What is the background and main theme of the poem "A Prayer for my Daughter" by W.B. Yeats

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lhc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yeats's poem begins with a description of a storm howling outside while his newborn daughters lies, partially covered by a blanket, in her cradle, ostensibly protected from the outside world.  The reader becomes aware that the storm is actually a metaphor for the struggle for Ireland's independence, a political situation that overshadows the joy of his daughter's birth.  Thematically, many women have pegged this work by Yeats as being sexist and offensive, inasmuch as he describes his hopes for her future, which, if all goes well, will include a large home and sizable income brought into her life, of course, by a good match with a suitable husband--in other words, these critics believe Yeats was doing nothing more than endorsing the ideals of 19th century womanhood as his daughter's birthright.