Spike Milligan’s “Unto Us” is one of his more serious poems that is about the issue of abortion or rather abortion for convenience. He adopts the persona of an unborn child which is unusual, yet effective method of narration, as it evokes sympathy from the reader. The poem tells the story of a child who is desperate for life but is “murdered” before he/she has a chance to live. The title of the poem “Unto Us” is taken directly from the phrase in the Bible: “Unto us a child is born”.
This shortened version of the biblical reference is clever as it relates to the child’s life being cut short. This is just one of the techniques used by the writer that makes it effective and I will be discussing these through the rest of the essay. The poem is split up into three sections: conception and leading up to the birth, abortion, and aftermath. The opening lines of the poem “somewhere at some time they committed themselves to me suggests a fleeting moment; this certainly wasn’t planned.
It also implies that the parents have a duty and responsibility which is ironic considering the disregard they show towards the baby. The writer goes on to emphasise the baby’s existence by use of repetition and exclamations “And so I was! Small but I WAS! ” This argues the point that an unborn child is still a human even in the early stages of development. The discovery of the child by the parents is totally void of any emotion:”Soon they knew of me.
My mother – my father”The dash is used to signal a delay between the mother finding out and then the father.
It also shows a lack of togetherness between the couple. The tone of this section is one of desperation and pleading quite obviously indicated by the last two lines:”A silent ‘Wait for me I will bring you love’” This example of direct speech is used to make the character of the baby come alive. The second section of the poem starts with a pivotal sentence:”I was taken” This automatically changes the tone from desperation to anger. This change is aiming to stir up strong emotion. It changes the whole feel of the poem from life to death.
This section deals with the abortion and how vulnerable the baby is: “Blind, naked, defenceless” The baby has been taken from its “home” against his will and all trace of it has been destroyed: “and dropped on the sterile floor of a foot operated waste bucket” It is as if the doctors couldn’t care less about this baby by throwing it out like garbage. Section three is the aftermath, and what could have happened had the baby been born, it starts again with just how helpless the baby is: “There was no Queens Counsel to take my brief” This sets the tone to sadness and despair as the baby is ignored.
The parents of the baby are wealthy enough to support it: “The cot I might have warmed stood in Harrod’s shop window” this highlights the main point of the poem- abortion for convenience. Obviously the writer is strongly against it but personally it did make me think a lot about this kind of abortion. It is clear the writer is trying to sway your view and does achieve this. The tone of the last few lines in the poem are very bitter: “When my passing was told my father smiled” A euphemism is used here as it is not considered “murder” by parents and it suggests accidental death.
Also the sense of relief is apparent: “[its] death was celebrated with tickets to see Danny la Rue who was pretending to be a woman like [its] mother was” these lines question the womanhood of the mother in that would a real woman willingly “murder” her child? This poem was very interesting and thought-provoking as it tries to sway your views on abortion. I have looked at most of the techniques used by the writer in making this poem effective and have enjoyed writing about it.