The speaker in this poem has a number of wishes for his young daughter. He would like her to be beautiful, but not sufficiently beautiful "to make a stranger's eye distraught," nor to make the girl herself pay too much attention to her appearance. The speaker fears that those who "consider beauty a sufficient end" will become less naturally kind, which in turn may mean that they have trouble finding intimacy and making friends. He refers to Helen, an allusion to Helen of Troy, as an example of how being too beautiful can be a curse, rather than a blessing.
Because he does not want his daughter to be too beautiful, the speaker wishes instead for her to be "chiefly learned" in "courtesy," stating that the hearts of others can be won through "glad kindness." He wishes his daughter to be a "flourishing hidden tree" who might be "rooted in one dear perpetual place," someone without hatred in her mind. The speaker also opines that "an intellectual hatred is the worst," suggesting that he wishes his daughter to grow up not to be "opinionated," as this will allow her to remain innocent and sweet-natured. Those who are too opinionated, he suggests, become quickly angry with others. If his daughter grows up to be sweet-natured, she will be lucky enough, the speaker hopes, to be brought to an "accustomed, ceremonious" house by her bridegroom, free of hatred and full of innocence.