A Prayer for My Daughter

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W.B.YEATS (1865-1939)

This poem was written soon after the birth of Ann Butter Yeats in 1919. It shows his awareness of the changing times and his anxiety regarding his daughter's future. The poem open with a physical storm but it soon becomes a social and political disturbance that threatens the future of his child. His worry causes him to imagine that the future years have already come. These years are frenzied and violent. The present is calm but the calmness is deceptive like the ‘murderous innocence of the sea’. He says that the social and political winds of change are about to sweep Ireland and the only protection his daughter has is ‘Gregory’s wood and one bare hill.’ Yeats believed that only aristocracy as represented by people like the Gregorys can effectively withstand the violent winds of change and protect traditional values and culture. The wind wants to level all things and Yeats was against such equalisation in society. He believed that this led to a loss of culture. The father prays that his daughter should be beautiful but not so beautiful as to cause distraction to herself or others. If she is too beautiful she will consider beauty to be a sufficient goal in life. She will become vain and lose all natural kindness. She will never be intimate with anybody or choose a good friend or husband. He gives the example of the most beautiful women in the world, Helen and Venus. Venus was fatherless and free to choose her own husband, yet she married Vulcan, a lame blacksmith. Helen, though beautiful and rich caused sorrow to many with the Trojan war. These two women were beautiful and blessed with good fortune. In fact you could say that they were born with ‘The Horn of Plenty’ or cornucopia i.e. the traditional symbol of prosperity. However they could not enjoy these benefits because of their beauty. Yeats says that beautiful women lead...
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