A Comparison of Prayer Before Birth, the Tyger and Half-Past Two

1806 Words Nov 1st, 2011 8 Pages
English Literature Coursework

Prayer Before Birth, The Tyger, and Half-past Two are poems which explore encounters between the speaker, or a character, and a force that is greater than he is. How do the three poets develop and contemplate this experience?

Prayer before Birth, The Tyger and Half-past Two are three poems which explore an encounter between the character and a force much greater than he is. The first, by Louis MacNeice, uses imagery of religion and innocence to present God as a higher power acting above us, whilst The Tyger, by William Blake, describes the creation of the tiger and who its creator might be, again showing God as immensely powerful, but in this case he is shown as intimidating and frightening. Half-past Two,
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Blake also uses the image of god as a blacksmith forging and creating the spirit, body and brain of the tiger. He uses phrases such as “What the hammer?”, “in what furnace was thy brain?” and “anvil” to paint this image. This brings up the idea of someone else, an external force, creating our brain, what we use to control ourselves, and therefore controlling us. Such an idea reminds us of Prayer Before Birth and the child not wishing to be controlled by society or by other men. The idea of an unstoppable force creating, forming us and our world is also present in Ted Hughes’ ‘Wind’, which presents the weather as a forger of the landscape with phrases such as “woods crashing through darkness”, “the hills had new places”, “the fields quivering”. These expressions show how the storm has deformed and recreated the land, thus bringing back the idea of a peripheral overwhelming power lurking over us.
In both these poems a dark, heavy atmosphere is present, created by the subjects of death, destruction and terror with the use of vocabulary such as “burning”, “deadly”, “blood-baths”, “murder” or “kill”. This morbid language creates in both texts a fear of unknown forces acting upon the speaker. However, the two poems present different views of this force; in Prayer Before Birth, the child is frightened of the world and what lies outside waiting for him; his fear is much more accentuated as a
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