The poem is about a group of women who go to see a faith healer about their physical disabilities. The faith healer is an intimidating and american who briefly prays for each woman. After they have been prayed for, they are so overcome with emotion they become childlike.
After the healing session it occurs to the women that their lives are lacking love and that if they had recieved or given more love the would have a better quality of life. This pains them and so they use Gods love as a substitue.
However Larkin watches over this pessimistically and feels that this is an unrealistic expectation and feels that also 'time has disproved' this possibility of love curing everything.
Rhyme scheme is ABCABDABCD in all 3 stanzas, This shows the uniformity of the women and how simular they all are.
Each stanza ends with a powerful word that breaks up the stanzas bringing attention to each one. "Exiled" causes a break that allows the reader to feel the same lonelyness and rejection the women briefly feel. "rejoice" allows the reader to pause and see the irony of using a usually happy and religious word to point out the downfall and dissapointment of the session.
"Slowly" Women present a wary or skeptical front. This is enforced by the stewards having to "pursuade" the women in as if theyare unwilling participents.
"rimless glasses" "silver hair" The faith healer appears to be rich, a higher being.
"deep american voice" - Warms lovers voice "Dear child"- Mothers voice "Clasped" their heads - caring like a father. The Faith healer is presented asthese 3 influentical figures which makes the women and reader feel at ease.
Irony of "warm spring rain" (deep, developed and safe, love and care) being paired with "dwells for some twenty seconds" as this createsa rushed and impersonal mood. "dwell" is also a passive and uninterested stance. He "scarcely pauses" between hearing their problem and begining to pray, this again creates an impersonal mood that is reenforced bythecasual reffural to "this eye, that knee" These actions createan arrocancy in the healer to the point he possibly sees himself as an equal to God as he is "directing" Gods powers, also the women are described as moving sheepishly which suggests the Faith healer is a shepard.
Women leave "twitching and loud" and have agreatrush of grattitude towards the Healer, much like a childs love to a parent. They also loose control of their emotions and speech "tongues blort" as if they are an "idiot child" They also develop the innocence and optimism of a child when they "reawaken at kindness" and believe there is only good in the world.
This epiphany is a responce to their new found identity as they believe God "calls them alone" and will lift and lighten" their lives. Their innocence doesn't last, however, as the y "squeeze grief" from their eyes as they are aware this blissful moment is no more than an illusion.
3rd Stanza starts with a question that is punctuated with an exclamation mark suggesting it is a statement of disbelief. This refers to the later statement "All's wrong" as they now have a damaged emotional state because they have descovered the sense of a "life lived acording to love" And are now tormented of the fact if they had loved or been loved more their lives would be better.
This creates and "immense slackening ache" That they try to satisfy with Gods love, unfortunately Larkin believes that "all time has disproved" this possibility.
Themes and Abse
Illusion and reality
Faith and Belief
Abse Poems to compare to
Uncle Isidore - Finding faith
Sunny Prestatyn - Vent feelings at a fake source