Poem ‘For Anne Gregory’ was written by William Yeats. The notes based on this poem are given here. The notes include – the full poem text, meanings, summary, themes, central idea, poetic devices and stanza-wise explanations.
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‘For Anne Gregory’ Full Poem Text
“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 speaker, addressing Anne Gregory, 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 external features. Her beautiful hair is compared to wall, symbolising outer beauty. This beauty can capture any man’s attention. But he may not be able to look beyond that into Anne’s character. So the speaker says that no one can love Anne, for what she is. One can love her only for her beautiful yellow hair and her physical beauty.
“But I can get a hair-dye
And set such colour there,
Brown, or black, or carrot,
That young men in despair
May love me for myself alone
And not my yellow hair.”
In this stanza Anne replies to the speaker that she can change the colour of her beautiful hair and dye them in black, brown or carrot. She wants to tell the speaker that anyone falling in love with her must see the actual person behind the beauty. She thinks that young men, who fall in love with her, must love her for what she is and not for her yellow hair.
“I heard an old religious man
But yesternight declare
That 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 last stanza, the speaker replies to Anne about the importance of love for internal beauty not the external one. The speaker talks about an old religious man, who announced that he had found a text in which it is written that only God is capable of looking beyond external beauty. He means that humans do not have the insight and understanding to look into the soul of a person. They are swayed away by the glitter of outer beauty. Therefore, only God can love Anne only for herself and not for her beauty.(Poet) WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS (1865-1939) –
He was an Irish nationalist. He was educated in London and Dublin, and was interested in folklore and mythology. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.
Despair—hopelessness, | Ramparts—a defensive wall of a fort but here it means lock of hair around ear, | Dye—a substance used to change the colour of hair, | Carrot—of carrot colour, | Yester-night— the previous night, | Text—original writing, | Declare—to announce, | Prove—to demonstrate truth by evidence or argument, |
For Anne Gregory is a dialogue between Anne Gregory and a young man. The poem brings out the perception of love by different people; how men only fall for beauty and not the person. The poet paints an interesting picture of beauty.
The poet is talking to Anne in this poem. He tells her that a young man will fall into hopeless passion because of her golden hair i.e., her physical beauty not for what she is. Rather she is lovable due to herself and not due to her hair. His beloved then thinks of dyeing her hair with some other colours. Then her desperate lover will love her due to herself and not because of her hair. Then the poet says that she has come across a saint last night. The saint has told him that only God can love her for herself and not for her golden hair. This poem gives us a message that only God alone can love a person for his qualities and not for beauty.
- The poem For Anne Gregory is a conversation between a young man and a woman.
- The young man is sharing his opinion on how the world really works. He believes that the world usually places a lot of importance on outward beauty.
- He claims that young men are attracted to Anne Gregory because of her honey-coloured hair. In other words, her looks.
- Such men love her only because of her beauty and will never love her for who she really is.
- The young woman listens to his words and thinks of a solution. She feels all she has to do is dye her hair black or brown or carrot. Then, men will love her for herself and not just for her yellow hair.
- The young man seems amused by this response. He tells her about an old man he met the previous night.
- This religious man had found a book which proved that only God could love a person for who she or he is. In other words, men will always look for 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 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.
The major themes of this poem are:
- Conventional Ideas of Beauty
- Men’s Judgement of Beauty
Conventional Ideas of Beauty
- According to the poet, the way society perceives ‘beauty’ is quite stereotypical.
- Society considers women with lighter hair, like Anne Gregory, to be more attractive to men and thus, easy to fall in love with.
- Anne gives into society’s hollow idea of beauty and considers colouring her hair brown or black or carrot, so that men like her for who she is, and not merely because of her external beauty.
Men’s Judgement of Beauty
- In the poem, Yeats critiques men for their superficial understanding of beauty. He says that men only fall for the external beauty of women, and that’s the only reason men like Anne.
- The poet highlights men’s perception of beauty and warns Anne about how they go by the physical appearances of women.
- Though unlikely, but he hopes that someday Anne meets a man who sees beyond her physical attributes and loves her.
Morals of ‘For Anne Gregory
(1) True love is never based on physical attributes alone.
(2) True love is only based on the inner beauty of heart, mind and soul.
(3) It is only God who loves His people selflessly.
The main characters in the poem are:
- Anne Gregory
- Young Man
Admired: Anne is loved and admired by all men for her beautiful honey-coloured hair. According to the young man, Anne’s appearance makes it easy for any man to fall in love with her.
Gullible: When the young man claims that men only love Anne because of her honey-coloured hair and nothing else, she considers dying her hair brown or black or the colour of a carrot just so that men notice her beyond her hair and physical appearance.
Practical: The young man tells Anne all about men and how they perceive beauty. He does not sugar-coat the reality before presenting it before Anne.
Protective: The young man is protective of Anne and thus warns her about men and their idea of beauty.
LITERARY ELEMENTS (POETIC DEVICES)
A few key literary elements in the poem are:
- Rhyme Scheme
- In the poem, the phrase ‘honey-coloured ramparts’ is an example of metaphor.
- Yeats, through the metaphor, compares Anne Gregory’s hair to the walls of a fort.
- Just like the walls of a fort hide and protect the city, the hair hides the true self of Anne Gregory.
- In this poem, Yeats is seen talking to Anne Gregory, but the readers don’t see her at any point in the poem.
- The poet makes use of apostrophe to address the poem to Anne, an absent audience.
- The phrase ‘your yellow hair’ is an example of alliteration.
- Yeats uses alliteration to enhance the musical quality of his poem.
- In the poem, the phrase ‘yellow hair’ has been repeated many times. By repeating this phrase, the poet is reinforcing the notion of external beauty.
- The word ‘despair’ is also repeated in the poem. It reflects the young men’s feelings for Anne Gregory.
The rhyme scheme of the poem is abcbdb.
“But I can get a hair-dye a
And set such colour there, b
Brown, or black, or carrot, c
That young men in despair b
May love me for myself alone d
And not my yellow hair.” b