For Anne Gregory by W. B. Yeats

‘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.’

‘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.’

‘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.’

Short Summary

In this poem, a young man discusses why a person falls in love, i.e. what determines it. According to them, a person is not loved for his basic nature but because of his/her physical feature, i.e., outward physical appearance. It is not possible to love one for oneself. Only God can do so.

The poet addresses young Gregory and tells her that her hair is of the same colour as honey and when it falls, the poet begins to think of her beauty being spell bound. Her hair is so beautiful that every man falls in love with her. At this, Gregory gives response to the poet that man loves her only for her outward beauty while this outward appearance may change at any time.

At this, the poet proclaims it a truth since time immemorial that man can not easily judge a woman other than her looks. He tells Anne that she can never be ugly inward or outward even if she wishes to be so.

Summary

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.

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.

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.

Poetic Devices

Metaphor: Honey coloured ramparts.

Alliteration: Your yellow hair

Rhyme Scheme: abcbdb

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