Friday, February 10, 2012

Sky to Sing to Me

I've been reading Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness, edited by Carolyn Forché. It was a Christmas present, and I have been sticking little slips of white paper all through it; there are so many I'd like to return to. I'm sharing some excerpts of Prayer before Birth by Louis MacNeice.

This poem was inspired by living in London during the Blitz. I named this post after the line about the sky because it struck me as very poignant that, in a time when bombs were a perpetual threat, MacNeice imagined a gentle sky for children to come.

from Prayer before Birth
by Louis MacNeice

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; 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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Have a listen:


Laura at Writing the World For Kids is our Poetry Friday round-up host today.

8 comments:

Christina said...

Tabatha, these excerpts really touched me--thanks for sharing them. I'll look for more of MacNeice's work.

jama said...

Wow, what a powerful poem. It sort of teeters on the edge between hope and despair. Hope you share more poetry from this anthology.

Donna said...

Had to look up dandle and dragoon...Favorite part: "O fill me with strength against those who would freeze my humanity"...still today I pray for that.

laurasalas said...

This is beautiful, Tabatha!

a thing with
one face

and

would
blow me like thistledown hither

are my favorite parts. Such a contrast between machinistic and natural. Thank you!

Linda at teacherdance said...

I think often of those in places where bombs are things in daily lives, and of the parents' pauses of worry for their children. What a beautiful and hopeful poem. Thank you.

Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

Tabatha, I do echo the sentiments noted above, it is indeed a powerful poem.

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..

- and if only the clouds will dance and the skies sing out lovely tunes indeed - they shall be more powerful than hatred packed in bombs, grief in grenades.

Mary Lee said...

Whoa. That ending.

But also: Whoa. That voice.

I spend every day preparing the already-born for the world they do and will inhabit. I have to trust that others are spending their passion on making the world ready for the unborn. If we all do our part, we will have the world we all are dreaming.

Irene Latham said...

...and that's the second powerful poem you've given me in as many days. THANK YOU.