#12 “Eros Turannos” (Edwin Arlington Robinson)

“Eros Turannos,” the title of Edwin Arlington Robinson’s greatest poem, is Greek for “Love the King”: although the Greek word τυραννος, usually translated “king”, is also the root of the English word “tyrant”: remember that many ancient Greek states were fierce democracies and had no very high opinion of kings.

Using a unique form (four-stress lines in stanzas that rhyme ABABCCCB), “Eros Turannos” tells the story of a relationship, probably a marriage, that takes place partly in the public eye. Perhaps this is a small town. The setting is highly abstract. But the emotional detail in the poem is precisely etched.

The couple in the poem have stayed together for a long time despite many good reasons to separate. The speaker tells their story by alternating between their perspectives. The relationship is intricate, giving the old cliché “love/hate” a deep texture.

But the poem becomes truly great in its fifth stanza. After spinning a story worthy of a novel, the speaker steps back from the situation and admits that he really has no idea what goes on in relationships:

As if the story of a house
Were told, or ever could be.

People have a strong urge – once more, I suspect this is universal – to imagine the lives of others. Laura Kopchick has commented on this in a recent blog post; she was prompted by the coming appearance of PostSecret creator Frank Warren here at UTA. Virginia Woolf wrote a great story, “An Unwritten Novel,” about this phenomenon.

Gossip can sometimes harm people, but the speaker of “Eros Turannos” doesn’t think that he is engaged in malicious gossip. “We do no harm,” we writers of unwritten novels, because living itself is so much more excruciating than anything other people can say about it.

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9 responses to “#12 “Eros Turannos” (Edwin Arlington Robinson)

  1. I think maybe this is a story of how the author pictures a relationship. In this case it is between a king and a queen. She maybe envisions that the woman picks the king, afterall it is her story, right? She has chosen this man whom is charming and I imagin good looking and must have money, afterall he is a king! “She fears him” but she loves him. There is something about him that makes him oh so appealing and so attractive and yet there is a part of him that she cannot stand. “That Judas that she found him” makes her wonder why she would pick such a man to spend the rest of her life with. Was it physical or was it for who he was…a king? He was an authority figure with “That once had power to sound him,” and so maybe that made him that much more appealing. Her thoughts of living a life of happiness and of luxury was not as she envisioned. “And Home, where passion lived and died, Becomes a place where she can hide,” says it all. The marriage is not what it once was. It is unhappy and she wants to be hide from everyone. Maybe some shame that she picked such an uncaring man? The thought of living a life of royalty can be exciting but royalty does not make one immune to real life marital woes. A thought about a royal relationship with real issues.

  2. I really enjoyed this poem! Sadly, I believe that many people struggle with a relationship like the one portrayed in this poem. I’ve heard countless stories of people staying in a relationship with another person for all the wrong reason. Sometimes it’s because of fear. People fear that the other person may harm them or themselves. Other people fear that that person may be the only person that will ever love them. The reason I’ve noticed most people stay in a relationship that isn’t working is because they have children together and don’t them to grow up with their mother and father living separately. This poem brings out a good question. Is it better to be in an unsuccessful relationship or not be in any relationship at all? I really liked how the speaker showed the perspectives of both the man and the woman. It made the relationship easier to understand. The other subject brought out by this poem was about gossip. The speaker seems to think that he has done nothing by writing about the problems in this couple’s relationship, but I disagree I believe gossip very much intensifies the stress in a struggling relationship. I think matters of these sorts should always be kept private.

  3. Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem, “Eros Turannos,” illustrates the old adage “Love is Blind.” As little girls, we grow up believing that Beauty can tame the Beast. The country and western singer, Faith Hill, says it best in her song “That Kiss.” She says, “Cinderella said to Snow White, how does love get so far off course, all I wanted was a white knight with a good heart and a soft touch to ride me off into the sunset.” But, sometimes we meet men who pose as white knights because “They Wear the Mask.” They come with smooth, persuasive rhetoric supportive by psuedoproofs. It’s known as game. In “Eros Turannos,” Robinson’s says, “She meets in his engaging mask.” Although women fall for the game, it is no wise a reflection upon their intelligence “Between a blurred sagacity.” Sometimes, love is just blind. We choose to run through the red lights full speed ahead. This is especially true if we have codependent personalities. The woman in “Eros Turannos,” seems to have the classic symptoms of codependency. She knows the relationship is neither right nor healthy, but yet she endures it hoping she can change him. He stays in it because she enables him to continue being the “Judas” he really is, and friends and neighbors become bootleg psychiatrists as they attempt to diagnose the couple’s problem. In Robert Burney’s book, “Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls,” he says, “Trying to control something or somebody over which you have no control is dysfunctional.” This type of behavior is destructive and eventually leads to the land of the living dead. The place where a person begins to exist instead of live. Robinson says it this way, “And Home, where passion lived and died, Becomes a place where she can hide, While all the town and harbor side, Vibrate with her seclusion.” She waits and waits, but he never changes. During the holidays when the couple has to be sociable, they come to the dinner parties smiling, but there is no one behind the smiles, “They are not startled, they are not even embarrassed; they slide back into their chairs.”

  4. I absolutely loved this poem because it’s something that people go through in relationships. Sometimes people remain to be in a relationship even when things are really bad. They feel as though if they left the person, they may never find someone else for them; and the sad part is that it’s not true. I can understand this poem because the situation the woman’s passing through is similar to what some people around me are going through. I loved the speaker’s allusion to Judas to describe her partner; in the Bible Judas was the one who betrayed Jesus and so I guess the speaker’s saying that her partner has betrayed her one too many times. The part where the speaker says, “he sees that he will not be lost…”, I believe means that the man knows that she can’t leave him so he keeps misbehaving and I think that it is true because when some men know that their partners are not going to leave them, they take it for granted and misuse it. One part that made me irritated at the woman is where it said “she secures him” because to me it meant that she was defending him to everyone. Even when she was maltreated by him; I found that irritating. But then again they say they do it for love.

  5. This poem is something many people go through in their relationships. Many times people stay in relationships all for the wrong reasons. It is really sad to me when people think they have to stay in relationships for their kids yet their kids may think it would be better if their parents just separated. People also stay because they feel like they can not find anyone else or they think this person is their soulmate. But truly they are not really meant for them, they were just put into their life for a season. I see many people today going through the same thing the two people in this poem are going through. I believe that the saying is true, “love is blind”. That saying is very true and people do not realize it until they have made it out of their troubled relationship that they were in. I believe that relationships like this teach all of us something. It teaches us to be a stronger person, not make the same mistakes, and that everything happens for a reason. I really enjoyed this poem even though it was a sad but it speaks the truth.

  6. This poem to me is about a women possibly a queen whom is in a bit of a rut. She was once charmed by him and chose to wed him, I assume. The metaphors for the feelings used are natural and do an outstanding job of relaying her emotions. I find the fourth stanza my favorite because it is easily identifiable with modern times. It is talking about how she is at this point in their relationship where she is complacent but unsure how it happened and unhappy. “The reign of her confusion;..The dirge of her illusion.” She is trapped in this relationship that once was passionate and has become stale. The last four lines of the fourth stanza are very powerful and describe how people in communities, especially small ones, have nothing better to do than gossip about the malfunctions of other peoples lives. “While all the town and harbor side Vibrate with her seclusion”. The speculation is one of which the people fabricate in order to feel better about their living situation or perhaps their own lives. To look at someone Else’s misfortune takes the focus off of your own, and perhaps might distract from personal shortcomings.

  7. andreamcginley

    When reading this poem, at first I thought that the ‘she’ in the poem was a country, or a country of people. But after class discussion, it became clear that it was more a discussion about a terrible one sided relationship. Honestly, I feel that many people deal with this type of living, and put up with it because like the girl in the poem, there is nothing better and it is just easier to settle. The fourth stanza reminds me of what happens on Greek Row almost every day. I know that every now and then when I’m just hanging out at the Tri Delta house someone will run in crying about what another person had said about their boyfriend. The house has become a refuge to those who whisper about others. Though the last two stanzas take a turn in the speakers though process and I completely agree with it all, how well do we know other people’s lives without specifically being in them. And the thing that interested me most in class was that we talked about that if people have really strong relationships then talk would not harm them at all. I find this to be not entirely true. Even people with the strongest will can be broken if they hear something over and over again. People are not rocks and cannot shield their emotions from everything. This poem brings back the same feelings of the poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time” by Robert Frost because the speaker of that poem loves his work, but by hearing others put down his effort he begins to second guess his ‘play’.

  8. Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem “Eros Turannos” describes a sad confused love life. To some this is just a poem but to other this is reality, this is someone’s life. A type of love life that has once been experienced or a confusing relationship someone is now currently in. We have all fallen a time or two to someone that betrayed to be this lovely person but soon to find out they were wearing the mask. They were wearing the mask of a kind, loving, gentle, and respectful person with integrity. The young lady in this poem appears to be afraid as mentioned but has adjusted to the relationship with a thin line of love but scared feelings. I have asked myself that same question about past relationships what attracted me to that person that appeared to be part of my destiny. The two in this poem seems to be aware of what is going on and the feelings that are being felt. She wants to get away but there is something that is holding her hostage to the relationship. He knows her pain but feels the security she embraces him with. The whole poem is very interesting but in the third to the last stanza one line says “And Home, where passion lived and died, Becomes a place where she can hide” has me thinking how can you hide from someone you are scared of that lives in the same home? As I think more about it a thought is revealed, there was a time she was happy and what appears to be in love. Now she is afraid, confused and unhappy about the relationship but instead of facing the world to explain what she once felt is no longer she holds out and search for questions to explain her illusion. Sad to say we as women continue to stay in relationships like this wishing and praying for that person to change. We pray for a miracle to bring the love back that was once felt between the two or to one day gather strength to embrace a more promising life.

  9. Pingback: Poem of the Day no.2 | ogoola

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