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Founding a religion

December 30, 2018

Sleep or water?

Hugo Williams’ lovely poem Religion, from his 2009 collection West End Final, imagines setting one up. It’s a gentle homage to Philip Larkin’s even finer Water (1954). Isn’t Larkin’s “If I were called in to construct a religion”, a great opening?

Religion by Hugo Williams

If it were up to me
I would make use of sleep.
Going to church
would involve a flight of stairs
to a familiar bedroom,
where a broken alarm clock told the time.
The spreading of sheets,
the turning down of blankets,
would be followed by the drawing of curtains
in broad daylight,
the ritual of undressing.

Members of my religion
would be encouraged to sleep in
on Monday mornings
and any other morning they felt like it,
with no questions asked.
Sleep notes would be provided.
Couples would be authorised
to pull the covers over their heads
and spend their days tucked up
in cosy confessionals,
where all their sins would be forgiven.

Water by Philip Larkin

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.


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