church going

Church going By Philip Larkin Summary

Church Going is a very famous poem by Philip Larkin which was first published in his first mature poetry collection Less Deceived in 1955. It is known as a thought-provoking poem about religion as well as history. 

  • The speaker of Philip Larkin’s poem Church Going casually visits an empty church. It is a place he views with skeptical irreverence
  • In spite of that, he admits that he is not only drawn to churches but also speculates about what will become of these religious places once religion itself will completely or fully die out
  • According to the speaker, there is no future for the beliefs that churches promote but people always need or want some version of the atmosphere they offer: one of togetherness and “serious” contemplation of life as well as death
Once I am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence,
Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new-
Cleaned or restored? Someone would know: I don't.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
"Here endeth" much more loudly than I'd meant.
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate, and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Or, after dark, will dubious women come
To make their children touch a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort or other will go on
In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
But superstition, like belief, must die,
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

A shape less recognizable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative,

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation – marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these – for whom was built
This special shell? For, though I've no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

Church Going by Philip Larkin Summary

The speaker of Philip Larkin’s Church Going enters a building. The readers of this poem, after sometimes come to know that it is a church. The speaker is not sure about the exact reason for his desire to be there. Moreover, he is also more confused by what he observes or sees inside the building. Although he has seen many: (I) Altars (II) Pews, as well as (III) Bibles before, he does not feel any type of reverence towards them. After (carelessly and) briefly reading from Bible, he exits.

The speaker (when leaves the church), contemplates:

  • (I) What this building represents,
  • (II) What it will symbolize or mean when all the believers are long dead

Next, he tries to picture the very last explorer of the church. He also wonders if he/she will be similar to him, curious but devoid of emotion.

The speaker, at the end of the poem Church Going, decides that irrespective of what the church means, it is significant for humanity that churches be maintained. He regards these buildings as:

(I) places of coming together, as well as

(II)  places of a(ny) person’s common humanity with the rest of the world

The Poem Church Going Form (and Structure)

Philip Larkin’s well-known Church Going is a seven-stanza poem. It is made up of sets of  9 lines. Moreover, each of these strophes is constructed with a particular or specific, but somewhat halting rhyme scheme in mind.

The poet chooses to make use of full as well as half-end rhymes. As far as the varying endings of Church Going are concerned; they provide this poem with a feeling of unpredictability. A(ny) person can never be very sure when the words are going to fall into line; or, set out breaking the term in the poem.

Ques: What are the concerns of Philip Larkin in the poem Church Going ?

Ans: The movement and septic poet Philip Larkin (the speaker) enters the church as septic who does not have any faith in the church. But, the poet slowly comes to know that the church fulfills a deeply felt human need. In addition, he calls it a “serious house on serious earth”.

Ques: What are three notable literary elements in Church Going by Philip Larkin ?

Ans: A person can consider these notable literary elements included by the poet of Church Going
The Rhyme Scheme
The Careful selection of vocabulary in order to create word pictures in the readers’ mind 
Conscious effort to leave the messages of this poem open to interpretation by its readers

Ques: What do you know about the speaker of Church Going ?

Ans: The speaker in Philip Larkin’s poem Church Going is a man who does not know all that much about churches as well as religion or any kind of stuff. A reader of this poem can easily know/understand this from his (speaker) clumsy way of entering the church. In fact, it doesn’t appear that he respects the sacredness of the church and sees its holy objects (inside) as “some brass and stuff”.

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