William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), the celebrated Irish poet, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923, needs no introduction. The Irish identity was very strong in him and as an active member of the Irish National Revival, he tried his best to add Celtic legends to evoke the glorious past of his land. In a time when the world was much fragmented, he endeavored to create a unified perspective of things that is cohesive and all encompassing. The poem is an intense expression of how Yeats felt after his daughter Anne was born although the ideas conveyed go far beyond the personal.
Theme of the Poem
The poem portrays how a father, who has been blessed with a daughter, prays for the future happiness and welfare of her. The poet hopes that instead of growing up to be a very beautiful woman, his daughter should be blessed with the attributes of a virtuous and great soul. She should be well-mannered and full of humility rather than being strongly opinionated, to avoid intellectual detestation because that can drown her in misery.
In the beginning, Yeats talks about the storm having commenced brewing in the seas. Between his newly born daughter and the sea, there stand a bare hill and Gregory’s woods which might not thwart the storm from reaching the helpless infant. The father is naturally worried as he senses the gale striking the tower and the undersides of the bridges. To his mind, the storm presages the future of her daughter having arrived with a rage, mounting from the seeming innocence of the sea. As a father, the poet wishes beauty for her daughter but not such voluptuousness that would engross others to distraction or make her vain.
He does not want her daughter to be bereft of kindness nor does he want her to fail in choosing the persons with whom she will be friendly. The father shudders at the thought of her daughter’s turning to be another Helen of Troy, who couldn’t help being unfaithful as she was so beautiful. Some lovely women like the queen who had not had her father imposing useful restraints upon her, chose an ordinary smith with warped legs, instead of marrying a handsome yet virtuous man matching her handsome looks and social standing. It is strange how exquisitely beautiful women often choose ‘a crazy salad’ (an undeserving husband) to go ‘with their meat’ (rich food or their great beauty).
His daughter should realize that she should be deserving of winning human hearts. She should not be like those crafty women who employ their charms to use people to their advantage. It is…