How do the poets convey hopes and fears in the poems "If—" and "Prayer Before Birth"?

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Both poems convey a parent's fears about the difficulties facing the child or young adult who has to grow up in this often frightening and uncertain world. In "If—," the speaker conveys hope as he describes for his son the virtues he perceives as necessary for successfully managing life. In...

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Both poems convey a parent's fears about the difficulties facing the child or young adult who has to grow up in this often frightening and uncertain world. In "If—," the speaker conveys hope as he describes for his son the virtues he perceives as necessary for successfully managing life. In the first stanza, these include trusting oneself, not repaying evil with evil, and behaving modestly: "don’t look too good, nor talk too wise."

In stanza 2, the father advises his son to balance dreaming and thinking with action and to keep a level head in both good fortune or disaster. He counsels him not to be crushed by adversity and other people's malice but to quietly rebuild when his work is broken. In stanza 3, the father advises his son to not care too much about money and to keep a stiff upper lip, not revealing his feelings no matter what befalls him. Finally, in the last stanza, the father tells his son to treat all people with the same courtesy, be they kings or commoners ("crowds") and to maintain an aloofness and self-integrity. These are the ingredients that make a "man," according the speaker—"if" the son can manage them.

In Louis MacNiece's "Prayer before Birth," the speaker projects his fears about the world onto his unborn child. This unborn babe asks for protection against a list of dangers that are not dissimilar (if not identical either) to those the speaker in "If—" tries to deflect. The unborn babe wants to be free of drugs, lies, and violence. He asks for closeness to the natural world and forgiveness for the sins he will commit just by being alive in a fallen world. Like the son in "If—," he would benefit if his father would "rehearse [him] / in the parts [he] must play and the cues [he] must take" when faced with adversity. Finally, in the last section, he asks for "strength" against those who would "freeze my humanity." He ends with saying he would rather be killed than be turned by life into a hard, inhuman person.

Both poems attempt to address what it means to live a meaningful, humane life in an evil world. Both assert it requires strength and a sense of decency to navigate the pain and adversity that inevitably face all people.

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Both poems, "If—" and "Prayer Before Birth," explore the hopes and fears that a parent might have for their child, or that a person might have for their own life. In Rudyard Kipling's poem "If—," a parent speaks to their child. The word "if" is repeated to express the speaker's speculation about hypothetical situations in the child's life, which convey both hopes and fears. For example:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
Here, the speaker hopes that the child will be able to dream and think well. However, wrapped up in these hopes ("if you can dream—"; "if you can think—") are also fears: that the child will make his dreams his master or make his thoughts his aim, thus losing himself in lofty dreams or thoughts and failing to maintain a realistic balance in his life. Many of the lines of this poem have a similar structure, where the hope that the parent expresses for the child also contains a fear of what will happen if the hope goes wrong.
In "Prayer Before Birth" by Louis Macneice, the speaker is an unborn child who is speculating about their hopes and fears for their life. The speaker expresses many fears about what awaits them in the world and even literally uses the words "I fear" to express their worries.
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.
In every stanza of this poem, the speaker expresses different fears about their life. However, the format of the poem itself is presented as a prayer, which expresses a sense of hope that these fears might be avoided by appealing to a higher power to grant them strength against these things.
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The poem "Prayers Before Birth" by Louis Macneice focuses mostly on fears. It goes through a list of some of the most common tragedies that may happen in one's life. From club-footed ghouls to being laughed at by a lover, the poem addresses many of the struggles a human might go through throughout the course of life.

It also touches some on hopes, especially in the second stanza, which talks about water and grass and trees, as well as the beauty and consolation that life can bring with it.

"If—" by Rudyard Kipling focuses more on how a person might react to the fears and hopes that come with life. The line "If you can dream—and not make dreams your master" is great in the way it addresses hopes and how too much of something good can become a bad thing.

This poem talks a lot about balance. It's about figuring out how to live in balance and be okay with both hopes and fears and learn to be yourself and be untainted by the dangers and struggles of life.

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In Rudyard Kipling's If, the speaker's voice is that of a father instructing his young son on becoming a man. The speaker wants his son to develop a specific type of character; a character in keeping with gentlemanly notions of morality, goodness, and manhood. Instructing his son in the specific behaviors and habits that will make the boy "a man," the paternal speaker thus conveys his own hope that the boy might grow into the type of person described. At the same time, the speaker conveys his fear concerning his son's development of character. For if the boy does not prove capable of the stern and trying standard espoused by his father, he will, by implication, not "be a (true) man." We sense that such a turn of events would doubtlessly bring shame and disappointment upon his father.

In Prayer Before Birth, Louis Macneice uses the voice of the unborn speaker to convey universal hopes and fears. Like Kipling's father in the poem If, Macneice's unborn speaker conveys hope and fears in the form of instruction. In this case, the instruction is general; the prayer is directed toward the heavens, as well as toward those already born. The speaker's words read as admonition, warning, and promise. They convey hopes such as finding redemption, experiencing forgiveness, and feeling wonder. They also convey existential fears: of being boxed in, of having to fit into roles, of rejection, and of being alienated from self and community.

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