A Reading of W.B. Yeats's "A Prayer for my Daughter"
Coming of Age for Old Men and Young Girls
--page 5--

The simultaneous wish that his daughter live life with joy and magnanimity, but also that her life be sheltered and protected in "one dear perpetual place"--an evocation of the ideal of home--is powerful in these lines.

Yeats then turns towards himself, and acknowledges that his life has of late become dry, dessicated, as if he is withering in the face of the world he now beholds.  But he asserts that hatred is the worst response one can have to the world, and cautions that hatred will doom the one who hates:

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.

Yeats then cautions agains the worst of hatreds, "an intellectual hatred," in a stanza that may sound suspiciously like a wish that his daughter be bright, but not too bright:

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?

Yeats takes his parting shot at Maud Gonne, "the loveliest woman born," and faults her primarily for "her opinionated mind."  One cannot help but wonder if her opinion that Yeats was not the man for her leads Yeats to the judgement that too strong an opinion is a harmful thing in a woman.

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