Write a critical analysis of the poem "In Church" by the poet Thomas Hardy.

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem "In Church" is representative of Hardy's many religious poems. Thomas Hardy began as a novelist and turned to writing poetry later in life. Hardy wrote with a pessimistic outlook on life not only in his fiction but in his poetry as well.  His characters often are the subject of an unkind and indifferent fate.


The two stanzas follow a set rhyme scheme: A B ABCC. The poem is narrated with a third person point of view. The setting is the auditorium of a church then the vestry to the side of the pulpit.  The poem is straightforward and clear in its diction and vocabulary.  There are three sentences in the poem.

Theme:  A person may not always be exactly who he appears to be. The watcher of the minister who loved and admired him may be impacted by his deceptive manner.  On the other hand, it was only a man looking in the mirror and looking at himself to recall the crowd pleasing servmon.


1st Stanza

The beginning of the poem takes on the feeling of a hymn that praises God.  The minister is powerful; his voice rings to the top of the ceiling.  When the people in the buildings listen to the preacher, they are overcome with emotions. The emotions of the worshipers fill the aisles as they leave for the homes. 

 Then the preaches glides to the vestry door

And shuts it, and thinks to be seen no more.

After the service is over, the minister slips through the vestry door and thinks that he shuts it hoping to have some privacy and time away from the crowd. 

2nd stanza

And a pupil of his in the Bible class

Who adores him as one without gloss or guile,

Sees her idols stand with a satisfied smile

And re-enact at the vestry glass

When the minister thinks that he is alone, he looks in the mirror and begins to re-enact the sermon including his gestures.  He is observed by a girl that takes his Bible class.  Until now she had idolized the minister, thinking that he was pure at heart and natural in his speaking manner.  In her perception of him, he was never deceitful or showed affectation.

The look on his face indicated a prideful smile on his face as he looks in the mirror.


The poem speaks to the two aspects of attending church. The worshipers that day were thrilled by the minister’s preaching.  To them, he was sincere and his words were heartfelt.  He prays to God with his voice rising to the top of the auditorium.

The second aspect holds the surprising part of the equation. When the minister hurriedly slips away from his prisoners, he appears glad to be away from their comments, handshaking, and requests.  The observation of his practiced gestures impacts the girl who loved and admired her minister.  She seems the reality of the sitatuion when the minister watches himself as he pretends to speak to the group. 

Sadly, the statement “Do not judge a book by its cover” works in reverse in the poem.  The minister had been judged as a spiritual guider but in the privacy of his room, is found lacking.

saransnyh | Student

In Church


"And now to God the Father", he ends,

And his voice thrills up to the topmost tiles:

Each listener chokes as he bows and bends,

And emotion pervades the crowded aisles.

Then the preacher glides to the vestry-door,

And shuts it, and thinks he is seen no more.


The door swings softly ajar meanwhile,

And a pupil of his in the Bible class,

Who adores him as one without gloss or guile,

Sees her idol stand with a satisfied smile

And re-enact at the vestry-glass

Each pulpit gesture in deft dumb-show

That had moved the congregation so.


Thomas Hardy

  • its a religious poetry speaks on christianity
  • tells about god annd how he s worshipped