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Church Going

Written by: Philip Larkin | Biography
 | Quotes (80) |
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 cylce-clips in awkward revrence 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 pronouce 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 touvh 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 butress sky.
A shape less recognisable each week A purpose more obscure.
I wonder who Will be the last the very last to seek This place for whta 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 grown-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 which 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 recognisd 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.
1955



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