In Yeat's "A Prayer for My Daughter, what lessons does the poet learn from his own life's experiences and how does that influence the prayer he says for his daughter?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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We can assume that W.B. Yeats' experiences have served to influence the things he wishes for his daughter in the poem, "A Prayer for My Daughter."

The first thing Yeats wishes is that his daughter will be given beauty, but not the kind that will distract others or herself—that others might become "distraught" by her beauty, or that she might become too preoccupied with her own image in the mirror. For some people, beauty becomes more important than anything and the pursuit of beauty leads one to believe that having it means that nothing else is important in life. For some, having beauty robs them of "natural kindness," as well as honest "intimacy," which allow one to make the right choices—rather than to idolize beauty to the extent of all else, and not ever be able to find a true friend.

Yeats alludes to famous women who were considered beautiful, and that life wasn't actually so great for them. He speaks of Helen of Troy and Venus, the goddess of love. Yeats knows that beauty is fleeting: what he wishes for his daughter is to have knowledge or "have her chiefly learned..." of "courtesy."

Yeats has experience the pain that accompanies great beauty in a woman, in his love for Maud Gonne (an "actress and political activist"). While beautiful, this woman (who he met at twenty-two and wooed for almost thirty years) did not have the special qualities of the woman who Yeats ultimately married, Georgie Hyde-Lees. Gonne's beauty brought her no satisfaction, and left Yeats greatly frustrated:

Yeats suggests that kindness and generosity breed trust and affection between people. Yeats would also wish his daughter a life of stability and deep-rootedness—that is, a quiet life away from noisy thoroughfares.

Yeats did not want his daughter deeply involved with the very things that seemed in his mind to be distressful:

..."intellectual, political, financial, or emotional struggle."

He wanted his daughter to think less about her appearance and "cultivate her own personal worth...and her soul." Yeats' experiences with Gonne and then his wife showed two very different women, and based upon his relationships with both women, he seemed to believe that the characteristics his wife had were the qualities most admirable, and those he hoped his daughter would also have also.

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appu95 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

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In this poem we see yeats in the role of an anxious father brooding over his young daughter's future. the storm that howls outside is symbolic of the turbulent times in which Yeats lived. The future to Yeats is an apocalyptic vision. Yeats wants his daughter to inherit the traits and and a character that would allow her to lead a complete and fulfilling life in the world. he wants her to be beautiful but not to the exten 'to make a strnager's eye disraught,/Or hers before a looking-glass'. An excess of beauty is rather a curse than a blessing because not only does it deceive those who look upon it but also its possesor.

It’s interesting that the first request and also the large portion of the poem have to do with the daughter’s looks, and not who she is as a person. Although the way Yeats sees it, the two go hand-in-hand. He believes the beauty has the ability to corrupt (both his daughter and everyone around her).

Yeats cites the example of Helen of Troy and of Aphrodite(Venus) to drive in this point.The father shudders at the thought of her daughter turning out to be like Helen who couldn't hepl being unfaithful as she was so beautiful. He goes on to say that some lovely women like the Queen, who didn't have an imposing father who would restrain her, chose an ordinaty smith instead of marrying a hansome yet virtuous man matching her social standing.

Yeats says he would ; have her chiefly learned;/ Hearts are not had as gifts but hearts are earned' He wishes his daughter to be humble and like a 'flourishing hidden tree'. He wants her to be rooted in the same social class of her family. She shouldn't be crafty like some women who employ their charms to use people to their advantage. He mentions that it is a woman's compassion that enamours a man in the end.

Yeats then appears to take a very conservative outmoded view of wome.He speaks of how “intellectual hatred is the worst” (57). This is a curious pronouncement which he clarifies in the next line: “So let her think opinions are accursed” (58). Thus Yeats seemingly wants his daughter to have few thoughts and opinions of her own. He later wishes that “she can… be happy still” in the face of great adversity (65-67). This conjures pictures of the stereotypical 1950′s house wife to the modern reader. A quiet, respectful woman who knows her place in the home and family. While this would be quite an anachronism for Yeats, it nevertheless can be interpreted by a modern mind as overly conservative. Yeats seals this conservative attitude with “how but in custom and in ceremony are innocence and beauty born?” (72-73)

 

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appu95's profile pic

appu95 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

n this poem we see yeats in the role of an anxious father brooding over his young daughter's future. the storm that howls outside is symbolic of the turbulent times in which Yeats lived. The future to Yeats is an apocalyptic vision. Yeats wants his daughter to inherit the traits and and a character that would allow her to lead a complete and fulfilling life in the world. he wants her to be beautiful but not overly so. An excess of beauty is rather a curse than a blessing because not only does it deceive those who look upon it but also its possesor. Yeats cites the example of Helen of Troy and of Aphrodite(Venus) to drive in this point.

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