02 February 2004

Why “Miniver Cheevy”?

“Miniver Cheevy” is the title of a semi-autobiographical poem by Edward Arlington Robinson.

I first read the poem, and took a liking to it, in high school. The image of the suffering romantic poet spoke to my adolescent sensibilities. Around the same time, I joined a BBS: direct dialup to a computer in someone's basement. (Oh yeah, I'm online old skool: I remember when FidoNet was cutting edge.)

So I needed a login ID. The ideal login ID is short, unique, distinctive, easy to remember, hard to misspell, and says something about your temperament, which makes “miniver” pretty much ideal. I've used it for dozens of systems since then, though not so much lately.

When I finally broke down and decided to write a blog, I realized that it fits in perfectly with the prevailing style of distinctive names in blogistan, so I brought it out of retirement.

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn
    Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
He wept that he was ever born,
    And he had reasons.

Miniver loved the days of old
   When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
   Would set him dancing.

Miniver sighed for what was not,
   And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
   And Priam's neighbors.

Miniver mourned the ripe renown
   That made so many a name so fragrant;
He mourned Romance, now on the town,
   And Art, a vagrant.

Miniver loved the Medici,
   Albeit he had never seen one;
He would have sinned incessantly
   Could he have been one.

Miniver cursed the commonplace
   And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;
He missed the mediæval grace
   Of iron clothing.

Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
   But sore annoyed was he without it;
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
   And thought about it.

Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
   Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
   And kept on drinking.

By Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935), from The Town Down the River, 1910

The Modern American Poetry site provides a collection of analysis of the poem.


Austin Bob said...

I love it. I would have linked to this in my Inaugural Voyage into blogdom (http://hither-and-yon.blogspot.com/2006/11/inaugural-voyage.html) if I had had the good sense to search first.

Anonymous said...

i remember you dialing into that bbs. and playing quetzalcoatl. btw, hi.

Unknown said...


Love the poem. Love the name. I was thinking Mrs. Miniver, then discovered it means "A white or light gray fur used as a trim on medieval robes and on ceremonial robes of state."

Anonymous said...

I read this in high school as well and loved it. In fact, I wouldn't have clicked on your link in google search if et hadn't been for your name, so good choice!

Unknown said...

pseudointellectual shite all.
-norman david plombe

chrisj1948 said...

I chanced on the poem 'Miniver Cheevy' nearly 60 years ago, and loved it then. I can still quote most of the verses even now. It was good to be reminded that I was not alone.