Church Going poem summary

About the poem

CHURCH GOING is a poem written by PHILIP LARKIN, in Ireland and published in 1954 through the collection of ‘The Less Deceived’. This poem is a masterpiece work by Philip Larkin.

Theme of the poem

The poem majorly depicts the religious matters, therefore the theme is an erosion of religious abutments that shows how people respect and follow their respective religion.

Form of the Poem

The poem has 63 lines, divided into 7 stanza and each stanza carry 9 lines. Each stanza has similar rhyming scheme- ABABCDECE, and iambic tetrameter.

Summary and Analysis

The poem ‘Church Going’ describes the curiosity and experience of the poet while visiting to the Church. The language of the poem is conversational and in the form of interrogation. It says that why people need to worship? Why they need to go to the worship places? It also explores the issue of the Church on the basis of religion. Also, the title of the poem interprets different aspects of religious matter, as the act of going to the Church, the customs that keep the Church alive, visiting the Church etc.

This poem is also an experience of poet himself, as it describes the visit to a CHURCH by Philip Larkin. In the poem Church Going, “Going” can also be described as his visit to the Church or declining faith in religion. In fact, Larkin himself says that he is more concerned with “going” to church, not to religion, but for himself the Church becomes a representative institution, and when Larkin speaks of it, he is at the same time concerned with religion. The point of view presented in the poem is not a unilateral one.

The opening line of the poem are more important for what they imply as,…”Once I am sure there’s nothing going on I step inside, letting the door thud shut”.  The poet probably would not have entered if some religious activity had been going on inside. He would have felt uncomfortable, embarrassed, ill at ease. The poet says that, he belongs to an age that is in ferment, the old being obsolete and the new not yet fit to take its place. Therefore, the values that were believed in earlier no longer provide spiritual support. Moreover, the poem is also described by G.S Fraser as the “movement’s prize religion”. It represents the true picture of the post- war Welfare State Englishman. Shabby and not concerned with his appearance’ like poor people who has a bike but not a car, gauche but full of agnostic pity. They are underpaid, underfed, overtaxed, hopeless and bored. In other words, the protagonist of “Church Going” is another variation of the unknown citizen that Auden spoke of in the thirties.

Philip Larkin wrote this poem very technically by following all the rules of poetry elements like; rhyme, metre, stanza etc.

Church Going

By Philip Larkin

Ones 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 then 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 preachment, plate and pyx in locked cases,

And the 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 of other will go on

In gamed, 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 unsplit

So long and equably what since is found

Only in separation – marriage and birth,

And death and thoughts of these – for which it was built

This special shell? For, though I’ve no idea

What this accoutered 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 recognized, 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, once heard, was proper to grow wise in,

If only that so many dead lie around.


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