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. In ‘If’, the poet,Rudyard Kipling also uses a variety of literary devices which adds effect. An example ofthis would be the way that the anaphora of If, is followed by an answer.
Thepoet is saying if you do this, the consequence would be this. The repetition ofthis technique throughout the poem allows for the poet to keep building upideas in the readers heads right up until the end when Kipling tells you that ifyou can do all of this, then you will finally ‘…be a Man, my son!’ The build-up,which is similar to ‘Prayer before Birth’, throughout the poem helps the poetcreate that feel of tension as the reader wants to find out what happens if youdo all these things. The use ofenjambment throughout the poem helps the poem to flow, therefore helping the readerto understand it. That along with the caesura in ‘Except the will that says tothem: ‘Hold on!” creates contrasting effects as it flows well but then isstopped by this caesura mid-way through the sentence. This suggests that hereKipling wants the reader to have a short time to pause and think bout what iswritten above but then carry on. Kipling alsouses the common literary techniques such as the anaphora of ‘If’ or thealliteration of ‘with worn-out…’ The personification of ‘and not make yourdreams your master…’ is one of the only personifications in the poem whichsuggests that Kipling doesn’t want to over exaggerate words in the poem, he wantsto keep it simple to show that he is being serious here, you do need all thesethings to become a man.
The title ofthe poem and the way it is written makes you as the reader want to read on. ‘If-‘,just left like that encourages the reader out of curiosity to read on, theywant to know what the tilte is about.The ABABCDCD rhyming scheme from thesecond line on suggests that Kipling wanted the first half and second half of eachstanza to be focused on separately as if they bring more points to the poemrather than just having 4 obvious ones. However, the rhyme of the first stanzais AAAABCBC. This suggests to me that Kipling wanted this first stanza to standout. The poem is about how life is going to throw a few curveballs anduncertainties at you but yet, in order to become a man, you are going to have tobe able to deal with them therefore I think that the first stanza is the poemscurveball or uncertainty. The structure of the poem apart from the rhymingpattern stays the same throughout and the even lines have ten syllables thereforeare iambic pentameter.
The odd lines however, have 11 syllables and therefore aren’tquite iambic pentameter. Therefore, the poem has a twisted single sentencestructure which suggests to me that Kipling is trying to represent the fact thatagain life is difficult and you are going to have to push through in order tomake it. The twisted single sentence structure is the poems difficult journeyto manhood which in order to be a man, you have to overcome. The main literarytechnique in my opinion that Kipling has used to create effect in throughout thepoem is the repetition of ‘you’. Kipling is talking to his son throughout thepoem. The repetition makes sure the reader is aware of the importance of whatit is.
However, although the poem is written to Kipling’s son, the use of ‘you’creates the feel as a reader that not only is Kipling giving his son advice, heis also giving you advice at the same time. This helps make the reader be andfeel more engaged in the poem, they want to know what Kipling’s advice is tothem is on how to become a man. Therefore,throughout the poem of ‘If-‘, Rudyard Kipling uses a variety of techniques toportray the poem and to add effects throughout. In conclusion,both the poets use a varied use of literary effects and some are used in similarways, yet others are used completely differently. This is what makes thesepoems unique and different and why they appeal to certain people.