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A Prayer for my Daughter

2006-09-08 10:11

    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.

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