The photograph shows a memorial to the fallen in Afghanistan and Iraq at the Antiwar Mass Assembly in Trafalgar Square yesterday. It features the following very appropriate poem by Louis Macneice:
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.
The poem is a plea from the future, from the child[ren]/generations yet unborn that we - the present generation - may provide them with a world free from all the problems that Man has created so far:
'Tall walls to wall me' - prisons
'Strong drugs dope me' - drugs that tranquilise and lull
'Wise words lure me' - lying politicians
'Black racks rack me' & 'in blood-baths roll me' - torture in the names of 'freedom' & 'truth'
The future children ask the present generation to provide not material things but not to interfere with the natural gifts:
'water to dandle me'
'grass to grow for me'
'trees to talk to me'
'sky to sing to me'
'a white light in the back of my mind to guide me' - a faith or morality to live by
The future children ask that they may be forgiven in advance:
'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
'my death when they live me'
But the use of 'my' as the first word and 'the world/they' as the perpetrator shows the disgust that such things are done by 'the world/they' in the name of the innocent/yet to be born. Of course 'the world' represents the world leaders who always act in the name of 'their people', however much those people protest that it is Not in their Name
The future children ask
'rehearse me In the parts I must play'
'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
the desert calls me to doom
the beggar refuses my gift
my children curse me'
- how to live in world where it is difficult to:
introduce new ideals
live within the often crazy laws
preserve the ecology
remember the sea is stronger than man
remember the deserts show nature's power
remember charity is not always the answer
the future children's children will be as hard on their forebears as the future children will be on us.
The future children ask that we, the present hear them
'Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God
come near me' - that those whose who think they have the answers but whose answers are flawed will keep away.
The future children ask that they will be given:
'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'
- In other words those who would enlist humanity into soldiers, armies, fighting machines or enact violence 'in their name'.
'Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
Otherwise kill me.'
- If the future children become 'automaton' fighting machines/killing machines, they feel their lives will not be worth living.
This is only my 'interpretation'. I would welcome different views and discussions.
Full lists of all those who died can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10629358
May they sleep gently
For more photos taken by us at the Antiwar Mass Assembly go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/theotherbailey/sets/72157627846775502/