“Leisure” poem by W. H. Davies appeared for the first time in 1911 in his collection “Songs of Joy and Others.” Among Davies’s works, this was one of the finest. However, Edward Marsh did not include the poem in any of his five collections of Georgian poetry that appeared between 1912 and 1922. According to Richard J. Stonesifer, the inspiration for writing the poem was fuelled by William Wordsworth sonnet “The World Is Too Much with Us.”
This poem is an attack on modern man’s hectic lifestyle. The poet has made his point using vivid and meaningful details from everyday life. This poem shows the poet’s thoughts on the pointless time and effort that people put on earthly matters. The poet argues that our lives are meaningless if we never stop to appreciate the splendour that surrounds us.
Summary of “Leisure” poem by W. H. Davies
The poem has a nice rhythm to it, with the repeated phrases “No time” creating a lasting impact. The poem begins with a question posed by the poet. To him, there seems to be little point in living if every day is fraught with stress and anxiety. If we can’t find some time for fun in this life, it’s going to be a miserable one. As the poem suggests, we tend to focus on the negative aspects of life rather than the positive ones. There is no time for admiring the fine works of nature.
Just like buffaloes and cows, we don’t have time to rest under some trees. When we walk through the woods, we don’t have time to stop and admire the lovely plants, trees, and wildlife we pass. The small squirrel that has buried its nuts in the grass goes unnoticed. We go about our business in a hurried manner.
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Beautiful scenes are created by the sunlight reflecting off the clean water streams. They resemble nothing so much as a night sky filled with stars. Poetically, the poet draws parallels between the beauty of streams and that of a starry night. Seeing it all would take too much time, so we choose to ignore it instead. The poet then gives the beauty a human form, expressing regret for the loss of its dance. The poet’s point is that beauty itself is beautiful. Lack of time prevents us from enjoying such beautiful landscapes.
The poet laments how uncaring humans have become toward the natural world. Today, we are emotionless machines. We’ve become robotic and stuffy. In our pursuit of wealth and notoriety, we have forgotten that true happiness can only be found in the great outdoors. It’s important to take a break and appreciate the scenery.
Themes in “Leisure” poem by W. H. Davies
Modernity, simplicity, spirituality, nature, and, most significantly, leisure are all presented in Davies’ “Leisure.” According to what has been mentioned so far, the poem’s central theme is, in fact, leisure. The poet emphasises the necessity of relaxation throughout this poem.
After this, the body becomes implicitly merged with modernity, another important motif of the poem. The poet here laments the disconnect between urbanites and the natural world that characterises their modern lifestyle. Besides that, the poem is a eulogy to the beauty of the everyday and the quiet pleasures that sustain the soul. Such mundane pursuits can help put one on the path to enlightenment.
Critical Analysis of “Leisure” poem by W. H. Davies
William Henry Davies’s poem “Leisure” is profound in its simplicity and beauty. The poet in this piece questions the value of a lifestyle that allows for no downtime. The main thing worrying the poet of Leisure is that people can’t “experience” nature. We have become blind to the wonders of nature because of our infatuation with material value. The consumption culture has robbed us of our free time and prevented us from enjoying the world’s natural wonders.
For those who claim that William Henry Davies’s Leisure is nothing but bombastic truisms, the only reasonable conclusion is that their sensibilities are too coarse to appreciate the book’s many fine qualities, such as its generous aspiration, fine sympathy with man and nature, and buoyant belief in immortality.
The said poem is a piece of beautifully crafted poetry, that transports us beyond the poet’s beaming gaze, into a timeless pause where our anxious, bustling minds can rest in the dust. For us, it’s like a plea to a higher power that is answered in a fleeting, blissful flash of insight.
Spend some time standing and conversing in the great outdoors, and you will quickly remember the joy of life’s simplest pleasures. This poem has a mystical vibe about it. The poet laments that, despite the beauty of the natural world, humans are unable to live in accordance with it. The pieces of nature included in this collage are meant to symbolise the full range of natural phenomena.
There are seven straightforward rhyming couplets in Leisure. W. H. Davies opens the poem by pondering the point of a life that is so preoccupied with anxiety that it leaves no time for us to simply stop and see the world pass by.
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In the following couplets, he lists the different activities that people are unable to engage in because of a lack of free time.
Then, sheep and cows can frequently be observed pacing impassively in large, open pastures while gazing off into the horizon. People that lead busy lives would not have the leisure to stand under tree branches and gaze endlessly, like these ruminants.
The poet elaborates by saying such people would be in too much of a rush to see the nooks and crannies in the grass where squirrels bury their nuts when they pass a forest or woodland. They wouldn’t have the time to appreciate the world around them; therefore they’d miss out on sights like this.
The poet further adds that when the sun shines on a stream, it reflects the light and makes it look like the water is full of stars, just like the night sky. But those who are plagued with worry and hurry through life without any leisure are prone to miss such natural wonders.
The poem’s fifth and sixth couplets can be read either literally or metaphorically.
If we take the poet at his literal word, we can conclude that he is saying that modern life leaves no time for people to stop, look, and admire the dancing feet of a beautiful girl. They are unable to watch her in peace as a smile spreads from her eyes to her lips.
Metaphorically, the poet has given life to the natural splendour that so many people rush through because they don’t have time to appreciate it. The beauty all around us is represented by her swaying feet and charming grin.
The poem concludes with Davies’s observation that a life consumed by anxiety and leaving no room for Leisure is a wretched one. The opening couplet of Leisure ends with a period (and is thus in the form of a statement), but it may equally be taken as a question if one gives careful consideration to the word choice and punctuation. Therefore, the next two lines can be read as W. H. Davies’ response to his own inquiry.
Final thoughts about “Leisure” poem by W. H. Davies
W.H. Davies implies he is disappointed that modern humans are unaffected by the natural world, and he tells us that he wishes he could join it and share its rhythms. This would provide him an experience with nature that is less gloomy than the excessive consumerism that has led to people becoming estranged from their natural surroundings.
His leaning toward naturalism is indicative of a longing for the wilderness we’re not allowed to explore. W.H. Davies goes even farther into the significance of relaxation in this poem.
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Rhetorically, the speaker begins, “What is life?” This sets in motion a beat that is at once steady and mellow. Davies stresses the importance of setting realistic goals and taking breaks when you need them.
Also, Davies elaborates on the concept of leisure time by contrasting the hectic lives of people with that of “Sheep or cows,” which, according to Davies, spend their days doing nothing.
In the fourth couplet, he laments that humans are “blind in the day” despite the fact that streams are full with stars. Due to our hectic schedules, we could fail to notice something quite crucial.
By answering his own question from earlier in the poem the author concludes his inequiry. People now require Leisure time in order to reap the rewards of nature and revel in the joy of being alive. Wordsworth’s famous line, “the world is too much with us,” may be used here to suggest that we should all take a long break from our busy lives.