Week-night Service

D.H. Lawrence

‘Week-night Service’ creates a vivid scene of a church at night. The sound of bells disturbs the otherwise quiet church yard and the nature that surrounds it.

Cite

D.H. Lawrence

Nationality: English

D.H. Lawrence was an English writer and an important poet.

His work has been incredibly influential on writers around the world.

Key Poem Information

Central Message: Although noises disturb the peaceful night, they can still be beautiful

Themes: Nature, Spirituality

Speaker: An omniscient observer

Emotions Evoked: Confusion, Laughter

Poetic Form: Narrative

Time Period: 20th Century

'Week-night Service' focuses on imagery rather than plot or message, allows readers to really visualize the scene in detail.

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‘Week-night Service’ is a highly descriptive poem that summons the vivid image of a church at night. D.H. Lawrence uses personification and imagery to bring the scene to life.

‘Week-night Service’ is a short poem about a church’s bells ringing in the dark night. The poem does not feature any human characters. Everything in the work is inanimate, from the bells to the moon, to the night itself. Despite this, the poem feels alive with movement and sound as the bells ring out.

The poem’s meaning is somewhat obscure. It may be a simple representation of a beautiful nighttime scene, both alive and devoid of people. Some readings take a more metaphorical view, suggesting that the poem provides a political critique of capitalism and industrialization. Like all good poems, ‘Week-night Service’ provides a space for readers to draw their own conclusions.

Week-night Service
D. H. Lawrence

The five old bellsAre hurrying and eagerly calling,Imploring, protestingThey know, but clamorously fallingInto gabbling incoherence, never resting,Like spattering showers from a bursten sky-rocket droppingIn splashes of sound, endlessly, never stopping.

The silver moonThat somebody has spun so highTo settle the question, yes or no, has caughtIn the net of the night’s balloon,And sits with a smooth bland smile up there in the skySmiling at naught,Unless the winking star that keeps her companyMakes little jests at the bells’ insanity,As if he knew aught!

The patient NightSits indifferent, hugged in her rags,She neither knows nor caresWhy the old church sobs and brags;The light distresses her eyes, and tearsHer old blue cloak, as she crouches and covers her face,Smiling, perhaps, if we knew it, at the bells’ loud clattering disgrace.

The wise old treesDrop their leaves with a faint, sharp hiss of contempt,While a car at the end of the street goes by with a laugh;As by degreesThe poor bells cease, and the Night is exempt,And the stars can chaffThe ironic moon at their ease, while the dim old churchIs peopled with shadows and sounds and ghosts that lurchIn its cenotaph.


Summary

‘Week-night Service’ by D.H. Lawrence is an expressive and descriptive poem with a lot of personality.

The poem begins by describing the clamorous sound of church bells ringing. There are multiple bells, so the sound never stops. They overlap in a cacophony. High above, the moon has risen in the sky. The sound of the bells seems distant from the placid moon.

The night, personified as a woman, is disturbed by the light and sounds of the church. At last, the sound of the bells comes to an end, and the forest around the church becomes peaceful once more.

‘Week-night Service’ does not feature any human characters, including its speaker. The speaker is instead an omniscient observer rather than an ordinary person watching the scene unfold. The poem does not follow a narrative, instead depicting in detail a brief moment in time.

Structure and Form

‘Week-night Service’ consists of four stanzas. The first and third stanzas have seven lines, while the second and fourth have nine lines. There is a regular rhyme scheme, but because the lines vary in length, it is not immediately obvious. The first and third stanzas follow a rhyme scheme of ABCBCDD, while the second and fourth follow the pattern ABCABCDDC.

The poem uses its rhyming sounds and repeated but inconsistent rhythms to echo the sound and rhythm of the church bells. The words of the poem often feel as though they are tripping over each other, creating chaotic connections across each stanza. Through this creative use of form, Lawrence has developed a clear connection between the structure of the poem and its content.

Literary Devices

Lawrence makes use of several literary devices in ‘Week-night Service.’ These include but are not limited to:

  • Personification: applying human characteristics to non-human entities. ‘Week-night Service’ uses personification extensively. The bells are “hurrying and eagerly calling” (line 2); the moon has “a bland smile” (line 12); the star “makes little jests” (line 15). Most notably, the night is personified as a woman in a ragged blue cloak. In the last stanza, the trees feel “contempt” (line 25), and the car “goes by with a laugh” (line 26).
  • Simile: comparing two unlike things that use “like” or “as.” The sound of the bells is compared to a fireworks rocket. This comparison links the sound of the bells to the visuals of fireworks in the sky, creating more sensory imagery.
  • Enjambment: two or more lines that flow into each other without punctuation or pause. Many lines in ‘Week-night Service’ feature enjambment. This continuity between the lines echoes the overlapping sounds of the bells.
  • Consonance: the repetition of consonant sounds. The repeated “-ing” verbs in the first stanza are a good example of consonance. The poem uses a lot of repeated sounds to create continuity and to imitate the chaotic sound of the church bells on the otherwise quiet night.


Detailed Analysis

Stanza One

The five old bells
Are hurrying and eagerly calling,
Imploring, protesting
They know, but clamorously falling
Into gabbling incoherence, never resting,
Like spattering showers from a bursten sky-rocket dropping
In splashes of sound, endlessly, never stopping.

‘Week-night Service’ opens with the sound of church bells ringing. The bells form the central sensory imagery for the poem. The church has five bells, and all of them are ringing at once. The sounds overlap each other so that there are no periods of silence, only noise. The speaker of the poem remains anonymous and is simply a presence observing these bells.

This stanza does not provide any visual descriptions of the poem’s environment, relying solely on sound to set the scene. The bells are described as people who are desperate to be heard. They are calling out, imploring, and protesting, claiming to have the answer to some unspoken question. The speaker compares the bells’ sound to the visual of a firework exploding in the sky. The entire stanza has a busy, inescapable feeling to it.

Stanza Two

The silver moon
That somebody has spun so high
To settle the question, yes or no, has caught
In the net of the night’s balloon,
And sits with a smooth bland smile up there in the sky
Smiling at naught,
Unless the winking star that keeps her company
Makes little jests at the bells’ insanity,
As if he knew aught!

Moving away from the church bells, the second stanza of ‘Week-night Service’ focuses instead on the sky. The moon hangs in the dark night sky, appearing to smile at nothing. A star nearby appears to keep the moon company. The speaker suggests that the moon and star might be joking together about the sound of the bells.

Like the first stanza, this part of the poem raises the topic of an unanswered question. The moon is compared to a coin flip: if it lands on heads, the answer is yes; on tails, and the answer is no. Instead of falling and providing an answer, the moon remains in the sky. Like the bells, the star seems to claim to have the answer but is probably also mistaken. This ongoing personification creates a sense that there is more to this nighttime landscape than there appears.

Stanza Three

The patient Night
Sits indifferent, hugged in her rags,
She neither knows nor cares
Why the old church sobs and brags;
The light distresses her eyes, and tears
Her old blue cloak, as she crouches and covers her face,
Smiling, perhaps, if we knew it, at the bells’ loud clattering disgrace.

In the poem’s third stanza, the speaker’s focus shifts once more to the night itself. The night is personified as a woman wearing ragged clothes. Instead of trying to find the answer to the question, she remains patient and indifferent, neither knowing nor caring what the other inanimate characters in the poem are discussing. She covers her face to hide from the light, either of the moon or of the church, but she may be smiling.

The night’s perspective seems to be the wisest one, according to the speaker of ‘Week-night Service.’ The night is the only element of the poem to be vividly personified in an actual human form. Her expression as she hides her face is also the only detail that the speaker of the poem cannot see: it is unclear whether or not she is smiling at the sound of the bells. This stanza points to the wisdom of the natural world and the futility of a quest for easy answers.

Stanza Four

The wise old trees
Drop their leaves with a faint, sharp hiss of contempt,
While a car at the end of the street goes by with a laugh;
As by degrees
The poor bells cease, and the Night is exempt,
And the stars can chaff
The ironic moon at their ease, while the dim old church
Is peopled with shadows and sounds and ghosts that lurch
In its cenotaph.

In the final lines of ‘Week-night Service,’ the scope of the poem expands slightly to include the forest around the church. When a car drives by, making a loud noise, the trees feel contempt toward it. At last, the church bells stop ringing, letting the night settle into peaceful quiet once again. The stars and the moon continue their interactions in an unhurried manner. Although the church is now quiet, it is not empty: it is full of ghosts, shadows, and sounds.

This poem ends on an ambiguous note. None of the questions raised ever get easy answers. It seems that the natural world, including the trees, the moon, and the stars, value silence in the nighttime. It is only the Night herself who may understand the reason for the ringing bells in the first place. Though the poem never makes explicit the purpose of the titular week-night church service, the final lines’ reference to ghosts suggests that the event may have been a funeral.

FAQs

What is the tone of ‘Week-night Service’ by D.H. Lawrence?

The tone of the poem is removed and exploratory. It is not emotionally invested in what is happening but rather explores the events with a more objective and removed tone.

Who is the speaker of ‘Week-night Service’ by D.H. Lawrence?

The speaker of the poem is not clearly defined. It could be a person observing the scene or an omniscient observer simply describing events.

What does the title of ‘Week-night Service’ by D.H. Lawrence mean?

The title of the poem refers to the event that is taking place. The church bells are ringing because there is a church service going on. However, the poem is really about the sounds of the church in the night, not about the service itself.

How does D.H. Lawrence use imagery in ‘Week-night Service’?

This poem is primarily conveyed through imagery. By taking human characters out of the equation, Lawrence pushes readers to focus on the sights and sounds of the church and of the natural world instead of centering a human perspective.


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Sasha Blakeley Poetry Expert
About
Sasha Blakeley is an experienced poetry expert with a BA in English Literature from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. With a focus on Romanticism, Sasha has extensive knowledge and a passion for English Literature and Poetry. She is a published poet and has written hundreds of high-quality analyses of poems and other literary works.

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