A simple, clear, and delight-producing poem of John Betjeman is Diary of a Church Mouse. The speaker is of course the diarist, a lean and hungry mouse who writes in couplets mostly of iambic tetrameter
The mouse gets by alone most days in a “dark forgotten room” that is a storage place for discarded cassocks and old hassocks. He subsists on eating the pages of discarded prayer books; “sawdust mixed with straw” is as near as he can come to bread, and floor polish is his jelly.
He comments that “Christmas and Easter may be feasts/ For congregations and for priests.”, also Whitsun or Pentecost, which comes seven weeks after Easter. He adds that “For me the only feast at all/ Is Autumn’s ...view middle of the document...
But oddly the church at harvest Festival is filled with people he has never seen all the rest of the year.
The diarist merely finds it “strange to me”, but John Betjeman clearly intends some satire of those who come to church only at Harvest Festival time as a preamble to the secular celebration involving more dining, copious drinking and romance. He also, through the Low Church mouse, manages a dig at the division of the Anglican church.
John Betjeman's “Diary of a Church Mouse” is a satire of religion told through the eyes of a rodent who is more than meets the eye. The poem use rhyming couplets to showcase Betjeman's distinctive comic style.
“Behind this Church of England baize” indicates that the speaker is a follower of Anglicanism. Betjeman himself hailed from England. Confirmation that the author believes in the Eucharist is also found in the last lines of his poem “Christmas”. The speaker is a mouse who admits, "I nibble through old service books”. The mouse lives outside the knowledge of the staff and is naïve about what is really going on. This ignorance will be put to comic effect later in the poem.
Betjeman anthropomorphizes the rodents in the poem with lines such as “…other mice with pagan minds/come into church my food to share/who have no proper business there”. This tool is used to show the hypocrisy of Anglicans who don’t want to share their church with the casual attendees. The mouse who “must starve all year long” feels a sense of ownership and doesn’t like the large rat who questions his religious habits. Betjeman means to poke fun at the scene since all are truly welcome in a place of God.
A second, perhaps more plausible, explanation of the poem’s lines is that less devout attendees are tearing down religion. The poem does support this line of thinking...