A Poem by W.H. Davies

We launch Wales Readathon 2019 with a poem from Wales’ most famous drifter


W.H. Davies in 1913 (by Alvin Langdon Coburn)

Since The Autobiography of a Super-tramp is the official book of Dewithon 19, what better way to launch our month-long reading event than with a poem penned by its author, W.H. Davies.

The verse I have chosen, from Songs of Joy and Others (1911), is one that may be familiar to some of you. ‘Leisure’ is probably Davies’s best-known and most anthologised work, which has been a great favourite of mine since childhood. It warns against the hectic pace of modern life and our inability to connect with nature as once we did – a message we would be wise to heed now more than ever.

I wish you all a carefree and thoroughly fulfilling Dewithon.


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 or 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.


Categories: Reading Wales

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30 replies

  1. I learnt most of this by heart as a pre-teens, but until now had not made the connection between the poem and the poet. Thanks for making this crystal clear—and what a lovely opener for Dewithon19!

  2. That’s true. I knew the poem, and W.H. Davies as the author of ‘The Autobiography of a Super-tramp’, but hadn’t put the two together. Thank you! Very fitting.

  3. I have not read much poetry but this one is beautiful!! Thank you for sharing 😄

  4. Wow, that poem, Paula. I need to find a way to display that. Thank you for sharing. Happy weekend, my friend. Hope Olive is settling in well. ♥️

    • So glad you like the poem, Jennifer. Olive has settled in wonderfully. She loves people, other dogs, our chickens… Actually, she loves everyone! Hope you have a lovely weekend, too. Any sign of those hummers? ❤

  5. What a great poem! A wonderful way to start the Wales Readathon. 🙂

  6. Oh, how lovely! I knew the poem but not the author – thank you! And what a timely and relevant poem in this modern life of rushing about madly!

  7. Leisure is one of my favourite poems too, Paula. I always find it calming when life gets stressful, it’s a wonderful reminder of the need to make the most of everyday moments.

    • It’s such a deceptively simple poem, and so easily memorised when you’re a child, but I feel it reveals truths to us gradually as we mature. You’re absolutely right about it having a calming effect. It’s so good to know others feel the same. 😊

  8. Great poem Paula, and so true! Now more than ever we seem to be encouraged to cram full every minute. Time to stand and stare is so important and so easily disregarded.

  9. I had heard the poem before but not known the author. The same with ‘super-tramp’—I shall have to read something by him soon.

  10. How nice! And I do spend an inordinate amount of time watching the squirrels bury/rediscover nuts and seeds: they are such entertaining critters!

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

    I wonder what he would make of the people who spend half their lives staring into their smartphones.

  12. Just getting around to reading this. Yes, I agree!

  13. I don’t know this poem – but the poet’s last name is the same as my Welsh forbears! (Not assuming a relationship though, as I know Davies in Wales is a bit like Smith in England.) Lovely poem though.

  14. I’m sure I wrote a comment here earlier but it doesn’t seem to have got through. So here it is again. I like many other of your followers read this poem at school in my teens. I was reminded of it the other evening when staring at the sheep and cows from our kitchen window. Inspired I reworked the most well known lines as a haiku …

    we stand ‘n stare –
    among the sheep ‘n cows
    swallows twitter


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