Explanation of the Poem
“Never shall a young man,
Thrown into despair
By those great honey-coloured
Ramparts at your ear,
Love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.”
The poem starts with the speaker addressing Anne Gregory. The speaker says that her beautiful honey-coloured hair can make any man fall in love with her. This love is not for Anne but for her beautiful features. Anne’s gorgeous hair have been compared to walls, symbolising outer beauty that prevents anyone from looking inside her soul. This beauty can capture any man’s attention so that they may never be able to look beyond that beauty and into Anne’s character. This is what makes the speaker believe that no man can love Anne, for what she is, without her beauty. One can love her only for her beautiful yellow hair and her beauty.
“But I can get a hair-dye
And set such colour there,
Brown, or black, or carrot,
The young men in despair
May love me for myself alone
And not my yellow hair.”
In the second stanza, Anne replies to the speaker of the first stanza. She says that what is visible from the outside is very superficial and not important. She gives an example of her beautiful hair, that she can change the colour of her hair and dye them in black, brown or carrot. Just like the color of her hair is changeable, outer beauty of any kind is changeable and hence not true. She wants to tell the speaker that anyone falling in love with her must see the actual person behind the beauty. Anne thinks that young men, who fall in love with her, must lover her for what she is and not for her yellow hair or outward appearance.
“I heard an old religious man
But yesternight declare
The he had found a text to prove
That only God, my dear,
Could love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.”
In the third and final stanza of the poem, the speaker replies to Anne’s statement about love for internal and not for external beauty. The speaker mentions an old religious man, who announced that he had found a text in which it is written that only is God is capable of looking beyond external beauty. Here speaker means that humans do not have the depth and understanding to look inside the soul of a person. Humans are always carried away by the shine and glitter of outer beauty and they never care to know the person behind the beautiful appearance. Therefore, the speaker concludes that only God can love Anne only for herself and not her beauty.
Central Idea of Poem
The poem ‘For Anne Gregory’ by William Butler Yeats is about the perception of love by different people. The poem is in the form of a dialogue between two people, Anne Gregory and another speaker, whose identity has not been made clear by the poet. Therefore it could be anyone; Anne’s lover or a friend or the poet himself.
The poem shows the true nature of the humans as they are always carried away by the outer beauty which is insignificant, and never pay attention to the true nature of the person. Men always judge women by their outward appearance alone but beauty exists within us and not outside.
Poetic Devices Used in the Poem
Metaphor : A device which compares two things or qualities which are unlike.
- honey colored ramparts
Alliteration : Repetition of initial consonant sounds in the same line.
- And not your yellow hair