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Analysis of Yvor Winter’s “To My Daughter, 1954”

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There comes a time in everyone’s life that they must break away from their family and push through life on their own standards. With only the simple dedication of this poem; “To My Daughter, 1954” one can only derive that Yvor Winters had a very close relationship with his daughter and it pained him deeply to let her go out on her own into the real world.

In the first stanza; “This is the terminal: the light” one might believe the terminal refers to a place where all travel begins and ends. In the case of this poem, I believe that it stands for a decision. “The light” refers to the positive aspect of the decision. The terminal “Gives perfect vision, false and hard.” This refers to the decisions that she is about to make in her life, some will be difficult and some will not turn out the way she expects. But in the end, it will be for the best. “The metal glitters, deep and bright” may refer to all the temptations and different avenues she will encounter throughout her journey. The word “deep” refers to those that are more than what they seem and “bright” referring to the ones that shine on the surface but go no where in the end. At the end of the first stanza, in the lines “Great planes are waiting in the yard – They are already in the night” the planes stand for all the different decisions and ways the girl could go out in the real world. Being already in the night means that some opportunities have already been missed.

The second stanza seems to be all about the girl’s disposition to going out into the real world. The father describes her as “small” and “Contained and Fragile, and intent”. To me this says that she is shy and timid but set on doing what she wants and making something of herself. In adding the third line “On things that I but half recall” infers that she is going after things that he may have told her about in life but he is saying that he does not remember everything and the experiences may not be what they are cracked up to be. The fourth line of this stanza, “Yet going whither you are bent” reiterates that she is set on going where she wants to go and nothing can change her mind. By saying “I am your past, and that is all” means that he is no longer able to shelter and protect her, it is time for her to move away from his shadow.

The third stanza talks about how the two are alike in their own ways. Its opening is quite blunt by saying “But you and I in part are one”. In the second line “The frightened brain, the nervous will” says that in going out into the real world thoughts of what may happen and what may go wrong race through their heads and make them nervous and reluctant to go forward with the plan. In the third and fourth lines “The knowledge of what must be done, The passion to acquire the skill” show they both know what it is that they must do in order to get to where they want to be and what they’ll have to face during the journey.

At this point the fourth stanza became a bit more puzzling to me than the rest. I believe that the first line is saying that the reality of life is weighing down on him. It is upsetting for him to let his daughter go and he cries. This destroys him briefly as it tears him apart to watch his child go off into the world all alone. “The Score:” is the tally of feelings that is rolled together in the remaining lines of the stanza. The first half of the third line; “there comes what will come” says that whatever happens from here on out is out of his hands. What will be, will be. “The expense Is what one thought, and something more – One’s being and intelligence” says that whatever is gained or lost in her experience, whether she gets what she expects or more is up to her attitude towards life and her smarts in what to choose.

The final stanza of this poem ties back to the first. The first half of the first line in repeats the first half of the poem’s first line; “The Terminal”. Once again referring to the place of decision making. But this time the second half of the line means that it’s the end of the wait, the breaking point. The second line; “Beyond this point, on lines of air” means that where ever she goes from this point the outcome of her decisions are yet to be seen. They are invisible like the lines of air on which a plane travels. The last few lines of the poem; “You take the way that you must take; And I remain in light and stare – In light, and nothing else, awake” is saying that she has to go out and do what she thinks she needs to do with her life. He can no longer tell her what she should do, but he will always be there waiting for her and will always support her.

This poem is about life and letting those you love go out into the world and do things their own way. The airport is a point of departure, the moment when father and daughter must separate. Although this is hard to do it must be done.

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