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


Now the better weather’s here, there should hopefully be some time for at least most of us to take a break and relax a little. As spring is gathering momentum, it’s a good time to get outdoors and – well – do nothing. Just have a look and enjoy  the natural world around you.

Technically, this poem by  W.H. Davies may not be the greatest, but I’ve always appreciated the sentiment expressed in it and the poem is certainly eminently memorable and quotable. Over the years, the opening two lines have often popped into my head at times when I know I need to slow down and get some perspective in my busy life.

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 is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

William Henry Davies (1871 – 1940) was a Welshman whose poems were popular during his own lifetime. He himself was actually quite fond of standing and staring, since in his early adulthood he really didn’t want to do much at all. He lived as a tramp in both Britain and the USA before a terrible accident caused him to re-evaluate his life. While trying to board a freight train for California, his foot was crushed and his right leg had to be amputated below the knee.

When he returned to Britain, he devoted more time to his writing and self-published his poems, which gradually gained him increasing recognition amongst both his peers and the general public. In later life he befriended other poets and enjoyed a happy marriage to a woman half his age.

Having revisited this poem, I’m now off to read his autobiography: The Autobiography of a Supertramp, which promises to be a good read. I’ll let you know!

Or maybe you’ve read it before me? What did you think?

One thought on “What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?

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