The Symbol of the Flourishing Tree
The poet wishes that his daughter be like a flourishing tree far from the public eye. Yeats hopes that her thoughts will be like the linnet, and that her songs radiate magnanimity. Her thoughts shall not instigate fights and create conflicts. He expects her not to get involved in quarrels except for the sake of jest. Like a green laurel tree, she would remain rooted in one place, but her goodness would branch out all around. The color ‘green’ emblematizes the quality of being evergreen and fruitful.
The poet also refers to stability in a relationship here through the idea of constancy. Yeats taunts at Maud Gonne who had with Lucien Millevoye –two illegitimate children, and later went on to marry John McBride. The speaker wants Anne to be constant to one man, unlike Maud Gonne.
Joyce Carol Oates questions the stance of the poem that aims at depriving Yeats's daughter of sensuality just because Yeats' marriage proposal to Maud Gonne was rejected. Oates also states that Yeats presents a "crushingly conventional" view of womanhood. He wishes her to become a "flourishing hidden tree" instead of allowing her the freedoms given to male children. Yeats, in Oates's opinion, wishes that his daughter become a "vegetable: immobile, unthinking, and placid."
Yeats asserts that his mind has dried up of late. His love for Maud Gonne had failed him and left him in state of desperation and depression. Over the years, however, he has finally reached a stage where he comprehends that negativity will not result in any sort of productivity:
"If there's no hatred in a mind
Assault and battery of the wind
Can never tear the linnet from the leaf."
The linnet and leaf being fragile, the condition of being so is used to indicate sensitivity. If a person harbours no odium, even the wildest of storms cannot hamper his spirit.
Intellectual hatred is the worst, according to Yeats, as it is not personal/individual to be resolved easily. He hopes that his daughter’s opinions are accursed. Maud Gonne, one of the loveliest women, was born to a high and refined family. Revolutionary thoughts dominated her nature and turned her into a mere wind bag. All the goodness of a woman was sacrificed for propaganda and half-truths.
Yeats's "A Prayer for my Daughter" underlines that if a heart is pure of all detestation, the soul is reinstated to its original form in all its virtue.It ultimately learns that at last it is “self-delighting, /Self-appeasing, self-affrighting." Its will is then identified with that of heavens in all its purity and transparency. Thereby, Anne can lead a spot-free life of bliss .In such a situation, no external scowls or opinions can deter her from leading a life of everlasting happiness.
He wants his daughter’s bridegroom to usher her to a house, ‘house’ being a symbol of domestic well-being. Custom and ceremony will lend their life constancy. Yeats was an upholder of the standards of refinement. He abhorred the vulgarity and coarseness of the masses, and the plebeian mind-set of the socialists.