'A Prayer For My Daughter' by William Butler Yeats

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ONCE more the storm is howling, and half hid
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid
My child sleeps on.There is no obstacle
But Gregory's wood and one bare hill
Whereby the haystack- and roof-levelling wind.
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed;
And for an hour I have walked and prayed
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind.
I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour
And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower,
And-under the arches of the bridge, and scream
In the elms above the flooded stream;
Imagining in excited reverie
That the future years had come,
Dancing to a frenzied drum,
Out of the murderous innocence of the sea.
May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger's eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend.
Helen being chosen found life flat and dull
And later had much trouble from a fool,
While that great Queen, that rose out of the spray,
Being fatherless could have her way
Yet chose a bandy-legged smith for man.
It's certain that fine women eat
A crazy salad with their meat
Whereby the Horn of plenty is undone.
In courtesy I'd have her chiefly learned;
Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned
By those that are not entirely beautiful;
Yet many, that have played the fool
For beauty's very self, has charm made wisc.
And many a poor man that has roved,
Loved and thought himself beloved,
From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes.
May she become a flourishing hidden tree
That all her thoughts may like the linnet be,
And have no business but dispensing round
Their magnanimities of sound,
Nor but in merriment begin a chase,
Nor but in merriment a quarrel.
O may she live like some green laurel
Rooted in one dear perpetual place.
My mind, because the minds that I have loved,
The sort of beauty that I have approved,
Prosper but little, has dried up of late,
Yet knows that to be choked with hate
May well be of all evil chances chief.
If there's no hatred in a mind
Assault and battery of the wind
Can never tear the linnet from the leaf.
An intellectual hatred is the worst,
So let her think opinions are accursed.
Have I not seen the loveliest woman born
Out of the mouth of plenty's horn,
Because of her opinionated mind
Barter that horn and every good
By quiet natures understood
For an old bellows full of angry wind?
Considering that, all hatred driven hence,
The soul recovers radical innocence
And learns at last that it is self-delighting,
Self-appeasing, self-affrighting,
And that its own sweet will is Heaven's will;
She can, though every face should scowl
And every windy quarter howl
Or every bellows burst, be happy Still.
And may her bridegroom bring her to a house
Where all's accustomed, ceremonious;
For arrogance and hatred are the wares
Peddled in the thoroughfares.
How but in custom and in ceremony
Are innocence and beauty born?
Ceremony's a name for the rich horn,
And custom for the spreading laurel tree.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Prayer For My Daughter by William Butler Yeats: A Masterpiece of Poetic Imagery

If there is one poem that captures the essence of a father's love and concern for his daughter, it is "A Prayer For My Daughter" by William Butler Yeats. This poem, written in 1919, reflects Yeats' deep anxiety about the state of the world following the First World War, and his fears for the future of his beloved daughter, Anne. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, imagery, and language of the poem, and show how Yeats uses poetic devices to convey his message.


At its core, "A Prayer For My Daughter" is a poem about the fragility of innocence and the need to protect it. Yeats expresses his fear that his daughter, born in a world that has been ravaged by war, will be corrupted by the violence and chaos that surrounds her. He sees the world as a place where "things fall apart" and "anarchy is loosed upon the world," and he worries that his daughter will become a victim of that anarchy.

To counter this, Yeats prays for his daughter's protection, both physically and spiritually. He asks God to "guard and guide her in the ways of truth and love" and to "give her grace to lead an innocent life." He also prays for her to have qualities that will help her navigate the dangers of the world, such as "a mind not too bright or too dull" and "a heart that has no guile." Throughout the poem, Yeats emphasizes the importance of innocence and purity, and the need to protect them at all costs.


One of the most striking features of "A Prayer For My Daughter" is its rich and evocative imagery. Yeats creates vivid pictures in the reader's mind, using metaphors and similes to compare his daughter to a variety of natural and supernatural phenomena. For example, he compares her to "a great peacock fan" and "a silver candlestick," both of which suggest her beauty and elegance. He also compares her to "some agate of the sun" and "some fragment of the moon," both of which suggest her otherworldly qualities.

Another powerful image in the poem is the "dreadful martyrdom" that Yeats fears his daughter may have to endure. He describes this as a "nightmare" that "governs men and things," and suggests that it is linked to the chaos and anarchy that he sees as prevalent in the world. This image is particularly powerful because it suggests that the innocent and the pure are often the victims of the violent and the corrupt.


The language of "A Prayer For My Daughter" is both poetic and philosophical. Yeats uses a range of literary devices, such as alliteration, assonance, and repetition, to create a musical quality to the poem. He also uses a range of rhetorical devices, such as paradox and antithesis, to convey his message. For example, he describes his daughter as having a "mind not too bright or too dull," which is a paradoxical statement that suggests the need for balance and moderation in all things.

Yeats also uses the language of philosophy to explore the themes of the poem. He references the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, who believed that the key to a happy life was to focus on what is within our control and not to worry about what is outside of our control. Yeats applies this philosophy to his daughter, suggesting that she should focus on her own inner qualities and not be swayed by the chaos of the world around her.


In conclusion, "A Prayer For My Daughter" is a masterpiece of poetic imagery and philosophical reflection. Yeats' deep love and concern for his daughter shines through in every line of the poem, and his fear for the future of the world is palpable. Through his use of rich and evocative imagery, and his exploration of complex themes and ideas, Yeats has created a timeless work of art that speaks to the heart of every parent who has ever worried about the safety and well-being of their child. This poem is a testament to the power of poetry to convey deep emotion and complex ideas, and it will continue to inspire and move readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry is a powerful medium that can convey complex emotions and ideas in a few carefully chosen words. One such poem that has stood the test of time is "A Prayer for My Daughter" by William Butler Yeats. This poem was written in 1919, shortly after the birth of Yeats' daughter, Anne Butler Yeats. In this 2000-word analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and literary devices used in this classic poem.

The poem is divided into eleven stanzas, each containing four lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, and the meter is iambic tetrameter. The poem is written in the form of a prayer, with Yeats addressing his daughter and asking for her protection and well-being. The poem is deeply personal, and Yeats' love for his daughter is evident in every line.

The first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem. Yeats expresses his concern for his daughter's future and the challenges she will face as a woman in a male-dominated world. He asks for her protection from the "ignorant men" who may harm her and for her to have the strength to overcome any obstacles that come her way.

In the second stanza, Yeats reflects on the beauty of his daughter and how she is a reflection of the natural world. He compares her to a "great pearl" and a "flower" and asks that she be protected from those who would seek to exploit her beauty.

The third stanza is a reflection on the changing world and how it will impact his daughter's life. Yeats acknowledges that the world is changing rapidly, and he fears that his daughter may be left behind. He asks for her to have the wisdom to navigate these changes and to stay true to herself.

In the fourth stanza, Yeats reflects on the role of women in society and how they are often undervalued and overlooked. He asks for his daughter to be valued for her intelligence and creativity and not just her physical beauty.

The fifth stanza is a reflection on the power of language and how it can be used to manipulate and control people. Yeats asks for his daughter to be able to see through the lies and propaganda that she may encounter in her life.

In the sixth stanza, Yeats reflects on the importance of education and how it can empower people. He asks for his daughter to have access to the best education possible and to use that education to make a positive impact on the world.

The seventh stanza is a reflection on the power of love and how it can overcome even the darkest of times. Yeats asks for his daughter to be surrounded by love and to be able to give love freely.

In the eighth stanza, Yeats reflects on the importance of family and how it can provide a sense of belonging and support. He asks for his daughter to have a strong family and to be able to rely on them in times of need.

The ninth stanza is a reflection on the importance of tradition and how it can provide a sense of continuity and stability. Yeats asks for his daughter to be connected to her cultural heritage and to be proud of where she comes from.

In the tenth stanza, Yeats reflects on the importance of faith and how it can provide comfort and guidance in difficult times. He asks for his daughter to have a strong faith and to be able to find solace in it when she needs it.

The final stanza is a reflection on the fleeting nature of life and how we must make the most of the time we have. Yeats asks for his daughter to live a full and meaningful life and to leave a positive legacy behind.

Throughout the poem, Yeats uses vivid imagery and literary devices to convey his message. He uses metaphors and similes to compare his daughter to natural objects such as pearls and flowers, emphasizing her beauty and purity. He also uses personification to give voice to abstract concepts such as wisdom and love, making them more tangible and relatable.

Yeats also uses repetition to emphasize certain themes and ideas. The phrase "may she be" is repeated throughout the poem, emphasizing Yeats' wishes for his daughter's well-being. The repetition of the phrase "ignorant men" in the first stanza emphasizes Yeats' concern for his daughter's safety in a world that may not value her as she deserves.

In conclusion, "A Prayer for My Daughter" is a powerful and deeply personal poem that reflects Yeats' love and concern for his daughter. Through vivid imagery and literary devices, Yeats conveys his hopes and fears for his daughter's future and asks for her protection and well-being. The poem is a timeless reflection on the challenges and joys of parenthood and a reminder of the power of love and faith in difficult times.

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