A Letter to An Unborn Baby

Creative Corner

When pondering the future of our world, there is no doubt that we will affect it--perhaps more negatively than positively. In order to give you an idea of what I thought of, I compared it to a letter my friend Sara wrote to her unborn child and a poem I read in chapter two of Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry, where my thoughts are demonstrated with the poem, “No Second Troy” by William Butler Yeats. In his poem, Yeats describes how a character is similar to Helen of Troy because her beauty and power brings about destruction.

No Second Troy

by William Butler Yeats

Why should I blame her that she filled my days

With misery, or that she would of late

Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,

Or hurled the little streets upon the great,

Had they but courage equal to desire?

What could have made her peaceful with a mind

That nobleness made simple as a fire,

With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind

That is not natural in an age like this,

Being high and solitary and most stern?

Why, what could she have done, being what she is?

Was there another Troy for her to burn?

(Mason, 27)

Sara is an environmental science major, and in her letter she writes to her unborn baby about how the world is no longer a nice place to live because humans have destroyed the earth. Before abortion, she tells her unborn child how beautiful human life can be, can symbolize that the environmental damage we have caused, through chemical radiation or exposure, has also caused mutations and miscarriages of children all over the world. This can go even further by symbolizing how despite our intelligence and complexity as humans, we are not intelligent enough to prevent damaging the lives of ourselves and many other organisms that depend on the earth. Therefore, Sara’s letter not only writes to her unborn child, but also to everyone else by asking us how our beauty and intelligence can be so destructive. Similarly, Yeats asks himself how a woman’s beauty and power can be so dangerous.

Sara’s letter makes us wonder how we can make life seem so terrible when there are so many pleasures out there for us to experience. When Yeats writes, “why should I blame her that she.taught to ignorant men most violent ways,/...Had they but courage equal to desire?” He realizes that men desire the woman because of her beauty, or at least they desire beautiful women--but their desire for beauty is greater than their courage to face the world. Humans are also selfish and desire many pleasures, but we do not always have the courage to face the harmful effects of our desires. We do not only desire the things we need, such as food and shelter, but we also desire luxurious things such as wealth, beauty, and power. We see that with power comes greed, and with this greed we take from others and destroy. This happens when we go to war, killing thousands and millions, for oil, and in the process of drilling good land to obtain the oil. It happened when we went to Africa to steal men, women, and children to do our own work for us to we can become more wealthy, creating long-term problems and racial discrimination against blacks even when slavery ended. It happens when we cut down forests to build large-scale farms. But somehow we do not have the courage, as a whole, to face and repair the economical damage we caused to the countries we fought, the racial issues and disparities we created, and the damage we caused to habitats.

Yeats writes, “why should I blame her that she...taught to ignorant men most violent ways”. In other words, men’s violence results from her beauty, which Yeats understands is a powerful force. Likewise, our intelligence is a powerful force, but its byproduct is our ability to strategize in order to harm and manipulate our resources to serve our desires. If we only had the courage to face these aspects of ourselves instead of remaining ignorant to them, we might be able to use our intelligence to prevent these things from happening over and over again.

Humans arose from the natural occurrence of evolution, yet can be so destructive to nature. In Yeats’ poem, he writes that “nobleness [had made her mind] simple as fire”. This is irony, because fire, although such a simple and natural occurrence, can also be destructive and painful. In our own history as humans, power, besides literal nobleness, is also involved in aspects like a leader over a group, a group over another group, the majority over the minority, and the rich over the poor. Power may be a natural course or byproduct of social tendency, but it can also come with the danger and destruction of maintaining power, changing power, or overthrowing a power that has already become tyrannical. And just like we can start fires to cook food for our survival, we can also start fires in order to kill. Yeats’ phrase “with beauty like a tightened bow” helps demonstrate that our evolved ability to use tools, starting with using rocks as hammers to break nuts, was a simple occurrence that now can give us a little too much power--such as the immense power over another’s life one has when pointing a bow at another. Our complex nature as intelligent thinking humans has allowed us the ability to kill for more than just food and survival, but also for power and wealth, while most other organisms on earth do not kill unless it is absolutely necessary in order to eat and survive. Power can be a beautiful and pleasurable thing, but not when it is abused, which happens all too often in the course of human history and seems to only get worse as we grow and evolve.

The form Yeats uses correlates with the way humans go about endlessly, without solving our ultimate, tragic problem. Yeats’ lines are similar in length, and after each line break the first letter of the next line is capitalized. Often, there is a question mark at the end of a line, if not a comma. Similarly, we as humans repeat history that we should have learned from, and do the same thing over and over again, just like every line is the same length. It is as if each line is an event in our history. Just like humans should have understood by now, each line is capitalized--each event in history should have given us a message or lesson to learn from, yet not enough attention is given to it. There are often questions asking why. Why are we like this? Why do we keep doing this? We ask questions about ourselves, about the wrongdoings of others, and about why the world is so hard to live in because of our own nature. And in the end, there is a kind of “volta” where the future is anxiously anticipated.

We have yet to discover what could have made us humans able to do such terrible things to another, things that other animals do not dare try. In the last two lines (referred to above as a “volta”--a turn in the poem), Yeats writes “Why, what could she have done, being what she is?/Was there another Troy for her to burn?” (27) Here Yeats describes the phenomena of us humans accurately. What could we have done while we grew into a species, or merely grew into adults, that made us be this way? After we have used and abused all our resources, will there be anything left? Or will this be how our species ends? Will there be any pure areas for food to grow untouched by toxicity? Will there be any good quality air to breathe in? Or will the harmful chemicals we fused together circulate through the air, the clouds, the rain, and the soil until it is spread everywhere and there is nothing pure left to live in? And, more importantly, how can we have the courage to face our desires?

Sources Cited:

Mason, David, and John Frederick Nims. Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry. 5th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, 2006. Print.

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Muhammad Nasrullah Khan is the publisher of Creative Corner. His short stories and poems are well-recognized internationally for his unique style. His creative work has appeared in Adbusters, Evergreen review, Indiana Voice Journal, Newtopia Magazine, Gowanus Books,Offcourse literary Journal University at Albany, The Raven Chronicles, and many others. His book is available on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08D7WZXVL

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