Robert Graves

(1895 - 1985 / London / England)

A Boy in Church


“Gabble-gabble,… brethren,… gabble-gabble!”
My window frames forest and heather.
I hardly hear the tuneful babble,
Not knowing nor much caring whether
The text is praise or exhortation,
Prayer or thanksgiving, or damnation.

Outside it blows wetter and wetter,
The tossing trees never stay still.
I shift my elbows to catch better
The full round sweep of heathered hill.
The tortured copse bends to and fro
In silence like a shadow-show.

The parson’s voice runs like a river
Over smooth rocks. I like this church:
The pews are staid, they never shiver,
They never bend or sway or lurch.
“Prayer,” says the kind voice, “is a chain
That draws down Grace from Heaven again.”

I add the hymns up, over and over,
Until there’s not the least mistake.
Seven-seventy-one. (Look! there’s a plover!
It’s gone!) Who’s that Saint by the lake?
The red light from his mantle passes
Across the broad memorial brasses.

It’s pleasant here for dreams and thinking,
Lolling and letting reason nod,
With ugly serious people linking
Sad prayers to a forgiving God….
But a dumb blast sets the trees swaying
With furious zeal like madmen praying.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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