“Prayer” was written by the Scottish poet Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate of the UK from 2009 to 2019. The poem explores what traditional religious faith can mean in modern society, suggesting that conventional spirituality can be hard to come by while also implying that some forms of faith can be found in the most mundane aspects of daily life. The poem's form mirrors its thematic ideas, as “Prayer” is a contemporary sonnet; it follows some traditional rules of the form while also making the form (like its conception of religious faith) fresh and new. “Prayer” was included in Duffy’s 1993 collection Mean Time.
Some days, although ...
... utters itself.
So, a woman ...
... a sudden gift.
Some nights, although ...
... small familiar pain;
then a man ...
... of a train.
Pray for us ...
... a Midlands town.
Then dusk, and ...
... named their loss.
Darkness outside. Inside, ...
... Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
Audio of Carol Ann Duffy Reading “Prayer” — Listen to Carol Ann Duffy read “Prayer” in this video created by the University of Lincoln in the UK.
Biography of Carol Ann Duffy — Learn more about Carol Ann Duffy’s life and work in this article from the Poetry Foundation.
Carol Ann Duffy on Poetry — Learn more about the personal experiences underlying Duffy's poetry and why she understands poetry as a vocation.
Interview with Carol Ann Duffy — Duffy discusses what it means to be the first woman and first openly LGBTQ writer to be Poet Laureate, and why she regards poetry as the “music of humanity.”
The British Shipping Forecast — Learn more about the British Shipping Forecast—referenced at the end of “Prayer”—and what it means, in this short video from the BBC. This video was created in 2017, the year that marked the 150th anniversary of the Shipping Forecast.
1Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
2utters itself. So, a woman will lift
3her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
4at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.
5Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
6enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
7then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
8in the distant Latin chanting of a train.
9Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
10console the lodger looking out across
11a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
12a child's name as though they named their loss.
13Darkness outside. Inside, the radio's prayer -
14Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.