A Prayer for my Daughter

W. B. Yeats

 
Once more the storm is howling, and half hid
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid
My child sleeps on.  There is no obstacle
But Gregory's wood and one bare hill
Whereby the haystack- and roof-levelling wind,
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed;
And for an hour I have walked and prayed
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind.
I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour
And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower,
And under the arches of the bridge, and scream
In the elms above the flooded stream;
Imagining in excited reverie
That the future years had come,
Dancing to a frenzied drum,
Out of the murderous innocence of the sea.
May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger's eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend.
Helen being chosen found life flat and dull
And later had much trouble from a fool,
While that great Queen, that rose out of the spray,
Being fatherless could have her way
Yet chose a bandy-leggèd smith for man.
It's certain that fine women eat
A crazy salad with their meat
Whereby the Horn of Plenty is undone.
In courtesy I'd have her chiefly learned;
Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned
By those that are not entirely beautiful;
Yet many, that have played the fool
For beauty's very self, has charm made wise,
And many a poor man that has roved,
Loved and thought himself beloved,
From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes.
May she become a flourishing hidden tree
That all her thoughts may like the linnet be,
And have no business but dispensing round
Their magnanimities of sound,
Nor but in merriment begin a chase,
Nor but in merriment a quarrel.
O may she live like some green laurel
Rooted in one dear perpetual place.
My mind, because the minds that I have loved,
The sort of beauty that I have approved,
Prosper but little, has dried up of late,
Yet knows that to be choked with hate
May well be of all evil chances chief.
If there's no hatred in a mind
Assault and battery of the wind
Can never tear the linnet from the leaf.
An intellectual hatred is the worst,
So let her think opinions are accursed.
Have I not seen the loveliest woman born
Out of the mouth of Plenty's horn,
Because of her opinionated mind
Barter that horn and every good
By quiet natures understood
For an old bellows full of angry wind?
Considering that, all hatred driven hence,
The soul recovers radical innocence
And learns at last that it is self-delighting,
Self-appeasing, self-affrighting,
And that its own sweet will is Heaven's will;
She can, though every face should scowl
And every windy quarter howl
Or every bellows burst, be happy still.
And may her bridegroom bring her to a house
Where all's accustomed, ceremonious;
For arrogance and hatred are the wares
Peddled in the thoroughfares.
How but in custom and in ceremony
Are innocence and beauty born?
Ceremony's a name for the rich horn,
And custom for the spreading laurel tree.
 
From Michael Robartes and the Dancer (Cuala Press, 1921)

Poems by This Author

A Drinking Song by W. B. Yeats
Wine comes in at the mouth
Adam's Curse by W. B. Yeats
We sat together at one summer's end
Aedh wishes for the Cloths of Heaven by W. B. Yeats
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths
An Irish Airman Foresees His Death by W. B. Yeats
I know that I shall meet my fate
Easter 1916 by W. B. Yeats
I have met them at close of day
Leda and the Swan by W. B. Yeats
A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Never give all the heart by W. B. Yeats
Never give all the heart, for love
Sailing to Byzantium by W. B. Yeats
That is no country for old men. The young
The Balloon of the Mind by W. B. Yeats
Hands, do what you're bid
The Fisherman by W. B. Yeats
Although I can see him still
The Heart of the Woman by W. B. Yeats
O what to me the little room
The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree
The Living Beauty by W. B. Yeats
I bade, because the wick and oil are spent
The Magi by W. B. Yeats
Now as at all times I can see in the mind's eye
The Moods by W. B. Yeats
Time drops in decay
The Player Queen by W. B. Yeats
My mother dandled me and sang
The Second Coming by W. B. Yeats
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The Song of Wandering Aengus by W. B. Yeats
I went out to the hazel wood
The Sorrow of Love by W. B. Yeats
The quarrel of the sparrows in the eaves
The Stolen Child by W. B. Yeats
Where dips the rocky highland
The Tower by W. B. Yeats
What shall I do with this absurdity
The Wild Swans at Coole by W. B. Yeats
The trees are in their autumn beauty
The Young Man's Song by W. B. Yeats
I whispered,
When You are Old by W. B. Yeats
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
Who goes with Fergus? by W. B. Yeats
Who will go drive with Fergus now


Further Reading

Poems About Daughters
A Little Tooth
by Thomas Lux
A Newborn Girl at Passover
by Nan Cohen
Achill
by Derek Mahon
Daughters in Poetry
by Eavan Boland
Daughters, 1900
by Marilyn Nelson
For a Daughter Who Leaves
by Janice Mirikitani
Heart's Needle
by W. D. Snodgrass
Home After Three Months Away
by Robert Lowell
Interstate Highway
by James Applewhite
Ladders
by Elizabeth Alexander
Morning Song
by Sylvia Plath
My Daughter All Yourn
by Farid Matuk
My Daughter Among the Names
by Farid Matuk
Poems about Daughters
Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah
by Patricia Smith
The Bistro Styx
by Rita Dove
The Pomegranate
by Eavan Boland
The Writer
by Richard Wilbur
Today A Rainstorm Caught Me
by Matt Hart
Waiting for Rain
by Ellen Bass
Poems about Innocence
A List of Praises
by Anne Porter
Auguries of Innocence
by William Blake
Chansons Innocentes: I
by E. E. Cummings
Essay on Adam
by Robert Bringhurst
Holy Innocents
by Christina Rossetti
Ontario
by Mark Levine
Part of Eve's Discussion
by Marie Howe
The Double Truth
by Chard deNiord
The Myth of Innocence
by Louise Glück