About this poem, I take this opening para from wikipedia.com: ‘Prayer before birth is a poem written by the Irish poetLouis McNeice (1907 - 1963) at the height of the Second World War. 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.’
However, the poem is open to varied interpretations and I find the emotions, images and inner turmoil of the poem so very contemporary with the last two lines putting Hopkins' ‘sprung rhythm’ experimentation to convey a most effective jolt to the reader. One can hear the poet read this poem at http://www.macawbooks.com/
Prayer Before Birth
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.