In a ‘Prayerbefore Birth’, the poet, Louis MacNeice uses a variety of literary language toget their point across but also to add effect to their writing.
The firstexample of this in ‘Prayer before birth’ is the use of the anaphoric refrain ‘Iam not yet born’ at the beginning of every stanza except the last. This remindsthe reader that the narrator of this poem is still not born. This adds effectby making us as the reader makes us feel bad as it shows that everyone startsoff the same and these men who are fighting in the wars are no different tous. The repetition of I am not born is theunborn baby trying to dodge its way around the blame, it is innocent yetalready being blamed for mistakes in the world. The secondexample ties in with the first in the use of repetition. ‘I am not yet born’ remindsthe reader at the beginning of every stanza that this baby knows what is goingon, on earth yet hasn’t experienced it yet.
The other main repetition in the poemis that of ‘me’ at the end of the first and last line of every stanza exceptthe last. This ‘me’ makes the poem more personal to the unborn baby, it isabout them rather than the poem being directed at us. The wayMacNeice combines alliteration with the assonance such as ‘wise lies lure me’ thealliteration in ‘lies lure’ but the assonance in ‘wise lies’. The assonance in ‘rat’and ‘bat’ and the alliteration in ‘…the bloodsucking bat or rat…’. This combinationof assonance and alliteration throughout the poem creates a feel of internalrhyme and different points throughout.
Throughout the thirdstanza the personification of ‘trees to talk to me, sky to sing to me…’ This isMacNeice showing us that because the unborn child knows about the evil doings thatman is doing, he wants to be with nature more. This is made out to be becausenature is pure, man isn’t. However, MacNeice then contradicts herself with ‘thewhite waves call me to folly and the desert calls me to doom…’. This suggests thatwhat MacNeice is trying to portray here is that nature is also bad andeverybody or everything does bad things. This backs up her point of ‘… forgiveme for the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words when they speak me,my thoughts when they think me’. Here MacNeice is trying to get the fact acrossthat if we live in this world we are going to do bad things, no matter how hardwe try. The use ofmetaphors and similes in the penultimate paragraph also adds effect such as ‘…makeme a cog in a machine…’ or ‘…blow me like thistledown hither and thither…’These again suggest how little control the unborn bay has on the world and whatevils it will do to it. The baby can try as hard as he wants yet the world willstill force him to do evil things, it even forces nature to do them.
The final andmain technique that MacNeice uses in ‘Prayer before Birth’ is the way the stanzasare structured. Throughout the poem the lengths of each stanza increase exceptstanza 6 here it shortens again. The increasing length of stanzas suggest abuild up to the final, short one. The sixth is different as it only asks and explainsone thing whereas all the others ask for more that.
However the build uptowards the last stanza suggests that is the most important one, that is the oneMacNeice wants to get across to the reader. This is basically saying that the unborndoesn’t want to be born if any of the rest of the poem doesn’t happen. Therefore, the literarytechniques and structure of the poem in ‘Prayer before Birth’ help MacNeice getthe reader to feel hurt by it but also to help her get her main points across.