Philip Larkin: Poems

Ambiguities of Religion: A Comparison of Philip Larkin’s ‘Church Going’ and George Herbert’s ‘Prayer.’ 12th Grade

Philip Larkin’s ‘Church Going’ and George Herbert’s ‘Prayer’ present similarities in that they both explore the ambiguities of religion. The difference lies in their approach: Herbert contemplates the significance of religion, whereas Larkin, almost three centuries later, contemplates its very existence. The content and thematic elements of these poems perhaps differ so greatly due to the period they were written and published. Larkin first published ‘Church Going’ in the 1950’s, a relatively modern era where religion and the concept of a ‘God’ was beginning to be widely questioned. In comparison, Herbert composed his poem in the late 1600’s, shortly after the Tudor reign. At this point in history, religion was a much more commonplace part of people’s everyday lives, meaning that his poem assumes that religion will always be an established institution. It is interesting to consider that this may be why the two poems differ so much in content. However, this essay will also discuss how the two poets differ in their narration and choice of language to create these two opposing views.

Both these poems are based on the views of a narrator regarding religion. Therefore, to alter these views, the poets present two very different...

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