He was born on December 22, 1869 at Head Tide, Maine and went the first six months of his life unnamed. According to legend, while his parents were on vacation, a traveler from Arlington, Massachusetts picked "Edwin" from a hat and her home town was added in the middle. The future three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry later sarcastically thought it "a hell of a name for a poet."
Robinson grew up at a time when the Fireside Poets were waning. Like many of his generation, he broke away from that genteel tradition and followed a new pattern forged by the likes of Walt Whitman. Robinson published his first book, The Torrent and The Night Before, in 1896. The book includes a poem dedicated to Whitman and another one dedicated "Dear Friends":
Dear friends, reproach me not for what I do,
Nor counsel me, nor pity me; nor say
That I am wearing half my life away
For bubble-work that only fools pursue.
And if my bubbles be too small for you,
Blow bigger then your own:—the games we play
To fill the frittered minutes of a day,
Good glasses are to read the spirit through.
And whosoreads may get hiin some shrewd skill;
And some unprofitable scorn resign,
To praise the very thing that he deplores: —
So friends (dear friends), remember, if you will,
The shame I win for singiug is all mine,
The gold I miss for dreaming is all yours.
*Some of the information for this post comes from Scott Donaldson's Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Poet's Life (2006). The portrait above, dated 1916, is from the E. A. Robinson site by the Gardiner (Maine) Public Library; the original image is in the special collections of Colby College.