SOMETHING EXTRA: Edwin Arlington Robinson's poem "Luke Havergal" is a work that invites attention from an "archetypal" perspective. Archetypal critics (that is, analysts) of literature assume that almost all human beings are motivate by the same basic desires and fears and that these desires and fears are part of "human nature." They also assume that certain basic stories are told over and over again, partly because they seem relevant to those basic desires and fears. Finally, they assume that certain images and symbols tend to be repeated in one work after another because (again) they evoke or seem relevant to basic desires and fears.
In Arlington's poem, the fear of death seems to be implied, but also the desire for death that many people can often feel at times. The "west" and the "setting sun" are symbolically associated with death, while the "gate" might be seen as a symbol of crossing a threshold from one realm of existence to another. Clearly this poem is also rooted in deep desires, whether of erotic longing or of a more Platonic kind of love. The speaker of the poem might be seen as a version of the archetypal figure of the tempter, and Havergal might be seen as a version of the archetypal figure of the desperate person whose life seems literally hopeless. Finally, the poem might be seen as appealing to a deep archetypal pleasure that many people take in the mysterious and suggestive. It would be hard to imagine, for instance, lines more mysterious or suggestive than these:
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.