For nearly a century the quatrain poems of T. S. Eliot, collected in Poems (1920), have
occupied a comparatively peripheral space within the enterprise of Eliot studies. Despite
the frequency with which some of them have been anthologized, these poems have
elicited far fewer critical responses than most of Eliot’s other work. The primary reason
for this neglect is that the quatrain poems are largely regarded as satirical or comical
meanderings that do not conform to the more ‘serious’ agenda of Eliot’s oeuvre. ‘Mr.
Eliot’s Sunday Morning Service’ is a case in point, since it has the appearance of a learned
and almost unintelligible joke. However, it is the aim of this article to demonstrate that
Eliot’s growing indignation with perverted spiritual practices is couched within the satire
of the poem. It is further argued that the poem shows Eliot’s hunger for seriousness to
have grown since ‘The Hippopotamus’, a poem written two years prior which also deals
the corruption of established religion. In this poem, Eliot’s vituperation is sustained and
is ultimately indicative the poet’s distaste for spiritual apathy, a theme which will reach its
zenith some three years later in The Waste Land.