Yeats' poem "To a Child Dancing in the Wind," published in 1916, was written in 1912 and marks the first appearance in Yeats' poetry of Iseult Gonne, the daughter of Yeats' great love, Maude Gonne. The poem, very typical of Yeats in the years preceding the Easter Rebellion of 1916, expresses the tension between the innocence and freedom from care of youth and the dark realities of adult life.
The first five lines--with their alternating rhyme scheme of abab--establish the pure freedom of youth:
Dance there upon the shore;/What need have you to care/For wind or water's roar?/And tumble out your hair/That the salt drops have wet. . . .
The act of dancing itself creates the air of the freedom that characterizes youth, and Yeats makes it clear that the dancer is unaffected by "wind and water's roar," symbols both of nature and of the adult world that looms over the child. The regular rhyme scheme helps create the sense of order. The meter is a mix of trochaic (stressed/unstressed syllables) and iambic (unstressed/stressed syllables) trimeter (three pairs of syllables, an unusual meter that Yeats varies through the remainder of the poem.
The tension between the two states of life--youth and adulthood--becomes clear in the fifth through the twelfth lines in which the harsh realities of adult life turn the freedom of youth upside down:
Being young you have not known/The fool's triumph, nor yet/Love lost as soon as won, Nor the best labourer dead/And all the sheaves to bind.
Clearly, Yeats sees the ultimate destruction of childhood joy and carefree existence--a world in which fools succeed, which implies that good, honorable people don not thrive, and honest laborers are tossed aside while their work remains unfinished. Just as the child's world is falling apart, Yeats mirrors the chaos with meter that becomes increasingly irregular, and rather than regular rhyme scheme, Yeast employs slant (or near) rhyme to enhance the disorder of adult life: instead of alternating cdcd, we have cdce, the e being slant rhyme, which sounds slightly "off" and matches the sense of the lines--growing chaos. The perfection of regular rhyme is subtly shifted to imperfection, so the rhyme now mirrors the sense of the poem--an imperfect world looms over the child.
The last two lines are eerily similar to the end of Yeats' 1919 poem "The Second Coming,"
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
in which Yeats depicts a new and destructive force about to overwhelm the world. Even though these poems are separated by several years, clearly Yeats views the fate of the child to be as disastrous as the fate of the world at large:
What need have you to dread/The monstrous crying of wind!
Unfortunately for the dancer in "To a Child," the question Yeats asks is rather a statement about the dancer's fate, which is that the dancer does indeed need to fear the injustice, the imperfect world, represented by the "monstrous crying of wind." The wind that was once merely a part of nature has now become an agent of destruction, ending the freedom of youth and signalling the death of innocence.