Louis Macneice

Louis Macneice Poems

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.
...

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold;
...

3.

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.
...

Forty-two years ago (to me if to no one else
The number is of some interest) it was a brilliant starry night
And the westward train was empty and had no corridors
So darting from side to side I could catch the unwonted sight
...

And this, ladies and gentlemen, whom I am not in fact
Conducting, was his office all those minutes ago,
This man you never heard of. These are the bills
In the intray, the ash in the ashtray, the grey memoranda stacked
...

Indoors the tang of a tiny oil lamp. Outdoors
The winking signal on the waste of sea.
Indoors the sound of the wind. Outdoors the wind.
Indoors the locked heart and the lost key.
...

My father made the walls resound,
He wore his collar the wrong way round.

When I was five the black dreamscame;
...

I do not want to be reflective any more
Envying and despising unreflective things
Finding pathos in dogs and undeveloped handwriting
And young girls doing their hair and all the castles of sand
...

It's no go the merrygoround, it's no go the rickshaw,
All we want is a limousine and a ticket for the peepshow.
Their knickers are made of crepe-de-chine, their shoes are made of python,
Their halls are lined with tiger rugs and their walls with head of bison.
...

The Junes were free and full, driving through tiny
Roads, the mudguards brushing the cowparsley,
Through fields of mustard and under boldly embattled
Mays and chestnuts
...

Rows of books around me stand,
Fence me in on either hand;
Through that forest of dead words
I would hunt the living birds -
...

I was born in Belfast between the mountain and the gantries
To the hooting of lost sirens and the clang of trams:
Thence to Smoky Carrick in County Antrim
Where the bottle-neck harbour collects the mud which jams
...

This brand of soap has the same smell as once in the big
House he visited when he was eight: the walls of the bathroom open
To reveal a lawn where a great yellow ball rolls back through a hoop
To rest at the head of a mallet held in the hands of a child.
...

Only let it form within his hands once more -
The moment cradled like a brandy glass.
Sitting alone in the empty dining hall...
From the chandeliers the snow begins to fall
...

Down the road someone is practising scales,
The notes like little fishes vanish with a wink of tails,
Man's heart expands to tinker with his car
For this is Sunday morning, Fate's great bazaar;
...

It all began so easy
With bricks upon the floor
Building motley houses
And knocking down your houses
...

Louis Macneice Biography

Attended Oxford, where he majored in classics and philosophy. In 1930, he married Giovanna Ezra and accepted a post as classics lecturer at the University of Birmingham, a position he held until 1936, when he went on to teach Greek at Bedford College for Women, University of London. In 1941, he joined the British Broadcasting Company as a staff writer and producer. Like many modern English poets, MacNeice found an audience for his work through British radio. Some of his best-known plays, including 'Christopher Columbus' (1944), and 'The Dark Tower' (1946), were originally written for radio and later published. Early in his career, MacNeice was identified with a group of politically committed poets whose work appeared in Michael Roberts's anthology New Signatures. MacNeice drew many of the texts for Modern Poetry: 'A Personal Essay from the New Signature poets'. Modern Poetry was MacNeice's plea for an "impure" poetry expressive of the poet's immediate interests and his sense of the natural and the social world. Despite his association with young British poets Stephen Spender, W. H. Auden, writer Christopher Isherwood, and other left-wing poets, MacNeice was as mistrustful of political programs as he was of philosophical systems. He was never a member of the Communist Party or any other political groups, and he was quite candid about the ambiguities of his political attitudes. "My sympathies are Left," he wrote. "But not in my heart or my guts." Although he chose to live the majority of his adult life in London, MacNeice frequently returned to the landscapes of his childhood, and he took great pride in his Irish heritage. His poetry is characterized by its familiar, sometimes humorous tone and its integration of contemporary ideas and images. In addition to his poetry and radio dramas, MacNeice also wrote the verse translation 'The Agamemnon of Aeschylus' (1936), translated Goethe's 'Faust' (1951), and collaborated with Auden on the 'travelogue Letters from Iceland' (1937). In August of 1963, MacNeice, on location with a BBC team, insisted on going down into a mineshaft to check on sound effects. He caught a chill that was not diagnosed as pneumonia until he was fatally ill. He died on September 3, 1963, just before the publication of his last book of poems, The Burning Perch. He was 55 years old.)

The Best Poem Of 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.

Louis Macneice Comments

John Orford 14 September 2018

I remember him from the late 40s and 50s - he was popular then among many young people. The world is seldom a happy place for him. He is still relevant in our troubled world. Come then all of you, come closer, form a circle, Join hands and make believe that joined Hands will keep away the wolves of water Who howl along our coast. And be it assumed That no one hears them among the talk and laughter.

1 1 Reply
Peter McLaren 12 November 2017

Although MacNeice is not usually thought of a 'great poet' he has more memorable lines than any other non great poet of the 20th century. He was a Irish song bird in the tradition of Thomas Moore; though cankered with all the angst of his age he tries to be as blithe as he can, for the music's sake. His felicity of phrase perfumes one's idle thoughts. One feels grateful to him.

5 0 Reply
Marcus Smith Poetry 29 July 2017

McNeice is a tragic poet who, not believing enough in the ennoblement of tragedy, contents himself (and his readers) in ‘find[ing] pathos’ in soap suds or the broken hollow doll ‘dead on the nursery floor.’ He is a poet of beautiful sadness whose poems are shattered by intrusions of happiness.

6 3 Reply

Louis Macneice Quotes

It's no go the Government grants, it's no go the elections, Sit on your arse for fifty years and hang your hat on a pension.

Louis Macneice Popularity

Louis Macneice Popularity

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