Friday, February 6, 2009

Leisure, a poem by W. H. Davies.

My daughter recently sent me a 2007 article from The Washington Post ( describing how Joshua Bell, a virtuoso concert violinist, played unannounced for three-quarters-of-an-hour in a Washington DC subway station during rush hour on a workday morning. Over a thousand people passed by in that time but hardly anyone appears to have noticed, let alone stopped to listen. The article asks the question - in our busy lives, do we have time for beauty?

This reminded me of the following poem by W. H. Davies. William Henry Davies (1871-1940) was born in Newport, Monmouthshire, in Wales, the son of a publican. After an apprenticeship as a picture-frame maker and a series of laboring jobs, he traveled to America, first to New York and then to the Klondike.

He returned to England after having lost a foot jumping a train in Canada, where he led a penurious life in London lodging houses and as a pedlar in the country. He was married in 1923, to Emma, who was much younger than he. His first poems were published when he was 34.

Most of his poetry is about nature or life on the road and has a natural simple, earthy style. He also wrote two novels and autobiographical works, his best known being Autobiography of a Super-Tramp.

Leisure by W. H. Davies.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

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