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Analysis Of Prayer Before Birth By Louis MacNeice

“Prayer Before Birth” by Louis MacNeice is such a fictive poem where the voice of the poem (an unborn child) speaks to the readers by introducing himself and his varying demands in form of refrain in lines 1 and 25 “I am not yet born; O hear me” in line 8 “I am not yet born; provide me” in line 12 “I am not yet born; forgive me” in line 18 “I am not yet born; rehearse me” in line 28 “I am not yet born; O fill me” . All through the 8 stanzas of the poem, the readers can relate with the unborn child’s pleases and displeases _ the child detests danger and irritation (Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the club-footed ghoul come near me), confinements (I fear that human race may with tall walls wall me), he detests being deceived (with wise lies lure me), hardship or sufferings (on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me).

Even before birth, the readers have known the things the poem speaker will love to enjoy on earth; according the passionate crafting of MacNeice, the unborn child loves nature:
“I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to tall
to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light
in the back of my mind to guide me.”

The unborn child loves to be forgiven of his wrongs. Considering that alone shows the level of imperfection in humans. The child admitted that his innocence won’t last forever (for the sins in me the world shall commit, my words when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me, my treason engendered by traitors beyond me…). Guidance is another thing requested by the unborn child (in the parts I must play and the cues I must take when old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white waves call me to folly and the desert call me to doom and the beggar refuses my gift and my children curse me)

Stanza 7 of the poem shows the unborn child is not just willing to be pampered on earth, he's ready to fight for a great course which made the child demanded being strengthened against his or her enemies. He backed his reasons for fighting for survival in the last stanza of the poem (Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me. Otherwise kill me)

"I am not yet born; O fill me
With strength against those who would freeze my
humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton,
would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with
one face, a thing, and against all those
who would dissipate my entirety, would
blow me like thistledown hither and
thither or hither and thither
like water held in the
hands would spill me."(according to stanza 7)

Three of the themes are (1) Imperfection; this prompted Louis MacNeice to craft the poem knowing that earth is an imperfect place where living beings battle the anomalies
of life. He placed such in the mouth of the unborn; the walling, the hectoring, the luring, the mocking, and so on. (2) Fear and anxiety; the tone of the unborn child is full of fear. Mainly the fear of rampant dangers, exploitations and sufferings on earth (on black rack me, in blood-baths roll me.) In the first stanza the poem speaker put out his fear thus:
"I am not yet born; O hear me.
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the
club-footed ghoul come near me." (3) Attention; this is also among the themes in the poem hearing the unborn child calling at the reader repeatedly. He demanded that the listeners or perhaps an abstract entity come to his aid as to make his living on earth a perfect one.

It is mentioned that refrain and repetition are device used by the poet to beautify his poetic craft. It must be said that other poetic devices surfaced which are alliteration for instance "bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the club-footed ghouls", personification seen in the poem are "sky to sing to me, birds and a white light in the back of my mind to guide me" and synecdoche where "mind" in the expression (the back of my mind) is used to represent the whole of the unborn child.


Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)
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