What does W.B. Yeats mean by “intellectual hatred” in his poem “A prayer for my daughter”?

By Sunil Kumar

The answer to this question involves delving into W.B Yeats and his personal history. At the age of 24; he met and fell in love with a woman Maud Gonne; who was an ardent supporter of the Irish cause against England. She remained aloof; and declined his proposals four times and married a Major McBride. Gonne is apparently considered to be a muse for Yeats and his work.

William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939), Irish poet...

Visit sunil-kumar.co.in William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939), Irish poet and dramatist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maud Gonne c. 1900

Visit sunil-kumar.co.in Maud Gonne c. 1900 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yeats was distraught and remembered this lady even after his marriage to Georgia Hyde-Lees; who bore him two children, Anne and Michael. The poem was for his daughter as an infant; and his aspirations for her when she grew up. The time period was just after the First World War; when Ireland and the rest of the world were in turmoil.

This stanza reflects the unrequited love Yeats still felt; and the angst he felt at Maud for having spurned him repeatedly. He also wishes his daughter should not grow up to be opinionated. Maud’s fierce antagonism obviously rankled Yeats still.

Poetry is usually metaphorical and abstruse with personal and subjective opinions. So; this IMO is the most logical interpretation of “intellectual hatred” in “A prayer for my daughter”.

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