Slowly the women file to where he stands
Upright in rimless glasses, silver hair,
Dark suit, white collar. Stewards tirelessly
Persuade them onwards to his voice and hands,
Within whose warm spring rain of loving care
Each dwells some twenty seconds. Now, dear child,
What’s wrong, the deep American voice demands,
And, scarcely pausing, goes into a prayer
Directing God about this eye, that knee.
Their heads are clasped abruptly; then, exiled
Like losing thoughts, they go in silence; some
Sheepishly stray, not back into their lives
Just yet; but some stay stiff, twitching and loud
With deep hoarse tears, as if a kind of dumb
And idiot child within them still survives
To re-awake at kindness, thinking a voice
At last calls them alone, that hands have come
To lift and lighten; and such joy arrives
Their thick tongues blort, their eyes squeeze grief, a crowd
Of huge unheard answers jam and rejoice—
What’s wrong! Moustached in flowered frocks they shake:
By now, all’s wrong. In everyone there sleeps
A sense of life lived according to love.
To some it means the difference they could make
By loving others, but across most it sweeps
As all they might have done had they been loved.
That nothing cures. An immense slackening ache,
As when, thawing, the rigid landscape weeps,
Spreads slowly through them—that, and the voice above
Saying Dear child, and all time has disproved.
Summary of Faith Healing
- Popularity of “Faith Healing”: Written by Philip Larkin, “Faith Healing” explores the concept of faith and the human desire for a cure. The poem first appeared in Larkin’s 1964 collection, The Whitsun Weddings. Since then, it has become one of his most popular works. In the poem, Larkin describes a faith-healing ceremony where people gather in hopes of being cured of their ailments. However, he portrays the scene as one of desperation and hopelessness, suggesting that faith healing is a futile attempt to find a cure for the inevitable pains of life. The poem’s popularity can be attributed to its insightful commentary on the human condition and its poignant exploration of the limitations of faith.
- “Faith Healing” As a Representative of Human Nature: “Faith Healing” can be seen as a representation of human nature in the sense that it highlights our desire to find a cure for the pains and sufferings of life. The poem describes a faith-healing ceremony where people gather in hopes of finding relief from their ailments. This desire for a cure is a fundamental aspect of human nature, as human beings are all prone to illness and suffering. However, Larkin portrays the scene as one of desperation and hopelessness, suggesting that our attempts to find a cure may ultimately be futile. This reflects the often-futile nature of our attempts to control our lives and the outcomes of our actions. Thus, “Faith Healing” can be seen as a reminder of the limitations of our human nature and our attempts to find meaning and relief in the face of suffering.
- Major Themes in “Faith Healing”: “Faith Healing” explores various major themes, including the human desire for a cure, the limitations of faith, and the inevitability of suffering. The poem portrays a faith healing ceremony where people gather in hopes of finding a cure for their ailments. This desire for a cure reflects the human need to find relief from the pains and sufferings of life. Larkin suggests that faith healing may be a futile attempt to find a cure, highlighting the limitations of faith in providing a solution to the problems of life. It also highlights the inevitability of suffering and the fact that nothing may ultimately cure it. Even those who have loved deeply may still experience an immense slackening ache, which spreads slowly through them, and that time has disproved the effectiveness of faith healing and other attempts to find relief from suffering. Therefore, “Faith Healing” is a poignant exploration of the human condition, highlighting the limitations of our attempts to control the outcomes of our lives and the inevitability of suffering.
Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Faith Healing
Philip Larkin used a variety of literary devices to augment the desired effects of his poem “Faith Healing”. By using these literary devices, Larkin creates a powerful and insightful reflection on the human condition, as shown through this analysis.
- Allusion: It is a reference to a well-known person, place, event, or work of literature or art. The example of “The deep American voice” (line 7) alludes to the stereotypical image of an American faith healer, often seen in movies and television shows.
- Assonance: It is the repetition of vowel sounds within words that are close together. The example of “Each dwells some twenty seconds” (line 6) shows the repetition of the /e/ sound creates a musical quality to the line.
- Consonance: It is the repetition of consonant sounds within or at the end of words. In “Their thick tongues blort” (line 19) the repetition of the “t” and “k” sounds in “thick,” “tongues,” and “blort” creates a harsh, guttural quality to the line.
- Enjambment: It is the continuation of a sentence or thought from one line of poetry to the next without a pause. The example of “Their heads are clasped abruptly; then, exiled / Like losing thoughts, they go in silence” (lines 10-11) shows enjambment between these two lines creating a sense of suddenness and tension.
- Hyperbole: It is the exaggeration for emphasis or effect. The example of “A crowd / Of huge unheard answers jam and rejoice” (lines 20) shows Larkin using hyperbole to emphasize the emotional impact of the faith healer’s words.
- Imagery: It is the use of descriptive language that creates a sensory experience for the reader. The example of “Within whose warm spring rain of loving care” (line 5) shows the use of imagery of “warm spring rain” creates a positive, nurturing image of the faith healer’s touch.
- Irony: It is a contrast between what is expected and what actually happens or is said. The example of “What’s wrong!” (line 21) shows the faith healer’s question, which is expected to elicit a specific answer or confession. It is ironic because it is met with a general sense of confusion and despair.
- Metaphor: It is a comparison between two things that are not literally alike, often using “is” or “was.” For example, “An immense slackening ache, / As when, thawing, the rigid landscape weeps” (lines 27-28) shows the use of the metaphor of a “slackening ache” compared to the thawing of a rigid landscape.
- Personification: It gives human qualities or characteristics to non-human things. The example of “As all they might have done had they been loved” (line 26) shows Larkin personifying the concept of love, suggesting that it has the power to guide and shape our actions.
- Symbolism: It is the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities. In “Faith Healing,” the act of faith healing itself becomes a symbol of the human need for love and acceptance.
Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Faith Healing
While poetic devices fall under the umbrella of literary devices, certain aspects of them exhibit distinct qualities and establish the tone of poems and convey underlying messages. The analysis of these poetic devices is given below.
- Diction: It is the choice and use of words and phrases in speech or writing. In “Faith Healing,” Philip Larkin’s diction conveys a tone of skepticism and cynicism towards faith healing, as seen in the word choice of “persuade” in line 4 and “deep hoarse tears” in line 14.
- End Rhyme: It is the repetition of identical or similar sounds at the end of two or more words. Although this poem does not follow strict end rhyme, some lines rhyme with each other such as lines 1 and 4 and then lines 2 and 5, and so on.
- Meter: It is a recurring pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in lines of a poem. “Faith Healing” by Philip Larkin does not follow a consistent meter, but the lines vary in length and syllable count.
- Rhyme Scheme: It is the pattern of end rhymes in a poem. The poem follows an ABCABDEBEF rhyme scheme in each stanza.
- Poem Type: “Faith Healing” by Philip Larkin is a free verse poem, which means it does not have a regular rhyme or meter pattern as each stanza has a different rhyme scheme.
- Stanza: It is a unit of poetry having certain verses. The poem is divided into three stanzas, with each having ten verses.
- Tone: The author’s attitude or feeling towards the subject matter. In Faith Healing, Philip Larkin’s tone is skeptical and cynical towards the practice of faith healing. The language used in the poem, such as “sheepishly stray” in line 12 and “huge unheard answers jam and rejoice” in line 20, conveys a tone of doubt and disbelief.
Quotes to be Used
This quote can be used to describe a feeling of overwhelming sadness or disappointment after a long period of stagnation or hardship.
An immense slackening ache,
as when, thawing, the rigid landscape weeps.