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To Go
Church Going
Church Going
by Philip Larkin

Sound Check

Read this poem aloud. What do you hear?

All in all, the poem sounds conversational, as though the speaker is just talking to us. Larkin is really good at making highly crafted language sound casual and almost spontaneous. He doesn't leave many obvious traces of the months of work that he would've put into writing this poem. He establishes this conversational sound from the very first line, having his speaker say, "Once I am sure there's nothing going on" (1). It's a broad, vague ("nothing going on") kind of way to conversationally introduce the poem. A later phrase in this same stanza has him talking about "some brass and stuff/ Up at the holy end" (5-6). It's hard to believe that a line like this is written in very strict iambic pentameter and is part of a larger stanza with a complex rhyme scheme. In this way, Larkin seems to use the contrast of sound and form in this poem to suggest that, even if we are casually non-religious in our daily lives, there might at times actually be a higher "plan" to these lives. It can just be difficult to recognize unless we look closely.

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