Louis Macneice

(12 September 1907 – 3 September 1963 / Belfast)

Prayer Before Birth - Poem by Louis Macneice

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.

I am not yet born, console me.
I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me,
with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me,
on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.

I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk
to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light
in the back of my mind to guide me.

I am not yet born; forgive me
For the sins that 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,
my life when they murder by means of my
hands, my death when they live me.

I am not yet born; rehearse me
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 calls
me to doom and the beggar refuses
my gift and my children curse me.

I am not yet born; O hear me,
Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God
come near 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.

Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
Otherwise kill me.

Comments about Prayer Before Birth by Louis Macneice

  • Rookie Brian Mulundu (11/23/2015 6:38:00 PM)

    I was taught that peom by our english teacher Mrs M. Viogts (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
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  • Gold Star - 69,382 Points Fabrizio Frosini (11/11/2015 1:10:00 PM)

    '' In the poem, Louis MacNeice expresses his fear at what the world's tyranny can do to the innocence of a child and blames the human race for the sins that in me the world shall commit. The poem also contains many religious themes and overtones through the use of double-imagery; the child could be seen as a metaphor for Christ, making reference to certain themes and events said to have occurred during his ministry on earth.

    There is great use of alliteration and assonance: strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me to create rhythm in the poem. Also repetition of I am not yet born is used to emphasise innocence. MacNeice also talks of being a cog in a machine - this shows that he feels that society will mould the child to become part of everything else around him, he will be worthless, insignificant and merely a part of an entire collaboration. ''

    The poem is an agonized plea from the mouth of an unborn infant in its mother's womb. The child seeks protection from the Divine and begs forgiveness for all the deeds of evil that it shall commit once it is out of the mother's protective care. Dramatic in intensity, the poem makes a sweeping statement on the deplorable state of the world. Living is a painful experience, being born is a terrifying one. The child's plea is a representation of the poet's anguish, grief and fear in a world that has steadily metamorphosed into a hell. The poet paints a picture of a world devoid of compassion, love and remorse through the haunting appeal of the unborn infant. The poem reflects the poet's utter dejection and hopelessness expressing the thought that the world will not correct itself, but perpetuate its evils in an ever-ascending spiraling pattern of violence. The foregone conclusion that the child will live a life of treason and its apology proffered in advance for its death after it has lived as a lethal automaton, offers a picture of a world akin to nothing but hell. [from WIKIPEDIA] (Report) Reply

  • Silver Star - 4,260 Points Soumita Sarkar (9/6/2015 9:49:00 AM)

    Excellent piece of write that..... the poet has delineated the age of mechanical slavery to the hardened humanity.....let not me born in such an age....where my death lives me...Thanks....Poets like you have kept hope alive for redemption. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Jeremy Waldron (6/29/2015 1:57:00 PM)

    Wow! I just looked it up, jogged by memory. My twelfth grade class studied it at school (long ago and far away, in the late 1960s, public high school in New Zealand.) (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 2,190 Points Kay Staley (10/6/2014 11:10:00 AM)

    Love the language and alliteration and the unique style. Think how hard it would be to write something like this that actually made sense, as good as this one does! (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 1,536 Points Briony Nicholls (8/30/2014 10:30:00 AM)

    This is a brilliant poem that I will keep re-reading to gain more of its multi-faceted insights into how we are moulded and created. Unfortunately it is just as piercingly relevant today as it was back in 1944. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Stefania Hadjipalou (3/14/2014 5:47:00 AM)

    I luv dis poemtree! ! ! ! tis xcellen! ! AMAZBALLZ - I ride sum poemtree meself i will post sun
    Manyy tanks (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Fiona Powell (12/5/2013 6:12:00 PM)

    Still my favourite poem from when I first read it as a teenager 35 years ago. It is as relevant now - if not more so - than when it was first written in 1944. Check out more of MacNeice's stuff - it's very modern in thought, imagery and words. Bagpipe Music is another famous one. (Report) Reply

  • Silver Star - 3,224 Points Babatunde Aremu (10/6/2013 2:38:00 PM)

    Fantastic poem. I like the style (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 47 Points Pandora Johnson (9/20/2013 3:37:00 AM)

    Powerful evocative and captivating....WOW! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Sridatta Gupta (10/7/2012 10:44:00 PM)

    loved it.amazing expression (Report) Reply

  • Silver Star - 4,048 Points Kevin Patrick (10/6/2012 7:14:00 PM)

    Our Identity is influenced by a combination of genetics and environment, it impacts us and shapes us to be what we are, what I like about this is that Mr Macneice is feeling the conundrum of being something that he is not entirely comfortable with, he exists but is not alive as an entity of his own will but as an impulse of the greater world. He is trying to be a man without being compromised by the greater social order. At least thats how I interpret it, either way it’s a wonderful modern poem that says what it wants and can be read with thoughtful understanding. Regards (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Susanta Pattnayak (10/6/2012 7:20:00 AM)

    I am not yet born; O hear me....console me.... provide me....forgive me....rehearse me......
    ... O fill me
    With strength against those who would freeze my
    Otherwise kill me.

    Simply, I love the poem! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Nathi Vusi (3/19/2012 12:12:00 AM)

    This is a beautiful poem. I love it. I can almost hear the poet's thoughts while writing this poem, so strong and meaningful. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie H Fm (2/6/2010 7:23:00 PM)

    I love this poem - I must agree with Maureen, it has stayed with me for many years.
    Strange as this request might appear, I am looking for a serious translation of it into Polish if anyone can help?

    Many thanks
    H :) (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Maureen Travers (4/15/2007 1:41:00 PM)

    I first read this poem many years ago. It has stayed with me ever since (as all the best poems do) and I believe it has influenced my personal philosophy. I think that people have much more influence on other people, other creatures, the world, than many of us would like to believe. We all affect those around us just by being on earth. As a novice poet myself, I hope that someday my words may have a profound effect on at least one person. Surely that makes anyone's life worthwhile? (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: murder, water, strength, birth, children, fear, sky, death, light, world, god, child, tree

Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003

Poem Edited: Wednesday, September 21, 2011

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