Thursday, 28 April 2011


Children in war-torn Afghanistan

 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.

Louis MacNeice

This poem first appeared in MacNeice's 1944 collection, Springboard, and could be read autobiographically as a father's reaction to bringing a child into a world at war.

Nothing has changed for the children since he wrote these words.