A Prayer for My Daughter by William Butler Yeats: Introduction

A Prayer for My Daughter was written in 1919 after the birth of his first child named Anne Butler Yeats. This date is quite significant because it was soon after the First World War. Naturally, W.B. Yeats was troubled and horrified about the postwar situation in the western world. There was change, chaos and turbulence in the society, and the world was becoming harsher and a coarse place to live in.

William B. Yeats (1865-1939)

At such point of history and human civilization his beautiful and innocent daughter was born. So, it is obvious for Yeats and any father to be worried about the future of a newly born daughter.

This poem begins with the wish that his daughter will never get influenced by that savage culture in the future. The poet has been living in a new place he has bought, since shortly after his marriage. At the very moment, he is babysitting, but being violently disturbed by thoughts of the existing chaos in the world. He has been walking here and there for some time. At last he comes in and looks at his infant daughter and beings to talk to her, giving her blessings and making many wishes for her.

As it is well known that most of Yeats’ great works rely upon the events of his life, this poem too is one of his most personal poems. He makes wishes for his daughter that she must hate those qualities that define Maud Gonne, a woman he loved but could not get her love. He sees the rays of hope for her daughter in this poem stating that returning to tradition and ceremony is the only way to avoid the anarchy of the western world. He also celebrates the aristocracy and their ways of life and values they follow. He wishes his daughter to be married to an aristocrat and follow the ceremony. 

To put the matter short, the poem is not a prayer of the ordinary kind, since no god is addressed, but it is a set of wishes that the poet gives to his daughter, a wish that his daughter should not develop the qualities that would compel her to face the cruelty of the world. It is significant on the general level because the poem is also an expression of the poet’s philosophy of good culture and good women.

Cite this Page!

Sharma, K.N. "A Prayer for My Daughter by William Butler Yeats: Introduction." BachelorandMaster, 26 May 2017, bachelorandmaster.com/britishandamericanpoetry/a-prayer-for-my-daughter-introduction.html.