Could I have the explanation of "A Prayer for My Daughter"?

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neneta | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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The poet Yeats wrote a prayer to my daughter in 1919 and the poem was published in 1921.

Yeats is a modernist poet since his work was written after the end of the first war. The poem has 10 stanzas and does not have a regular meter: yet the use of couplets in this poem suggests that the poet had not yet adhered to the free verse, a characteristic of the modernist poets

First is reasonable to look at the title of the poem. Thus, “Prayer to my daughter” is written to his daughter. More we read the poem more we understand Yeats´ s concerns for his child. Paraphrasing the poem helps to grasp the theme and the message of the poem. What does the speaker want to tell us? He wants to tell us how concerned he is about his daughter´s future. And how he loves her:  “May she become a flourishing tree/that all her thoughts may like the linnet be” (stanza 6)

The poem is rich in figurative language. As an example the references to bad weather reflects the speaker´s state of mind. His personifications of the storm, the wind, and the sea suggest gloominess: thus the storm is howling, meaning cry out, the sea-wind screams and the sea is murderous.

 In the next stanzas, he ponders about his daughter. He wishes her to be beautiful but not too beautiful, as in the following: “May she be granted beauty and yet not /

Beauty to make a stranger's eye distraught,” (stanza two)   

The assonance in the words: roved, loved and beloved gives the poem a certain rhythm. The purpose of those words is to suggest that beautiful women has a tendency to deceive men, an attitude that the speaker abhorrers and surely does not want his daughter to have it. Furthermore, he wishes her daughter to be a “flourishing hidden tree”, a metaphor for harmony and peacefulness.  He uses the following simile in stanza six “may she live like some green laurel”. He wants her daughter to be intelligent and learn the problems of the world, but at the same time, he wishes that she must be strong in order to be able to discern the difficulties of life in order to be happy and live in peace. The last stanza has a lighter tone since the speaker thinks about her daughter´s wedding with someone serious and this thought seems to cheer him up.

There are some shifts in the poem: The two first stanzas referring to the bad weather reflect the state of mind of the speaker. He feels distressed and gloomy as if he doesn´t believe that the world will change for better. Having dark thoughts does not help him to think optimistically. However as soon as he makes plans for his daughter, he becomes almost merrily.

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