“Church Going,” a poem of seven nine-line stanzas, is a first-person description of a visit to an empty English country church. The narrator is apparently on a cycling tour (he stops to remove his bicycle clips), a popular activity for British workers on their summer holiday. He has come upon a church and stopped to look inside. Not wishing to participate in a worship service, the visitor checks first to make “sure there’s nothing going on.” He will eventually reveal that he is an agnostic and that his interest in churches is not derived from religious faith.
This church is empty, so he walks in, observing all of the usual accoutrements: “matting, seats, and stone,/ And little books.” His irreverence is captured in his tone as he observes “some brass and stuff/ Up at the holy end.” Yet he is not totally irreverent. He knows that he should take off his hat, but he is not wearing one. Instead, he removes his bicycle clips.
As he moves around the building, he touches the baptismal font, observes the roof, and climbs into the lectern to look at the large-print lectionary. He even plays church for a moment, speaking the words (“Here endeth the lesson”) that are usually announced at the end of each scripture reading. Clearly, he has some familiarity with religious practices. He also knows enough to leave an offering in the alms box at the door of the church. All he leaves, however, is an Irish sixpence, a coin worth less than...
(The entire section is 588 words.)