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Prayer Before Birth

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WinRrule
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PostSubject: Prayer Before Birth Tue Mar 02, 2010 9:48 am

Can anyone pls post notes for "Prayer Before Birth" poem?
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PostSubject: Re: Prayer Before Birth Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:16 am

In the poem ‘Prayer before Birth’, the poet Louise MacNeice has drawn a picture of a corrupt, hateful and devilish world. Comment on the poetic devices and linguistic techniques he has used to create this image. Support your views with substantial evidence.

In prayer before birth, Louis MacNeice uses a baby to convey his thoughts and emotions on the current state of the world. MacNeice wishes to emphasize how harsh and ruthless the world is, and how it can strip away a young unborn baby of its innocence. The poem, ‘Prayer Before Birth’ is a dramatic monologue giving voice to a child in the womb, as yet unspoiled by the ways of the world he is about to enter, and a clean slate on which the world will write his fate.
The poem is set out like an appeal, a cry for help. The title itself, using the word "prayer" shows that the baby is trying to get help for something which troubles him- which raises a question; why would a soon-to-be born fetus that has its whole life strewn in front of it be worrying about ‘sins’ that he hasn’t even gotten the chance to commit. We find it strange that a fetus has the ability to think or even ‘narrate’ such a poem, suggesting how even though he isn’t yet subjected to it, the evil omen outside is so intense that he could sense it from within his mother’s womb.
The poem flows from stanza to stanza in a rapid incantation of all the possible dangers the child may face beginning with the creatures of fable and nightmare, and moving on rapidly to include the horrors created by humanity.
The most relevant technique that MacNeice uses is the irregular structure of the poem. Although it is presented as a prayer, the subject matter is contrasted to be vulgar, morbid and violent, heightening the effect all the more. The varied length of the stanzas and lines is a mere reflection of the chaos in the world. The deterioration of humanity is effectively brought out through the cascading lines in the poem – we are left with the feeling that with every second that passes by, the world is falling apart and humanity is losing its meaning. Overall, the unusual, irregular structure mirrors the lack of connectivity or even reasoning between humans in the world.
All through the poem, MacNeice makes great use of alliteration. He creates very devilish death imagery when he asks for protection against the ‘bloodsucking bat’ and fears that humanity may in ‘blood baths roll him’. This conveys the child’s morbid interest in death even before birth, as a reaction to the eerie atmosphere out in the world. It also suggests the atrocious scene that war has created, also referring to the corruption in the community.
Moreover, MacNeice uses repetition to further convey his worry from the hateful world. The most frequently repeated words are ‘I’ and ‘me’ suggesting a fear of his own mankind. He also constantly repeats the statement ‘O Hear Me’ And ‘O fill Me’, suggesting how the amount off channeled hate from the world is too intense for an innocent baby to handle-almost as if letting out a cry or plea for help. The statement ‘I am not yet born’ is also repeated quite frequently, showing the innocence of the child as contrasted to the devilish world outside. The technique gives the child’s prayer more power as it emphasizes his emotion and brings his fears to life.
Another effective device used by MacNeice is contrast where he creates an image of nature, when asking God to provide him with ‘grass to grow’ and ‘trees to talk to [him]’. These images are related to the positive side of the world, bringing out more clearly the piling up corruption surrounding humans.
A further relevant use of this device is related to the poem’s rhyme scheme – although it sounds like a childish rhyme, the subject it deals with is that of great matter. The regular rhyme scheme is brought to live with the internal rhyme in many statements like ‘tall walls wall me’ – not only does this effect add to the pace of the poem, it also reflects on the fast paced movement of life and the regular ‘killing’ scheme that seemed to be going on during that time of war.
Furthermore, MacNeice uses synaesthesia when expressing his fear of the ‘human race’ that they might with ‘black racks rack’ him – this phrase is symbolic of the evil in the world as the dark colour, black, brings out more efficiently how the cruel world has done nothing but brought about violence and destruction in all those who live it.
Additionally, MacNeice uses personification when he mentions how ‘mountains frown at him’ – a disturbing image is created in our minds for even the only hope a person could resort to when all other hope is lost is nature – but now, even nature seemed to have deserted him.
All through the poem, MacNeice effectively creates evil, devilish images at every point. Right at the opening, he associates the world’s corruption with plagues by ‘the rat or the stoat’. The symbolisms of these animals which hint on decay reflect the decadent state of the world, and the presence of evil which lingers and continues to feed upon our humanity. Moreover, the “bloodsucking bat” signifies parasites that do exist amongst us; those with diabolical intents who live on the hard work of others without giving anything in return. The world seems to be infested with vermin and the poet tries to open our eyes to the wicked reality.
MacNeice controls the pace with great charm through punctuation, especially at the end of the poem. The penultimate stanza is one long breathless sentence and the repetition of words and sounds show the agitation of the speaker. At this point, the reader has had the catalogue of possible evils given to him - and now the child prays to be taught how to cope with the worst that the world may throw at him or he will end up a man totally undone, completely lost.
Overall, by the end of the poem, we are filled with disdain and disapproval of the state our world has come to. Louis MacNeice has brought us face to face with the undeniable reality through the eyes of an unborn baby. Moreover, as the child is not yet part of the world, the truth is delivered without bias and we come to grips with the actual state of things. The poet has suitably used language to depict a world of corruption and to open our eyes to the horrific truth we shield ourselves from.
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PostSubject: Re: Prayer Before Birth Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:19 am

Thank you.. Do u have the contemporary relevance for this poem?
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PostSubject: Re: Prayer Before Birth Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:28 am

The contemporary relevance...?? let me check...
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PostSubject: Re: Prayer Before Birth Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:31 am

Because there is an expected ques like that..:
Write the contemporary Relevance of any poem of ur choice from the collection.
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PostSubject: Re: Prayer Before Birth Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:45 am

sorry i dont have it...and i havnt come across any reviews which have the contemporary relevance...

soory geethu...! but do u hav the ISC poetry guid with u..?
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PostSubject: Re: Prayer Before Birth Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:46 am

Yeah but the one given in that is not enough..!
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PostSubject: Re: Prayer Before Birth Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:46 am

Btw.. I hav Madhuban publishers.. Is that what u r asking for?
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PostSubject: Re: Prayer Before Birth Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:59 am

yea...! i have the gem also...but thats useles...
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PostSubject: Re: Prayer Before Birth Tue Mar 02, 2010 11:06 am

Gem is only for understanding the poem in simple words.. We can't write it in exam..!
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PostSubject: Re: Prayer Before Birth Tue Mar 02, 2010 12:29 pm

yea...thats useless.......!
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PostSubject: Re: Prayer Before Birth Tue Mar 02, 2010 5:02 pm

But we can still use it to get the basic idea like what the poem talks about..! I did that for Elegy.. I just couldn't understand it but when i went through paraphrase i understood what the poet says..
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PostSubject: Prayer Before birth Tue Mar 02, 2010 8:43 pm

@WinRrule: Hey I hope this helps. This is what I could analyse from the poem. I have used some of the concepts of the ISC Poetry Work Book. Go through the critical appreciation, may be that's what you are looking for.


Prayer before Birth

Summary:
“Prayer before Birth” is a poem written by Louis MacNeice imagining the prayer of an unborn child. The unborn child prays for protection against he beastly human beings and other evil elements that may poison him or harm him.
The unborn child pleads for consolation. The child is afraid of being captured within the tall walls of prejudice. The child is afraid of being treated by drugs that would impair its efficiency. It is afraid of being tricked by the wise lies and is afraid of being forced to commit a sin. The child implores for protection against facing torture and punishment for no mistake of his.
The child repeats that it’s not yet born. It prays for all those minute desires that would fulfill his childhood. The child wants water to play with, grass and greenery, fertility, trees to talk to, sky to sing for it while it enjoys the chirping of the birds. Most of all, the child yearns for the blessings of the divine which would guide it at every stage of life.
The child is not yet born, yet it pleads to be forgiven for the sins that this world will force it to commit. It wants to be forgiven for the words that it speaks or the evil thoughts that arise within it, the treachery that it would be forced to do by its traitors. The child wants to be forgiven for ending its life with its own hands when people force it to live as others desire.
The child desires to rehearse the parts that it would have to play when old men lecture it, when high ranking officials scornfully mock at it, when father figures frown at it. The child doesn’t want to be tempted to commit sins or to turn as dry as a desert. The child wants to know how to react when beggars refuse its alms and when its children curse it.
The child craves for protection against the beast that considers him to be as great as God.
The child yearns for protection against the forces that would make it lose its humaneness and make it such that it would harm others. The child wants to b protected form losing its individuality. It doesn’t want to be transformed into a lethal machine. The child craves for protection from any harm done to destroy its mind, body and soul. It doesn’t want to be blown here and there like the thistle nor does it want to be like the water that would spill out of one’s hands.
Finally the child says if it cannot be protected from being transformed into a lifeless stone or being spilt form one’s hands, then it wishes to be killed.


Critical appreciation:
The poet has written this poem keeping in mind the prayer of an unborn child. According to MacNeice a child is naturally not afraid of anything. It is afraid of that which it is taught to be afraid of. After the World War II many of the social poets made attempts to restore social stability in the society. A child generally has no expectations before being born into the world. But according to the poet, the world has been deteriorating to such an extent that children will be afraid to be born into this violent world. This poem describes humanity destroyed by humanity.
The poet refers to all the methods that have been adopted to torture people, like racks, tall walls and blood baths. He then refers to all those things that are missing in the present world, like streams, greenery, trees and others. Nature has been traditionally linked with purity. Thus the poet imagines the child to yearn for purity in its life.
The poet then refers to the sins that the youth of today are forced to do. For example, in the army the young soldiers are forced to fight wars that they are against. They are merely used as instruments of destruction. The common belief, “wars to end all wars” is not accepted by the present generation. Yet they are forced to fight wars.
The youth are forces to commit sins against their conscience.
The poet then uses the metaphor of a play performed on stage, where the performer struts his parts after rehearsal. His lines have been written by someone else. Similarly, the poet considers the child’s life to be a play in which it must rehearse it actions which are written by the Almighty.
The main fear is that of the man who thinks he is God. It is because of such people that destruction is at its peak today. The very shortness of this verse bring home the punch of the truth.
In the next verse the poet uses a very industrial imagery. He speaks of machines. He says that the child does not wish to be a part of a lethal machine or a robot that is made to do things that are no voluntary.
The poem ends with the idea of abortion. If the child does not want to be born in such a cruel and selfish world then it might as well be aborted.
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PostSubject: Re: Prayer Before Birth Tue Mar 02, 2010 8:59 pm

thank you....
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PostSubject: Re: Prayer Before Birth Tue Mar 02, 2010 9:09 pm

Sure!
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PostSubject: Re: Prayer Before Birth Tue Mar 02, 2010 9:33 pm

Thank you very much..!
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PostSubject: Re: Prayer Before Birth Mon Nov 08, 2010 6:40 am

Good evening, I'm french and, for my homework, I have to make a commentary on this poem. Your notes are very interesting, thanks for that ! Smile

I just want to add an other point : the tragical aspect.

McNeice uses 8 stanzas ; we know that a pregnancy = 9 months, right ?
If we considered that 1 stanza = 1 month, one is missing it.
That is to say, first stanza : "I'm not yet born" = first month of pregnancy
Second stanza : "I'm not yet born" = second month
... ... ...
Eighth stanza : "Let them not ... ... Otherwise, kill me" = eighth month
Ninth stanza is missing, the baby (the narrator) is dead.

Is that clear ? I'm not sure... ^^ And I'm sorry for my bad english ^^
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