The poem 'For Anne Gregory' is written by William Butler Yeats in a conversational tone. The poem is a conversation between Anne Gregory and the poet. The poem talks about how different people perceive beauty. Human beings age, and slowly beauty fades away. It is a temporary thing, and there is no way that one can stay young and retain everything. The poem also connects love to beauty.
The poet initially compliments Anne Gregory for her beauty. He talks about her honey-coloured hair. Women in the earlier days were adored for their locks and curls. People gave too much prominence to a very trivial thing like hair. Men went after women having golden hair as they found it attractive. The poet calls her hair ramparts. Ramparts are protective forts that help one to be safe. So the poet indicates that her hair is like a fortress that gives a frame to her face.
Anne Gregory has also broken a lot of young men’s hearts. These are men thrown into desperation due to rejection. They are sad that they are not lucky enough to experience the love of Miss Gregory. But the poet contradicts the view by saying that these men are not desperate because they truly love her. Rather they are in despair that they could not possess the girl with the honey-coloured ramparts. The poet thus states that it is difficult to find people who love her for who she is as a person. The men are only attracted to her physical beauty. These men cannot be deemed perfect lovers as their love might fade away if Miss Gregory loses her hair and beauty.
Yeats discusses the concept of beauty and how the world perceives it in the poem. People look at external beauty and judge their personalities. The poet says that Anne Gregory is liked by every man only because of her beautiful yellow hair and not for who she is as a person. We all like to be loved for who we are as a person, our character, our likes, our beliefs, our principles etc.
Anne Gregory is slightly taken aback by the poet's words that any man who has despaired for her love has done so only by seeing her beauty. Facial features and hair colour are temporary and keep changing as a person ages. For example, one might have blonde hair; when they age, the density could be reduced, and the person could get grey hair. So Anne Gregory knows it is dangerous for people to fall in love with her because of her hair colour and beauty. Whereas qualities like kindness, helping others etc., are permanent, and these are things that make a person who they are. Anne Gregory, therefore, suggests an extreme step to avoid falling into the trap of being loved for her beauty alone. She says she would colour her hair with hair dye, making her less attractive. She would then know that all men pursuing her are only there for her, not her beauty. She suggests using hair colours like black, brown and even carrot colours, which might look less impressive on her hair. She hopes that men might love her for her personality alone if she does so.
The poet tells Anne Gregory that it is no use to colour her hair differently, as men might still look for her other attractive features. He also says that he heard an old religious man declare that it is not possible for any human being to love someone for their inner beauty. He bases it on a religious text as well to support his statement. He says that only God could love her for who she is as a person and not for her yellow hair. The poem thus focuses on the fact that God's love is the only unconditional love for a person.