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Luke Havergal and Song of the Open Road

For many centuries, man has written poems to convey and express his emotions, experiences, dreams, and ideals. Thoughts about life, love, peace, death, and happiness are just some of the many subjects masterfully painted in words through poetry. Poets also communicate their heart’s deepest desires as well as their highest truth through the power of lines and stanzas. Such testaments about poetry are perhaps, best expressed in the works of Edwin Arlington Robinson’s Luke Havergal and Walt Whitman’s Songs of the Open Road. Although written decades apart, both literary pieces still echoes man’s capability to create beauty through words.

What is even more astounding is the fact that these two poems, with two different subjects can equally touch and inspire contemporary readers. In the poem Luke Harbinger, Robinson discussed the subject of love and death. In this somber piece, the author tells the story of Luke Harbinger and his dead lover’s call to continue their love by joining her in death. In the first stanza the writer tells Luke Havergal to proceed to the western gate where the “leaves will whisper there of her”. The “her” in this part of the poem speaks of Luke Harbinger’s departed lover.

The author continues to point out to the Luke’s dead lover in the following stanza where he writes about the glooms gathering in the western gate. Apart from this, Robinson also describes death by saying the lack of dawn and how “dark will end dark” (Robinson, 1921). Such lines fully establish the feelings of sadness as well as the finality that the existence of death brings. This is then followed by the lover’s desire to be with him. Similarly, Luke Harbinger’s is also painted in the poem as someone who is lonely and suffering because of the death of his precious love.

The mood of the poem is somber laced with much grief and longing. Through the voice of the dead lover, Luke Harbinger’s sadness and longing is expressed in the line “I come to quench the kiss… that blinds you to the way that you must go” (Robinson, 1921). The first stanza is once again repeated as a way of emphasizing the lover’s plea to Luke Harbinger to continue and a love that transcends even death. While Robinson discussed love and death, Walt Whitman on the other hand celebrated his passion for life in his 1856 poem “Song of the Open Road”. In this beautiful work, the author presented the road in a meaningful way.

For him, the road signifies a place where man becomes equal as both the rich and the poor uses it. The road also symbolizes life along with its trails, hardships, and challenges. Contrary on how Robinson opened his poem with a sense of sadness and longing, Whitman expressed feelings of joy and light heartedness. Apart from this, the long and open space that the road brings, gives much excitement and thrill. This is clear in the first stanza. In here, the author writes his strong desire to pursue whatever he chooses by traversing the road. He claims that he himself already has good fortune.

He celebrates the abundance of the earth as a gift to man. He celebrates the presence of the sun, earth, as well as the air. For him, these gifts are far more precious than money. Similarly, he expresses his contentment over the things the he already has. Whitman continues to express joy and happiness in the following stanzas. This is much visible when the author describes how there are many “divine things more beautiful than words can tell” (Whitman, 1856). Much like how the dead lover invites Luke Harbinger to be with her in grave, so does Whitman invites the readers to experience love and happiness.

In the last stanza, the writer extends his wonderful experience to the reader by inviting them to join him to travel the open road. He further extends and reaches out to the reader by giving them his love and by offering them a lifetime of companionship, love, and friendship. References Robinson, E. A. (1921). Luke Havergal. Retrieved June 19, 2009, from http://www. poetryfoundation. org/archive/poem. html? id=175762 Whitman, W. (1856). Song of the Open Road. Retrieved June 19, 2009, from http://www. bartleby. com/142/82. html

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