Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal, —
There where the vines cling crimson on the wall, —
And in the twilight wait for what will come.
The wind will moan, the leaves will whisper some —
Whisper of her, and strike you as they fall;
But go, and if you trust her she will call.
Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal —
Luke Havergal.

No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies
To rift the fiery night that’s in your eyes;
But there, where western glooms are gathering,
The dark will end the dark, if anything:
God slays Himself with every leaf that flies,
And hell is more than half of paradise.
No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies —
In eastern skies.

Out of a grave I come to tell you this, —
Out of a grave I come to quench the kiss
That flames upon your forehead with a glow
That blinds you to the way that you must go.
Yes, there is yet one way to where she is, —
Bitter, but one that faith can never miss.
Out of a grave I come to tell you this —
To tell you this.

There is the western gate, Luke Havergal,
There are the crimson leaves upon the wall.
Go, — for the winds are tearing them away, —
Nor think to riddle the dead words they say,
Nor any more to feel them as they fall;
But go! and if you trust her she will call.
There is the western gate, Luke Havergal —
Luke Havergal.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Edwin Arlington Robinson's poem Luke Havergal

12 Comments

  1. Anna Mauer says:

    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.

  2. Brandon says:

    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! 🙂

  3. Matthew says:

    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.

  4. John Wheater says:

    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 pleasure

    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?

  5. Ben says:

    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.

  6. Jenny says:

    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.

  7. lisa says:

    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.

  8. Rk says:

    This is a poet about Robinson’s futileness of life. This poem clearly expresses death and the loss of love. It shows Robinsons loss of love – indeed he did lose love. And it talks about death – a Romantic aspect. In this poem we see Romantic aspects such as loss of love and death but we also see a realistic aspect of the futileness of love(or so it seems in Robinsons eyes). Rather interesting poem. It was published with other poems about his fictional Tillbury town characters who mirrored his experiences and feelings. This poem appeared with poems such as Richard Cory and Miniver Cheevy. Those are good reads to further understand Robinsons style and experience

  9. laurie says:

    The western gate is death. The sun rises in the east-life and youth, and sets in the west-death. The crimson leaves represent the fall of his life, leaning towards winter(death). I think the speaker is Luke havergal’s consious, or at least the part of him that wishes to die to be with his lover again. Perhaps the speaker is the voice that represents his desent into madness(perhaps) and death. When the speaker says “out of a grave I come to tell you this” i believe he is pretending to be luke havergal’s dead lover, to convince him more to kill himself. The speaker believes the only way for luke havergal to be happy again is to die(go to the western gate). The “dead words (the crimson leaves) say” are any reasons Luke Havergal might have not to kill himself.

  10. Justin says:

    I mean no disrespect, but I totally disagree with the comments on east and west. The sun sets in the west, thus representing death. The sun rises in the east, thus representing hope and life. Luke’s love is dead, and the only way to her is to die. Even if there is no way to get to her, “the dark will end the dark.” If death does not bring him to her, at least he will not have to suffer through life anymore. The “one way to where she is” that’s “bitter” and that “faith can never miss” is death. The speaker (I don’t know who) is pointing Luke to where his lover is, and the only way to get there is to die.

  11. nicole says:

    i agree with Gloria on the east/west heaven and hell deal, but i’m confused about the “crimson leaves.” they sound like fire, but their on the heaven side? i dunno. i really like this poem because it confuses me and makes me think, but i just can’t figure it out completely. if you have any thoughts on this poem that you might want to share with me, email me. thanks!

  12. Gloria says:

    When I first read this poem I completely got lost. After reading it about forty times I began to catch on a little, but I am not sure what it all means, or who is the speaker.Well the speaker is clearly dead and telling Luke Havergal to go to the western gate because the eastern skies do not have a dawn. I think that maybe the western gate is heaven and the eastern skies is hell. In the third stanza (line 20)it implies that when Luke reaches a certain point they will tell him to go to hell or go to heaven.

Leave a Reply to Ben Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.