Friday 3 November 2023

For Anne Gregory

                                         For Anne Gregory
                                                              By William Butler Yeats



·        ‘For Anne Gregory’ is a short poem of three stanzas composed by William Butler Yeats, an English poet who is better known for his realistic poems and nationalistic themes.

·        It is a simple and short poem with a deeper meaning and wider perspective. It discusses how physical beauty is taken for real beauty and how physical beauty is insignificant and unreal in our life. He also stresses that physical beauty should not be the basis for love life as physical beauty is not permanent, and has to perish.

·        The poem is composed as a dialogue between the poet and a girl, Anne Gregory who was the granddaughter of Lady Augusta Gregory, a dear friend of the poet. Through this dialogue the poet highlights the stereotypes, wrong beliefs and worldly affairs that beauty is mainly associated with physical beauty.

·        Symbolically, hair is presented as beauty of a woman whereas spiritual beauty is described to be the perfect basis for real love.

·        Tone of the poem is philosophical and didactic as the poet conveys that ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’ and spiritual beauty is real beauty stressing upon that only God can love us for what we are truly.


Stanza wise explanation:

“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 poet is talking to Anne Gregory who yearns for real love. The poet is doubtful that her wish could be fulfilled as he feels that young men are always attracted towards her beautiful hair which are symbolically used for her physical beauty. Anne's hair is of golden colour just like that of honey. He tells her that the way her hair falls over her ear, entirely enveloping it within its strands reminds him of the wide walls around the fort erected for its protection. The poet says that he is well aware that the sight of her beautiful hair makes many a young man fall in love with her and he is also sympathetic towards them for the despair that they might feel on being rejected by her. However, he says that young men would love her only for her beautiful hair, i.e. her external beauty and, not because of what she is, as a person. 

“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.”

Replying to the poet, Anne Gregory says that if her yellow hair attracts young men, she can easily dye her hair in some other colours such as brown, black or carrot. These colours, she feels, are less appealing and less attractive than blonde. Then, it might be possible for the young men to look beyond her physical appearance and, pay attention to her as an individual. This how they may love her for the person that she is, and she would be able to find real love which is her intense desire.

“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.”

The poet is still not convinced and replies that the previous night he had been hearing a religious man who found a text in a scripture/holy book. He was sure that the text could prove that only God can  love a person for what he/she truly is. God is our father, loves His children same way, the way a mother doesn't differentiate between her intelligent child and the one who is less sensible.  In fact, it is proved that it's not possible for ordinary humans to ignore physical attractions and look beyond the boundaries of carnal beauty. Humans aren't able to find spiritual beauty and love a person what he/she really is. 


The poet wants to convey the message that God is our father and it is only He who accepts and loves us in spite of all our follies and appearances. The poet wants to teach us all the bitter fact of life that ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’ and spiritual beauty is real beauty. We should not be misguided by beautiful appearance as it is not eternal and real.

Rhyme Scheme

The poet is composed in three stanzas consisting of six lines each.  The lines of each stanza rhyme as abcbdb.

Video on Anne Gregory

Poetic Devices:

Never shall a young man – Assonance

By those great honey-coloured – Imagery, Metaphor

Ramparts at your ear, - Metaphor, Imagery

Love you for yourself alone – Alliteration, Assonance, Refrain

And not your yellow hair. – Refrain, Alliteration, Assonance, consonance, Symbolism

But I can get a hair-dye – Imagery, Enjambment

And set such colour there – Alliteration, Enjambment

Brown, or black, or carrot – Alliteration, Imagery, Polysyndeton, Repetition

May love me for myself alone – Alliteration, Assonance

I heard an old religious man – Assonance, Consonance

But yesternight declare – Consonance

That he had found a text to prove – Anaphora, Alliteration, Assonance, Consonance

That only God, my dear – Anaphora, Apostrophe

Video on the poem Fog

Important Question Answers

Q. ‘Beauty is only skin deep’. How does the poem ‘For Anne Gregory’ bring out the message?

Ans. W B Yeast tries to affirm that physical beauty is transient and will deteriorate with the passage of time. He says that bodily beauty would disappoint the lovers whereas spiritual beauty should be the real influencing agent for love. He teaches that the lovers should seek beauty of soul and must love the person for what he / she truly is, so that the people don't have to fake for looking beautiful physically. Hence lovers should seek love and admire the person for what he / she is.


“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.”

(a) What does the word ‘text’ refer to?

(b) What does the text prove?

(c) What does ‘yesternight’ mean?

(d) What is conveyed through these lines?

(e) Which poetic device is used in last line?


(a) Text refers to lines covering philosophical message in a religious book or scripture.

(b) The text proves that only God is capable of looking beyond external beauty, into the soul of a person and love a person for what he/she is truly.

(c) Yesternight means last night/previous night or a night in past.

(d) The poet conveys through these lines that spiritual beauty is real beauty and love should not be based on physical attractions or physical beauty.

(e) Refrain

Video on The Trees

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