Analysis of A Prayer for My Daughter by W. B. Yeats

This poem was written by William Butler Yeats for his infant daughter, Anne. He worries about her. Maud Gonne was a radical, opinionated intelligent lady he had loved, however who had rejected his proposals. In this poem he vents his ideas on her.

Stanza 1:

The weather is a mirrored image of Yeats’ emotions. The post-war period was harmful. Anne’s vulnerability and innocence is symbolized by the “cradle-hood” and “coverlid.”

“And half hid” reveals that Anne is barely protected by the frail “coverlid.

Anne is oblivious to the violent forces round her; she is ignorant, therefore she is “under this cradle-hood” which hides her and is unaffected. “Under this cradlehood and coverlid/My child sleeps on.” Her ignorance protects her from the uneasy information therefore she “sleeps on.”

Robert Gregory died. His father couldn’t shield him from death.

“The roof-levelling wind” is robust, representing horrifying, turbulent forces.

“Where by the haystack- and roof-levelling wind,/Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed.” USA was more comfortable in comparison with Europe. Turbulent forces or “wind” was much less important and extra managed within the USA. Hence it ca be “stayed” or managed.

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Yeats prays because he’s gloomy; “great gloom …. In my mind.”

Tone: Frightening, precarious, gloomy.

Literary devices: personification – “the storm is howling” represents threatening exterior forces e.g. riots, evilness.

Symbols – “Storm” represents exterior forces which threaten Anne’s security

“cradlehood” represents Anne’s innocence and infancy.

“coverlid” represents innocence and ignorance, frail safety.

“wind” represents turbulent forces.

“one bare hill” might characterize Robert’s demise. The hill is empty, it might characterize his death – there isn’t any one to occupy it. Or it might be a hill where his tombstone lies. 

Stanza 2:

Yeats is nervous about Anne. “I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour.” The weather displays the threatening forces he fears.

“Flooded stream” represents intense forces attributable to individuals because it has robust forces. It is “flooded” because the troublemakers exist in massive numbers or the forces are robust. The climate or exterior forces attributable to the warfare are stormy and harmful. The “elms” are tossed because of the harmful forces. 

Tone : intense, anxious, frenetic, chaotic.

This is somewhat determined and pessimistic however there’s a shift of temper. “Imagining …” When Yeats begins to think about, he helps his daughter; he decides how she ought to turn out. This appeases his worries and provides him new concepts for thought.. He imagines how her future can be excitedly.

“Imagining…the future years had come/Dancing to a frenzied drum.” Anne’s life will move in chaos. “Dancing to a frenzied drum” additionally signifies the passing years in Anne’s life that are represented by drum-beats – which additionally symbolize violence and chaos. It is a violent and chaotic time. The drum is “frenzied” due to the hazard and chaos round Anne. Furthermore, Yeats is happy for her to grow up.

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Anne’s innocence is juxtaposed with the contrasting “sea” which is “murderous.” The sea represents the world and the crowds round her, and as they’re evil, harmful and make the most of her innocence, they’re “murderous.” Moreover, the “sea” or the world is termed as “murderous innocence” because as a part of the “sea”, Anne’s innocence is “murderous” to herself because it permits others to control her.

Tone: frenetic, maddening, excited.

Literary devices: symbols – “sea wind” , “flooded stream” – turbulent forces

Personification – “future years … dancing” – the passing years of life

Juxtaposition/oxymoron/paradox – “murderous innocence of the sea”

Sibilance – “sea-wind scream”

Assonance:”sea-wind scream”

Onomatopoeia – “scream”

Stanza 3:

Yeats hopes that Anne can be beautiful however not excessively. “May she be granted beauty and yet not/Beauty to make a stranger‟s eye distraught.” Beauty is distracting and harmful, because it causes an admirer to be “distraught” and sad on account of this unfulfilled need to own this magnificence. Besides, he might need her negatively and steal her innocence. It conjures up passion which can be hopeless. She shouldn’t be useless and immodest of her magnificence. Yeats fears that magnificence will make her assume that it’s adequate, for beauty would assist her. Beautiful individuals being extra engaging can benefit more, and with this attribute, Anne might imagine that she wants not carry out acts of goodness, for her magnificence is adequate to put her in a position of safety and acceptance. This causes her to lose “natural kindness”. She doesn’t see or admire the values of kindness and virtue. She would assume herself superior and try much less with out serving to others. They should not have to be form and despise the physically undesirable. Furthermore, their magnificence permits them to be fastidious of their selection of partners, having many admirers. Hence, they don’t select the best individual as they haven’t any heart or soul. “Lose … the heart-revealing intimacy/ That chooses right.” They can’t love actually and take care of veneer and shallow qualities, for they can not actually really feel or know who “the one” is. They are looked for. 

Beauty obstructs friendship as being as being beautiful causes one to be condescending, malicious and take issues without any consideration. It causes the lack of human contact for the gorgeous might tend to boast and despise their inferiors. They usually are not true friends. In one other perspective, they don’t form true friendships because others befriend them for the advantages derived from their look and even make the most of them. The beautiful don’t take note of those that make true friends as they consider themselves superior in magnificence, trend, and so on. Furthermore, extreme beauty ends in jealousy and broken friendships. Another level to make is that beauty that over-entices might lower Anne’s virtue and enhance her vulnerability as others want to use her. This is essential as on this poem, Yeats emphasizes the necessity for female innocence.

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In distinction, a plainer individual being on a decrease hierarchy will admire the significance of kindness. In this context, beauty is equated with society’s shallowness.

Tone: imploring, beseeching, prayer-like, reflective.

Literary devices: personification – “stranger‟s eye distraught” – attracts and saddens one who’s attracted.

Symbol – the “stranger” is an unhappy admirer.

Alliteration – “stranger‟s eye distraught”

Stanza 4 :

Yeats speaks of Greek mythology. Helen of Troy, being essentially the most beautiful woman on this planet, married Paris, a stupid man. Quote: “Helen being chosen found life flat and dull / And later had much trouble from a fool.” As she was vastly admired and revered for her magnificence, life was boring with little strife.

“While that great queen, that rose out of the spray, being fatherless could have her wasy/ Yet chose a bandy-legged smith for man.” Venus or Aphrodite, being fatherless, may marry as she happy with no parental authority. Yet with all her energy and benefits “chose a bandy-legged smith for man” – somebody inferior to her. She had no father to guide her. Yeats intends to guide his daughter within the choice of an appropriate partner. Yeats is scornful: cultured women make mad decisions in spouses. “Fine women eat/ A crazy salad with their meat.” Meat is substantial; salad shouldn’t be. Meat represents an effective girl who could be mentioned to be “substantial,” having quite a few qualities; the “crazy salad” is their dreadful mate, who’s devoid of many qualities. They can have extra, however select worse.

The Horn of Plenty was a horn given by Zeus to his caretaker. The possessor of this Horn could be granted his needs. “Whereby the Horn of Plenty is undone.” This is as a result of Maud Gonne squandered her gifts of intellect, grace and sweetness and the advantages she may command by marrying John McBride. She may acquire what she desired with these gifts – much like the Horn of Plenty – and wasted the aforementioned gifts on McBride. As the Horn of Plenty may convey victuals, John McBride is symbolized as an unsubstantial “salad.” Maud Gonne wasted her supposed power; she may have executed higher for herself, as an alternative she made the fallacious alternative or need.

Tone: cynical, sad, troubled, scornful.

Literary devices:
Symbol – “Helen”, “Queen” – a ravishing cultured lady or Maud Gonne.

“Horn of plenty” – gifts, advantages.

Metaphor – “crazy salad” – an inferior partner.

Stanza 5:

Yeats desires Anne to be courteous. Love doesn’t come freely and unconditionally. “Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned.” Love shouldn’t be impressed by mere physical beauty; it’s earned by good efforts “by those who are not entirely beautiful” who’re kind and useful. Those who’ve in stupidity made  idiot of themselves by hopelessly loving beautiful women and thought it was reciprocated. “Yet many, tat have played the fool/ For beauty‟s very self.” One might not be beloved by a ravishing lady. “

“Charm” from a good lady has charmed a person eventually. “has charm made wise.” He turns into “wise” by realizing the goodness of loving a good lady.

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Unsuccessful males have beloved and are beloved by kind ladies who make them pleased, but usually are not beautiful. “Loved and thought himself beloved/ From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes.” She “cannot take his eyes” or captivate him by sight because she shouldn’t be physically beautiful. But her kindness makes him glad. This might be a reference to Yeats’ spouse, Georgie Hyde Lees who was not beautiful, however they had a contented marriage. Georgie loved him and let him take the credit for her work. The persona praises good non-beautiful women – like Georgie – who’re more liked by males in comparison with harsh beautiful ones – Maud Gonne.

Tone: reflective, advisory, grateful, enlightened.

Literary devices:

Personification – “glad kindness cannot take his eyes” /“charm made wise.”

Symbol – “hearts” – love

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