Home  »  Fairies and Fusiliers  »  39. A Boy in Church

Robert Graves (1895–1985). Fairies and Fusiliers. 1918.

39. 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.