Theme Birth and Death & Powerful Imagery

Type – Dramatic Monologue

Background – Written by Louis MacNeice – written during WWII

Form and Tone

  • The title tells us that it is a prayer and reads like an incantation
  • The tone is apocalyptic, expressing foreboding about the menace of modern living
  • The child’s prayer is for a better world – one of justice and social equality
  • This monologue, made by the persona of an unborn child, makes a plea for individuality
  • The orderliness of the verses seems to break down as it nears the end – as though the power of the incantation is dissolving him


  • In the first verse the child asks that the creatures of nightmares don’t come near him
  • In the second verse the child fears what the human race might do to him
  • In the third verse the child asks for positive things to enter his life
  • In verses four and five momentum builds and the child asks for forgiveness – these verses suggests he will be a product of the world’s influence not his own free choice.
  • Verse six makes reference to Hitler – “the man who is the beast or thinks he is God”.
  • Final verse says he doesn’t want to lose his individuality and if this can’t happen he would rather die than be born


  • Alliteration in the first verse – “bloodsucking bats”
  • Reference is made to the “white light in the back of my open mind to guide me” signifying he wants to be guided by his own sense of goodness and truthfulness
  • Contrast: white light to guide and other verses showing the world as corrupting influence
  • Comparison of Hitler to the beast and thinking he is God – reference to his inhuman acts and his obsession of controlling people.

Rhythm and meter – Doesn’t have a regular rhythm – it builds by use of alliteration and short, one syllable words (monosyllabic)

Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "Prayer Before Birth – Louis MacNeice: Poem Analysis," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019,

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