A Prayer for my Daughter
“A Prayer for my Daughter” is a 1919 poem by William Butler Yeats that was included in Yeats’ collection Michael Robartes and the Dancer in 1921. It is addressed to Anne, his daughter with Georgie Hyde Lees, whom Yeats married following the rejection of his previous marriage proposal to Maud Gonne in 1916.
The poem depicts how a father who has been gifted with a daughter prays for her happiness and welfare in the future. Instead of becoming an extremely attractive woman, the poet wishes for his daughter to be endowed with the qualities of a virtuous and magnificent soul. She should be well-mannered and humble rather than fiercely opinionated in order to avoid intellectual detestation, which can drown her in agony.
Summary of A Prayer for my Daughter
At the start of the poem, Yeats mentions a storm brewing in the seas. A bare hill and Gregory’s woods stand between his freshly born daughter and the sea, but they may not be enough to keep the storm from reaching the vulnerable child. The father is understandably concerned when he notices the gale hitting the tower and the undersides of the bridges. The storm, in his opinion, foreshadows her daughter’s destiny, having arrived with a rage, rising from the apparent innocence of the water. As a father, the poet hopes for her daughter’s beauty, but not such voluptuousness that would distract others or make her egotistical.
He does not want her kid to be devoid of friendliness, nor does he want her to make poor choices about whom she will be friendly. The father shudders at the prospect of his daughter becoming another Helen of Troy, who could not help but be unfaithful since she was so lovely. Some gorgeous ladies, such as the queen, who had not had her father impose useful limitations on her, opted to marry an ordinary smith with twisted legs rather than marry a handsome and moral guy matching her handsome appearance and social standing. It is strange how stunningly attractive ladies frequently chose ‘a crazy salad’ (an undeserving husband) to accompany ‘their meat’ (rich food or their great beauty).
His daughter should understand that she is worthy of earning people’s hearts. She should not be like those clever women who use their charms to manipulate people. True, men fall head over heels for beautiful women, but it is the compassion of women that ultimately wins them over. The poet’s father desires that her daughter grow up to be like a tree that provides shelter and shade to people, and that her feelings be like the wonderful song of the linnet that spreads joy for the sake of spreading joy. It is extremely conceivable that she will desire something deeply in the wrong spirit or indulge in some strife at times, but these should be fleeting and minor. Let her be like an evergreen tree, sending roots deep into the depths of her virtuous convictions while standing in the same spot.
The poet laments the fact that his chasing after the people he liked or the kind of gorgeousness he was captivated with did not appease him as he desired, and he is tired of all the barrenness that has now engulfed him. He appears to be perplexed for a little while as to what type of beauty is appropriate. He feels no animosity for anyone, however, because he is certain that it is the worst type of malevolence that could poison his existence. He wants her daughter to understand this fact before she allows herself to be governed by the bad force of hatred, because such a mindset will keep her from being subjected to severe criticism or abuse. The poet does not want her daughter to be self-opinionated because this could lead to her practising intellectual hate, which the poet regards as the worst type of disease in a human being.
He recalls having a close encounter with a gorgeous and talented woman who had to give everything away by being heavily biassed. The poet’s mind is clear that by removing all hatred from one’s thoughts, the soul not only regains its innocence but also goes on the voyage of revelling in itself. Because the spirit of the soul is God’s will, he prays fervently for his daughter to be able to uncover her soul and be joyful in the face of any storm or condemnation.
Finally, as a father, he hopes that she would be wedded to a guy who has always avoided the detestation and arrogance that is so prevalent everywhere. Allow her husband’s home to be comfortable and secure, but not at the expense of anyone else.