few confusing flaws
In divers of God’s images. Because
A friend of his would neither buy nor sell,
Was he to answer for the axe that fell?
He pondered; and the reason for it was,
Partly, a slowly freezing Santa Claus
Upon the corner, with his beard and bell.

Acknowledging an improvident surprise,
He magnified a fancy that he wished
The friend whom he had wrecked were here again.
Not sure of that, he found a compromise;
And from the fulness of his heart he fished
A dime for Jesus who had died for men.

Introduction

An omniscient narrator dramatizes the musings of a man whose thoughts and actions vaguely imply the concept of karma-sowing and reaping.

Edwin Arlington Robinson's "Karma" portrays a man who thinks about a former friend who has died; the man at first thinks he wishes his friend were still alive, but then reconsiders, finally remaining confused about what he really wishes.

Robinson's poem is a well-structured Petrarchan sonnet with an octave and a sestet following the traditional rime-scheme, ABBAABBA CDECDE.

First Quatrain: "Christmas was in the air and all was well"

It is Christmas time with Christmas in the air. By placing Christmas in the air, the speaker implies a nebulous association with the holiday for the man he then begins to analyze. The speaker says, "all was well / With him," introducing the subject of the karmic example.

With Christmas in the air and all being well with the subject in question, still there is concern because for this man the images of God remain somewhat perplexing by possessing "confusing flaws." The logical, linear thinking man cannot quite grasp the "divers of God's images." So what to do, but dive right into the heart of his prickly problem: his friend "would neither buy nor sell."

Second Quatrain: "Was he to answer for the axe that fell?"

The axe fell on his friend, an exaggerated metaphor for the downfall of the friend—probably first financially, followed by his death, likely by suicide. The man ponders, and the omniscient speaker asserts that the reason the man was now contemplating that lost friend was in part because of a "freezing Santa Claus," who was collecting donations upon the corner, no doubt, for the Salvation Army. The Santa is decked out in his beard, and he is ringing a bell.

First Tercet: "Acknowledging an improvident surprise"

The thought, coupled with wish that his lost friend were here again, flits through the man's mind. The thought coming to the man is described as an improvident surprise, because the man likely did not give the friend much thought at other times of the year.

Christmas now in it guise as a freezing, bell-ringing Santa causes the man to "magnif[y] a fancy that he wished / the friend" still here. His conscience is bothering him, and he is unsure just what he should be thinking or wishing regarding his friend.

Second Tercet: "Not sure of that, he found a compromise"

The uncertainty is acknowledged when the speaker reveals that the man was not sure of that, referring to the wish of having the friend back. But then the man finds a way to assuage his possible guilt and uncertainty.

The man retrieves a dime from his pocket and drops it into Santa's bucket. The speaker colorfully describes the action: "he found a compromise; / And from the fulness of his heart he fished / A dime for Jesus who had died for men."

The contrast of offering a dime verses dying for men implies the continued lack of a clue of the man whose karma is being examined. His karma, of course, will remain with him, and just as he has continued to sow, he will continue to reap.

© 2015 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Submit a Comment

No comments yet.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)