He should make use of water.

Could Philip Larkin have intuited something that he did not personally encounter, about faith and life? The images he presents in the poem below evoke the reality of the ancient and present sacramental church I know, which doesn’t need to be constructed, because it was born at Pentecost by a sousing of the Holy Spirit Himself.

I’ve kept Larkin’s poem in my drafts for months, hoping to collect a few thoughts and sentences that would properly introduce it on the occasion of Theophany, that wonderful commemoration of water and light and the Incarnation. Here we are at the feast, so let’s just go to the poem:

WATER

If I were called in
To construct a religion
I should make use of water.

Going to church
Would entail a fording
To dry, different clothes;

My liturgy would employ
Images of sousing,
A furious devout drench,

And I should raise in the east
A glass of water
Where any-angled light
Would congregate endlessly.

-Philip Larkin

5 thoughts on “He should make use of water.

    1. Granny, I don’t know that he was an atheist. He called himself an agnostic, “An Anglican agnostic.” He saw a lot of beauty in the church, in the faith. And of course, like all humans, his heart wanted to believe. Overall he was bleak and despairing, and I imagine that the “sehnsucht” that C.S. Lewis talks about provided some inspiration. Longing.

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