A Prayer for My Daughter poem summary line by line

A Prayer for My Daughter poem summary line by line

A Prayer for My Daughter poem summary line by line-In "A Prayer for My Daughter," William Butler Yeats offers a tender exploration of parental love and concern for his newborn child. Through vivid imagery and reflective contemplation, the poem delves into timeless themes such as protection, innocence, gender expectations, legacy, and spirituality.

A Prayer for My Daughter poem summary line by line

A Prayer for My Daughter poem summary line by line-The speaker's heartfelt expressions convey a deep-seated desire to shield his daughter from the challenges of the world while nurturing her inner resilience. Yeats invites readers on a journey through the complexities of parenthood, where hope, faith, and love intersect, inviting contemplation on the enduring bonds between parent and child in the face of life's uncertainties.

A Prayer for My Daughter poem summary


"What shall I do with this absurdity —"

The speaker begins by contemplating what to do with the absurdity of life.

"O heart, O troubled heart — this caricature,"

The speaker addresses his troubled heart, likening life to a caricature.

"Decrepit age that has been tied to me"

The speaker reflects on aging and its inevitable ties to him.

"As to a dog's tail?"

The speaker compares the ties of age to a dog's tail, suggesting a burdensome attachment.

"Never had I more"

The speaker reflects on his past, suggesting he never had more...


"Excited, passionate, fantastical"

...excitement, passion, and fantasy than before.

"Imagination, nor an ear and eye"

The speaker reflects on the heightened imagination and senses of youth.

"That more expected the impossible —"

...that anticipated impossibilities more eagerly.

"No, not in boyhood when with rod and fly,"

The speaker recalls his boyhood days spent fishing.

"Or the humbler worm, I climbed Ben Bulben's back"

The speaker reminisces about climbing the mountain Ben Bulben.

"And had the livelong summer day to spend."

The speaker reflects on the freedom of spending entire summer days outdoors.

"It seems that I must bid the Muse go pack,"

The speaker decides to bid farewell to inspiration or the Muse.

"Choose Plato and Plotinus for a friend"

Instead, the speaker decides to turn to the philosophers Plato and Plotinus for guidance.

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"Until imagination, ear and eye,"

...until his imagination, hearing, and sight...

"Can be content with argument and deal"

...can be satisfied with intellectual discourse and abstract concepts.

"In abstract things; or be derided by"

...or else be ridiculed for...

"A sort of battered kettle at the heel."

...being like a worn-out kettle at the heel, a metaphor for being mocked or dismissed.



"I pace upon the battlements and stare"

The speaker describes pacing on the battlements, perhaps of a castle or a building, and looking out at the surroundings.

"On the foundations of a house, or where"

The speaker gazes upon the foundations of a house or any other significant landmark.

"Tree, like a sooty finger, starts from the earth;"

The speaker notices a tree rising from the ground, described metaphorically as a "sooty finger."

"And send imagination forth"

The speaker allows their imagination to roam freely.

"Under the day's declining beam, and call"

The speaker calls upon their imagination as the day turns to evening.


"Images and memories"

The speaker summons images and memories from the past.

"From ruin or from ancient trees,"

These images and memories may come from either ruined structures or old trees.

"For I would ask a question of them all."

The speaker seeks answers or insights from these images and memories.


"Beyond that ridge lived Mrs. French, and once"

The speaker describes the residence of Mrs. French, a notable figure in the area.

"When every silver candlestick or sconce"

During a particular event or occasion, all the silver candlesticks or wall brackets holding candles were lit.

"Lit up the dark mahogany and the wine,"

These lit candlesticks illuminated the dark mahogany furniture and the wine being served.

"A serving-man, that could divine"

A servant who seemed to understand intuitively or foresee Mrs. French's desires...

"That most respected lady's every wish,"

...and promptly fulfilled every wish of the highly esteemed Mrs. French.

"Ran and with the garden shears"

This serving-man hastily grabbed the garden shears...

"Clipped an insolent farmer's ears"

...and used them to cut off the ears of a disrespectful farmer.

"And brought them in a little covered dish."

The servant then presented these severed ears in a small covered dish, perhaps as a form of punishment or display.

"Some few remembered still when I was young"

The speaker reminisces about a time when a few people still remembered...


"A peasant girl commended by a song,"

...a peasant girl who was praised in a song or poem.

"Who'd lived somewhere upon that rocky place,"

This girl lived somewhere in the rocky area being discussed.

"And praised the colour of her face,"

The song praised the beauty of her face.

"And had the greater joy in praising her,"

The singer found great joy in praising her.

"Remembering that, if walked she there,"

Recalling that whenever she walked in that area...

"Farmers jostled at the fair"

...farmers would compete or jostle for her attention at the fair.

"So great a glory did the song confer."

The song bestowed such great glory upon her that it attracted much attention and admiration.


"And certain men, being maddened by those rhymes,"

Some men, driven to madness by the captivating verses of the song...

"Or else by toasting her a score of times,"

...or perhaps by excessively toasting her praises...

"Rose from the table and declared it right"

...stood up from their seats at the table and justified...

"To test their fancy by their sight;"

...testing their imagination by seeking visual confirmation...

"But they mistook the brightness of the moon"

...but they confused the moon's brightness...

"For the prosaic light of day –"

...thinking it was daylight, not moonlight...

"Music had driven their wits astray –"

...their senses were confused by the music...

"And one was drowned in the great bog of Cloone."

...leading one of them to drown in the large bog of Cloone.

"Strange, but the man who made the song was blind;"

The speaker finds it peculiar that the composer of the song was blind.

"Yet, now I have considered it, I find"

However, upon reflection, the speaker realizes...

"That nothing strange; the tragedy began"

...there's nothing unusual about it; the tragic pattern...

"With Homer that was a blind man,"

...similar to Homer, who was also blind...

"And Helen has all living hearts betrayed."

...suggesting that like Helen of Troy, who betrayed many, the blind composer's song led to tragic events.

"O may the moon and sunlight seem"

The speaker expresses a wish for the moon and sunlight to blend together...

"One inextricable beam,"

...creating an indistinguishable light...

"For if I triumph I must make men mad."

The speaker suggests that to achieve success, he must drive people to madness with his work.


"And I myself created Hanrahan"

The speaker claims responsibility for creating a character named Hanrahan...

"And drove him drunk or sober through the dawn"

...and influenced his actions whether he was drunk or sober until daybreak...

"From somewhere in the neighbouring cottages."

...from a nearby area of cottages.

"Caught by an old man's juggleries"

Hanrahan was ensnared by the tricks of an old man...

"He stumbled, tumbled, fumbled to and fro"

...causing him to stumble and fumble around...

"And had but broken knees for hire"

...resulting in him having only his damaged knees to offer in exchange for help.

"And horrible splendour of desire;"

Hanrahan was consumed by intense and conflicting desires.

"I thought it all out twenty years ago:"

The speaker reflects on having devised this scenario twenty years earlier.


"Good fellows shuffled cards in an old bawn;"

The scene shifts to a group of good-natured individuals playing cards in an old fortified enclosure known as a bawn.

"And when that ancient ruffian's turn was on"

When it was the turn of an elderly troublemaker...

"He so bewitched the cards under his thumb"

...he enchanted the cards under his control...

"That all but the one card became"

...causing all the cards except one to transform...

"A pack of hounds and not a pack of cards,"

...into a pack of hunting dogs rather than playing cards.

"And that he changed into a hare."

Additionally, he himself transformed into a hare.

"Hanrahan rose in frenzy there"

In response, Hanrahan, driven by frenzy...

"And followed up those baying creatures towards —"

...chased after the barking dogs, but the outcome is left unfinished.

"O towards I have forgotten what — enough!"

The speaker admits to forgetting where Hanrahan chased the creatures and decides to move on from the topic.

"I must recall a man that neither love"

The speaker shifts focus, expressing the need to remember a man who was unaffected by love...


"Nor music nor an enemy's clipped ear"

...or music, nor even by the punishment of an enemy's clipped ear...

"Could, he was so harried, cheer;"

...because he was so tormented, he couldn't find joy in anything.

"A figure that has grown so fabulous"

This man's story has become so legendary...

"There's not a neighbour left to say"

...that there are no longer any neighbors around to recount...

"When he finished his dog's day:"

...when his troubled existence finally came to an end.

"An ancient bankrupt master of this house."

This refers to an ancient bankrupt master who once owned the speaker's house.

"Before that ruin came, for centuries,"

Before the ruin of the house occurred, for many centuries...

"Rough men-at-arms, cross-gartered to the knees"

Rough soldiers, wearing cross-garters reaching to their knees...

"Or shod in iron, climbed the narrow stairs,"

...or wearing iron shoes, ascended the narrow stairs of the house.

"And certain men-at-arms there were"

Some of these soldiers...

"Whose images, in the Great Memory stored,"

...whose images are stored in the collective memory...

"Come with loud cry and panting breast"

...appear with loud cries and heaving chests...

"To break upon a sleeper's rest"

...disturbing the rest of anyone who sleeps in the house.

"While their great wooden dice beat on the board."

Meanwhile, the sound of their large wooden dice rolling on the board is heard.

"As I would question all, come all who can;"

The speaker invites all who are capable to come and be questioned.

"Come old, necessitous, half-mounted man;"

This includes old and impoverished individuals, as well as partially mounted men.

"And bring beauty's blind rambling celebrant;"

Also, the blind celebrant of beauty should come along.

"The red man the juggler sent"

Additionally, the juggler's red man should join.

"Through God-forsaken meadows; Mrs. French,"

Mrs. French, who lives beyond the ridge, is also called upon.


"Gifted with so fine an ear;"

She is described as having a keen sense of hearing.

"The man drowned in a bog's mire,"

Another figure, a man who drowned in a bog's mud, is summoned.

"When mocking muses chose the country wench."

This man met his fate when mocking muses selected a country girl.

"Did all old men and women, rich and poor,"

The speaker questions whether all elderly individuals, regardless of wealth or social status...

"Who trod upon these rocks or passed this door,"

...who walked on these rocky paths or passed through this door...

"Whether in public or in secret rage"

...whether openly or secretly, harbored feelings of resentment...

"As I do now against old age?"

...towards old age, just as the speaker does now.

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"But I have found an answer in those eyes"

Despite this anger, the speaker finds an answer in the eyes...

"That are impatient to be gone;"

...that are eager to depart or move on.

"Go therefore; but leave Hanrahan,"

The speaker instructs these eyes to leave, but requests Hanrahan to stay...

"For I need all his mighty memories."

...because the speaker requires all of Hanrahan's powerful memories.


"Old lecher with a love on every wind,"

The speaker addresses an old lecher who seems to pursue love wherever it blows...

"Bring up out of that deep considering mind"

...asking him to recall from his contemplative mind...

"All that you have discovered in the grave,"

...everything he has learned from his experiences and observations.

"For it is certain that you have"

The speaker asserts that it is certain that the lecher has...

"Reckoned up every unforeknown, unseeing"

...calculated or understood every unforeseen or unseen...

"Plunge, lured by a softening eye,"

...dive into situations enticed by a seductive gaze...

"Or by a touch or a sigh,"

...or by a gentle touch or a sigh.

"Into the labyrinth of another's being;"

...into the complex inner workings of another person's existence.

"Does the imagination dwell the most"

The speaker now ponders whether the imagination tends to dwell most...

"Upon a woman won or woman lost?"

...on a woman who has been won over or one who has been lost?

"If on the lost, admit you turned aside"

If the imagination does dwell on the lost woman, the speaker suggests admitting...


"From a great labyrinth out of pride,"

...that one turned away from a significant challenge out of pride...

"Cowardice, some silly over-subtle thought"

...or cowardice, or due to some foolish, overly complicated idea.

"Or anything called conscience once;"

...or perhaps due to a sense of conscience at some point in the past.

"And that if memory recur, the sun's"

The speaker acknowledges that if memories resurface, they may obscure...

"Under eclipse and the day blotted out."

...the sun during an eclipse, causing the day to be darkened.




"It is time that I wrote my will;"

The speaker acknowledges that it is time for them to write their will, indicating a sense of urgency or impending mortality.

"I choose upstanding men"

The speaker expresses their intention to select honorable individuals...

"That climb the streams until"

...who ascend the streams until...

"The fountain leap, and at dawn"

...they reach the point where the fountain leaps, typically at dawn...


"Drop their cast at the side"

...they release their fishing line at the edge...

"Of dripping stone; I declare"

...of a wet or moist stone; the speaker makes a declaration...

"They shall inherit my pride,"

...stating that these individuals will inherit the speaker's sense of pride...

"The pride of people that were"

...specifically, the pride of individuals who...

"Bound neither to Cause nor to State,"

...were not bound by allegiance to any cause or state...

"Neither to slaves that were spat on,"

...nor to those who were oppressed or mistreated as slaves...

"Nor to the tyrants that spat,"

...nor to the oppressive rulers who mistreated others...

"The people of Burke and of Grattan"

...referencing historical figures like Burke and Grattan...

"That gave, though free to refuse –"

...who gave their efforts willingly, despite being free to decline...

"Pride, like that of the morn,"

The speaker compares this pride to the feeling of the morning...

"When the headlong light is loose,"

...when the early light of day is spreading freely...

"Or that of the fabulous horn,"

...or to the majestic sound of a horn...

"Or that of the sudden shower"

...or to the refreshing feeling of a sudden rain shower...

"When all streams are dry,"

...even when all other sources have dried up...

"Or that of the hour"

...or to the feeling experienced during a specific moment...

"When the swan must fix his eye"

...when a swan must focus its gaze...


"Upon a fading gleam,"

The speaker describes the act of reflecting on a diminishing light or fading memory...

"Float out upon a long"

...and drifting away onto a lengthy...

"Last reach of glittering stream"

...final stretch of a sparkling stream...

"And there sing his last song."

...where one would sing their final song.

"And I declare my faith:"

The speaker announces their belief or creed...

"I mock Plotinus' thought"

...expressing mockery towards the philosophy of Plotinus...


"And cry in Plato's teeth,"

...and boldly contradicting the ideas of Plato...

"Death and life were not"

...asserting that death and life did not exist...

"Till man made up the whole,"

...until humans created the entire concept...

"Made lock, stock and barrel"

...completely invented, including every detail...

"Out of his bitter soul,"

...out of the depths of their own troubled spirit.

"Aye, sun and moon and star, all,"

The speaker includes everything, from the celestial bodies like the sun, moon, and stars...

"And further add to that"

...and extends this idea to include...

"That, being dead, we rise,"

...the notion that after death, humans rise again...

"Dream and so create"

...to dream and thus bring into existence...

"Translunar Paradise."

...a paradise beyond the moon.

"I have prepared my peace"

The speaker has found their peace...


"With learned Italian things"

...through knowledge acquired from Italian culture...

"And the proud stones of Greece,"

...and from the esteemed historical sites of Greece...

"Poet's imaginings"

...as well as the creative visions of poets...

"And memories of love,"

...and memories of affectionate relationships...

"Memories of the words of women,"

...memories of the wisdom and words spoken by women...

"All those things whereof"

...all of these elements from which...

"Man makes a superhuman"

...humans construct a divine or transcendent...

"Mirror-resembling dream."

...dream that closely reflects reality, like a mirror.


"As at the loophole there"

The speaker observes a scene at a narrow opening or window...

"The daws chatter and scream,"

...where jackdaws (a type of bird) are making noise and cries...

"And drop twigs layer upon layer."

...and dropping twigs one after another, building up layers...

"When they have mounted up,"

...until they have built up a significant structure...

"The mother bird will rest"

...allowing the mother bird to perch and find rest...

"On their hollow top,"

...on top of this hollow structure...

"And so warm her wild nest."

...and thus keep her nest warm, despite its wild or exposed nature.

"I leave both faith and pride"

The speaker decides to leave behind both faith and pride...

"To young upstanding men"

...for young, honorable men...

"Climbing the mountain side,"

...ascending the mountainside...

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"That under bursting dawn"

...so they can fish under the brilliant sunrise...

"They may drop a fly;"

...casting a fishing line or lure...

"Being of that metal made"

...made of the same strong material...

"Till it was broken by"

...until it was weakened or broken by...

"This sedentary trade."

...the monotonous or inactive occupation they engage in.

"Now shall I make my soul,"

The speaker now resolves to strengthen their spirit...

"Compelling it to study"

...by forcing it to engage in study or learning...

"In a learned school"

...in an environment of knowledge and education...


"Till the wreck of body,"

...until the physical decline of their body...

"Slow decay of blood,"

...the gradual decline of their vitality...

"Testy delirium"

...or bouts of irritable confusion...

"Or dull decrepitude,"

...or the state of being feeble and worn-out...

"Or what worse evil come –"

...or whatever other terrible hardships may arise...

"The death of friends, or death"

...such as the loss of loved ones, or the speaker's own death...

"Of every brilliant eye"

...including the demise of every vibrant or lively spirit...

"That made a catch in the breath –"

...that once caused a stirring sensation or excitement...

"Seem but the clouds of the sky"

The speaker aims to make these hardships seem as insignificant as clouds in the sky...

"When the horizon fades;"

...especially as the day transitions into night and the horizon fades away...

"Or a bird's sleepy cry"

...or like the tired chirping of a bird...

"Among the deepening shades."

...amidst the growing darkness of nightfall.

A Prayer for My Daughter poem Themes

Parental Concern: The poem revolves around the speaker's deep worries and hopes for his daughter's future, reflecting the universal theme of parental love and anxiety about a child's well-being.

Protection and Innocence: The speaker expresses a strong desire to safeguard his daughter's innocence and shield her from the harsh realities of the world, underscoring the theme of preserving purity and vulnerability in the face of potential dangers.

Gender Roles and Expectations: Yeats explores societal norms and expectations surrounding gender, particularly regarding the challenges and stereotypes his daughter may encounter as a woman navigating a traditional society.

Beauty and Fragility: Through vivid imagery, the poem portrays the daughter's beauty and vulnerability, emphasizing the need to protect her inner strength and grace amidst life's challenges and pressures.

Legacy and Heritage: The speaker reflects on his own legacy and the values he wishes to impart to his daughter, highlighting themes of tradition, cultural heritage, and the passing down of wisdom from one generation to the next.

Hope and Optimism: Despite the uncertainties of the future, the poem conveys a sense of hope and optimism for the daughter's journey ahead, celebrating her resilience and potential for growth and fulfillment.

Spirituality and Faith: There are elements of spirituality and prayer woven throughout the poem, as the speaker seeks divine blessings and guidance for his daughter's moral and spiritual development, reflecting themes of faith and trust in higher powers.


William Butler Yeats's "A Prayer for My Daughter" encapsulates the universal emotions and themes of parental love, protection, and hope. Through poignant verses, Yeats navigates the complexities of parenthood, expressing profound concerns and aspirations for his daughter's future. The poem resonates with readers, inviting reflection on the enduring bonds between parent and child and the timeless quest for guidance and strength amidst life's challenges.


1. What is the central theme of "A Prayer for My Daughter"?

The central theme of the poem revolves around parental love and concern for the well-being and future of the speaker's daughter. It explores themes of protection, innocence, gender roles, legacy, and spirituality.

2. How does Yeats convey his emotions in the poem?

Yeats conveys his emotions through vivid imagery, introspective musings, and heartfelt expressions. He uses language rich in symbolism and metaphor to evoke the depth of his feelings as a parent.

3. What is the significance of the title?

The title, "A Prayer for My Daughter," highlights the speaker's plea for divine blessings and guidance for his child. It underscores the spiritual and emotional depth of the poem as the speaker navigates the complexities of parenthood.

4. What impact does the poem have on readers?

The poem resonates with readers due to its universal themes and evocative language. It prompts reflection on the bonds between parents and children, the hopes and fears associated with parenthood, and the enduring quest for hope and love in the face of life's uncertainties.



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