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Analysis and comments on Luke Havergal by Edwin Arlington Robinson

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Comment 15 of 25, added on May 6th, 2009 at 4:08 AM.

Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem Luke Havergal is a dark love poem that is a
close to a sequel to Robinson’s poem the Winds Are Tearing Them Away. Luke
Havergal has a dark and depressing tone to it since it covers the topic of
a man debating to comic suicide to be with his lover in hell. Though
Robinson’s poem uses a mournful rhythm it was a poem that caught the
attention of President Theodore Roosevelt. President Roosevelt adored Luke
Havergal so much that he gave Robinson a job as a clerk in New York, which
is what finally, helped Robinson start his career. Not only that but
President Roosevelt wrote a review on The Children of the Night, which
featured Luke Havergal, to the public that made Robinson a best selling
author. It is very well that Robinson was inspired by the 19th century and
did not follow the rest of the 20th century writers. Robinson’s inspiration
is said to be Thomas Hardy’s romanticism and the naturalism of Emile Zola,
which we see reoccurring in his other poems.

Phelps, Riley from United States
Comment 14 of 25, added on February 11th, 2009 at 12:11 PM.

Viewers might like to know that this enigmatic poem is beautifully sung by
Thomas Hampson, America's foremost baritone, in an EMI album entitled "An
Old Song Resung".Really lovely.

EJReynolds from United States
Comment 13 of 25, added on October 12th, 2008 at 3:12 PM.

The protagonist Luke Havergal is grieving of his dead love. From the very
beginning of the poem it’s clear that narrator pushes Luke to the action of
going “to the western gate”. True meaning of the place becomes clear later
in the poem, which it’s not an actual gate, but it symbolizes death, the
end of life. The sun sits down at the west; therefore it represents the end
of the cycle, the darkness, night and death. And the word “gate” represents
the portal, the point of transition, the way to escape from the misery.
The 1st line of the 2nd stanza “No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies”
implies that there is no hope “to rift the fiery night that’s in your eyes”
– to get out of depression Luke is in. “But there, where western glooms are
gathering, the dark will end the dark if anything” – because there is no
hope for Luke in the eastern skies, the only direction that left for him is
“western glooms”, and there the “dark”-death will end the “dark”-misery.
The following lines of the poem were the most puzzling ones for me: “God
slays Himself with every leaf that flies, And hell is more than half of
paradise”. I felt like the narrator (unclear who at this point) is trying
to comfort Luke in the decision to kill himself by saying that even “God
slays”, and because Luke will definitely go to hell if he kills himself,
narrator describes hell as not that bad of a place to be. The stanza ends
with narrator repeating “not a dawn” line, emphasizing that there is no
hope, locking Luke in desperate set of mind.
In the third stanza narrator becomes an active character of the poem. The
parts “out of the grave” and “quench the kiss” clue me on the idea that the
speaker is Death, because in the Western culture grave is associated with
grave and usually Death kisses her chosen ones. By kissing Luke, Death will
“flame” his forehead, which implies madness, craziness. The words “blinds
you to the way that you must go” mean that Luke will be blinded and led to
the wrong path, sinful path, again suggesting the suicide. Then suicidal
intentions are confirmed by words “there is yet one way to where she is” –
Luke will join his love in death, “Bitter, but the one faith never miss” –
it’s painful to die, but it’s a sure way to reconnect with Her.
In the final stanza Death rushes Luke to the action. She hurries him
because the fatal western gate with its “crimson leaves” of depression is
fading away, as “winds are tearing them away”. Death warns him not to think
of anything “nor think” and lock his senses “nor anymore to feel”, as any
of those actions might change his suicidal mindset.

Victoria from United States
Comment 12 of 25, added on March 24th, 2008 at 7:11 PM.

I absolutely adore poetry. If I could, I would be a professor of poetry at
a university. I love to analyze and decipher the meanings of poems.
However, when I read this, I am not filled with images of apostles, gods,
or hells. I am overwhelmed with the melancholy image of a man searching for
his love, who waits for him in the setting sun of life. Their star crossed
love can be resurrected only in death. I believe the speaker is the man's
inner concience. However, I could be totally oblivious and off course. It
seems though that poetry, as reality, is naught but perception. The beauty
of this poem and its eloquence lies in the mind of the reader.

Anna Mauer from United States
Comment 11 of 25, added on August 8th, 2007 at 10:49 AM.

If one continues with the idea of Luke being a reference to the apostle,
then, one must consider the etymological roots of Havergal. Really -
haver|gal. Haver comes from Hebrew with a Biblical meaning of "companion."
Gal - derived from Gall - has multiple meanings, here, I think it may refer
to the "bitterness of spirit, bitterness." A.E. Robinson even writes
"Bitter, but one..." so this offers an even stronger connection between
what is bitter (death, suicide) and a Haver (companion): a bitter (death,
dead) companion. Just a thought! :)

Brandon from United States
Comment 10 of 25, added on February 15th, 2007 at 3:38 PM.

I thought that the title might have a little meaning because LUKE
IS IN THE bible and i thought that maby Havergal might be something of a
meaning but i cant find any thing of this.

Matthew from United States
Comment 9 of 25, added on May 6th, 2006 at 5:40 AM.

Friends, let us consider the wise words of Mr Housman:

Even when poetry has a meaning, as it usually has, it may be inadvisable to
draw it out . . . Perfect understanding will sometimes almost extinguish

I'd say, as one reading Mr Robinson for the first time, that this applied
here particularly. There's a strong elegaic feeling, melodically
expressed, with potent pictures - but I feel it would crumble under
plodding analysis.

On another tack, this is a great site, but plagued by pesky popups. Any
chance of an ad-free subscription service?

John Wheater from United Kingdom
Comment 8 of 25, added on December 27th, 2005 at 4:57 PM.

I would suggest everyone listen to this, and other E.A. Robinson poems set
to music by John Duke. Although I understand and find truth in all your
interpretations, I feel that when singing this song Luke is moving towards
hope, even if that hope is death. Life is all about moving forward.

Ben from United States
Comment 7 of 25, added on October 4th, 2005 at 8:20 PM.

It took me a while to full understand this poem and after reading about 20
times, I think I finally have a grasp on it. The speaker in this poem is
the devil. He sees that Luke Havergal is heartbroken and lonely and
greif-stricken and he wants to take advantage of this. Luke's love is dead
and the only way Luke can ever be with her again is to die. The devil is
trying to pursuade Luke into taking his own life, which would mean he is
going against the Lord's Will, thus Luke would end up in hell. You can come
to understand by the use of color and choice of words that EA uses. Crimson
is mentioned many times throughout the poem. Crimson, or any other red
color, usually respresents evil, or hell. The word 'fall' suggests defeat
Luke's life. 'Fall' also represents a downward motion, and we all know that
hell below heaven. Lastly, God doesn't need to convince people to come to
heaven, nor would God ever slay himself. Suicide and God should never be
used in the same sentence. That alone suggests sinister acts.

Jenny from United States
Comment 6 of 25, added on September 8th, 2005 at 8:10 PM.

I believe the crimson (red) leaves on the door represent hell. Anyone who
kills themself is going to hell. Not the point though, he wants to either
be with his dead lover or be dead and out of his misery. "God slays
himself with every leaf that flies"- God is hurt everytime one of his sons
(represented possibly by leaves?) falls (commits suicide). Which is why
there are crimson leaves on the gate to hell.

lisa from United States

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Information about Luke Havergal

Poet: Edwin Arlington Robinson
Poem: Luke Havergal
Added: Feb 4 2004
Viewed: 21711 times

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