Explicating Poetry STEP I-A: Before reading

STEP I-A: Before reading

(World Poets and Poetry)

1. “Luke Havergal” is a strophic poem composed of four equally lengthened stanzas. Each stanza is long enough to contain a narrative, an involved description or situation, or a problem and resolution.

2. The title raises several possibilities: Luke Havergal could be a specific person; Luke Havergal could represent a type of person; the name might have symbolic or allusive qualities. Thus, “Luke” may refer to Luke of the Bible or “Luke-warm,” meaning indifferent or showing little or no zeal. “Havergal” could be a play on words.“Haver” is a Scotch and Northern English word meaning to talk foolishly. It is clear from the rhyme words that the “gal” of Havergal is pronounced as if it had two “l’s,” but it is spelled with one “l” for no apparent reason unless it is to play on the word “gal,” meaning girl. Because it is pronounced“gall,” meaning something bitter or severe, a sore or state of irritation, or an impudent self-assurance, this must also be considered as a possibility. Finally, the“haver” of “Havergal” might be a perversion of “have a.”

3. Published in 1897, the poem probably does not contain archaic language unless it is deliberately used. The period of writing is known as the Victorian Age. Historical events that may have influenced the poem may be checked for later.