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A Prayer for My Daughter : summary

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A Prayer for My Daughter is a notable literary work by William Butler Yeats. A complete discussion of this literary work is given, which will help you enhance your literary skills and prepare for the exam. Read the main text, key info, Summary, Themes, Characters, Literary Devices, Quotations, Notes, to various questions of A Prayer for My Daughter.

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The poem “A Prayer for My Daughter” by William Butler Yeats is a heartfelt and contemplative piece. The speaker, Yeats himself, conveys his profound wishes and concerns for his newborn daughter. The poem is set during a storm, and the tumultuous weather serves as a metaphor for the challenges and uncertainties of life that the speaker envisions his daughter will face as she grows.

The opening of the poem mentions a vivid picture of the storm, emphasizing its destructive power and the relative vulnerability of the daughter, who is sleeping in her cradle. The storm represents the harsh realities of the world, and the speaker is extremely troubled by the thought of his daughter having to confront these challenges. This concern makes him pray for her well-being.

The speaker depicts an hour of walking and praying, during which he hears the wind howling and the sea raging. These natural elements reflect the chaos and unpredictability of life. The speaker visualizes the future as if it were a “daydream,” a dance that emerges from both the harmful and the innocent aspects of the world. He wishes for a future that is harmonious and beautiful, even in the face of life’s storms.

One of the central themes of the poem is the idea of beauty and its potential dangers. The speaker prays for his daughter to be beautiful, but not excessively so. He fears that extreme beauty may lead to vanity and self-absorption, causing her to lose her innate kindness and the ability to form genuine, intimate relationships. The cautionary tales of Helen of Troy and Aphrodite are invoked to illustrate the perils of beauty: Helen found her life dull and suffered due to her choices. At the same time, Aphrodite chose a simple and humble husband despite her extraordinary beauty.

The speaker highlights the importance of education in manners and civility, suggesting that these qualities are more valuable than physical beauty. He accepts that people who may not be conventionally beautiful can win the affection and love of others through their actions and kindness. The poem enables a focus on inner beauty and the nurturing of one’s character.

The image of the daughter as a “prosperous tree hidden from view” conveys the speaker’s desire for her to have a stable and peaceful life and be free from the storms and turbulence of the world. He wishes that her thoughts would be like the finch’s song, pleasing and generous. The idea of chasing after things and arguing in jest reveals a lighthearted approach to life.

The poem also connects to the power of the mind and the destructive nature of hatred. The speaker wishes for his daughter to avoid harbouring strong opinions, as these can lead to hatred and conflict. He recites the story of a beautiful woman who sacrificed her natural blessings for the sake of her opinions, highlighting the dangers of this path.

The poem concludes with a prayer for the daughter’s happiness, regardless of the external circumstances. The speaker wishes that her husband will take her to a home filled with tradition and ceremony, where purity and beauty are fostered. He emphasises the importance of upholding customs and respecting order as a means of preserving these qualities.

“A Prayer for My Daughter” is a reflective and emotional poem in which the speaker prays for his daughter’s well-being and happiness. The poem investigates themes of beauty, kindness, education, and the power of the mind. It offers a glimpse into a father’s hopes and concerns for his child’s future, set against the backdrop of a stormy and uncertain world.