William Henry Davies

(3 July 1871 – 26 September 1940 / Monmouthshire / Wales)


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.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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Comments about this poem (Leisure by William Henry Davies )

  • Rookie - 0 Points Shinhong Kim (3/8/2015 8:11:00 PM)

    SungTae is strong like a tong

    SungTae is vital like a turtle

    SungTae is stupid like a centipede

    SungTae is a cool like a fool

    I like SungTae (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Shinhong Kim (3/8/2015 8:10:00 PM)

    SungTae is strong like a tong

    SungTae is vital like a turtle

    SungTae is stupid like a centipede

    SungTae is a cool like a fool

    I like SungTae (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 12 Points Raj Markan (2/6/2015 4:10:00 AM)

    My all time favourite (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 13,873 Points * Sunprincess * (6/18/2014 4:22:00 PM)

    .........a wonderful write with a message to stop and smell the roses.....cause life is way to short to overlook the simple pleasures of life... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Eric Fang (1/14/2014 9:14:00 PM)

    One of the best poems I've ever read. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Eric Fang (1/13/2014 10:32:00 PM)

    In “Leisure”, W.H. Davies explores the importance of leisure of everyday life. The speaker begins by asking a rhetorical question, “What is {this} life? ” This begins a continuous, slow, and harmonious rhythm Davies emphasizes the fact that you need to disregard the things that aren’t truly important and to pace yourself. Furthermore, Davies gives details of having time by comparing us busy humans to “Sheep or cows” that leisurely spend their time. In the fourth couplet, he says that there are streams full of stars, yet people are so busy, that we are “blind in the day”. We are so busy, that we may miss vital and important information in life. The author concludes his poem by answering his earlier question, “A poor life this, ” if full of care, there is no time to stand and stare.Henceforth, people need leisure to experience the benefits of nature and the bliss of being alive. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Chris Smethurst (12/30/2013 3:57:00 AM)

    A beauty in lovingly woven verse makes us experience beyond the poet's smiling eyes suspending time and granting us a space where busying fear led thoughts fade to gentle dust. I see it as a kind of prayer from beyond this egocentric life that is answered in an instant sweetened moment of understanding : -)
    Take time to stand and share in nature and you will soon rediscover simple truths and the bliss of being alive. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Norseh Dawa (12/1/2013 11:04:00 AM)

    The spirit of this poem is magical. I remember this poem from my early years in primary school in Ghana. My senior brother and his class mates were taught this poem which they could recite so well that on hearing it I fell in love.
    Although English was our second language and young as we were, this poem had meaning and substance for us.
    Poets never die. The best poem ever written. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Mackenzie Yates (11/23/2013 9:46:00 AM)

    I believe this poem is about sin. I see the literal point of view that states we must enjoy leisure; however, most of the activities described in the couplets could be considered examples of the 7 deadly sins. Stare as long as sheep or cows (4) could represent sloth. It's true that cows and sheep are slower animals. Squirrels hide their nuts in grass (6) could be greed. Streams full of stars (8) could represent envy (I realize that's a stretch, but if you read it with 'stars' meaning celebrities it works) . Obviously, lines 9-12 represent lust and the desire of want. What I suggest Davies is really saying with his opening and concluding couplets is that life would be pitiful and boring without sin. What would we be if we could never indulge in them? (Again, I realize it's a stretch, but that's my two cents) (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 423 Points Krishnakumar Chandrasekar Nair (10/28/2013 10:50:00 AM)

    Yes I wish to have been born a monkey
    With no more cares as it is with being a man
    Jump branch to branch the live long day
    And chatter gibberish happily as he can.... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Barbara Philips (1/29/2013 4:33:00 AM)

    My Granpa used to quote this to me. He'd be in the garden in South Wales doing the vegetables and I'd be rushing about. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kshitij Goel (3/16/2012 8:39:00 AM)

    • ‘Leisure’ is a simple yet beautiful and thought provoking poem written by William Henry Davies (W. H. Davies) . In this poem, the poet wonders whether it is worth leading a life which provides one with no time for leisure.

    • The poem ‘Leisure’ is divided into seven rhyming couplets.

    • Couplet 1:

    • The poet, W. H. Davies, begins by questioning the purpose of a life which is so full of worry that it does not allow us any time to simply stand still and watch the world go by.

    • In the next few couplets, he describes the various things that people are not able to do due to lack of leisure.

    • Couplet 2:

    • Sheep and cows can often be seen standing still in vast open fields and
    staring into a distance. People living a busy life would not posses the leisure to stand under the branches of trees and keep gazing on and on like such ruminants.

    • Couplet 3:

    • W. H. Davies further adds that when such people pass a forest or a woodland, they would be in too much of a hurry to notice the nooks and crannies in the grass where squirrels conceal their nuts. They would not posses the leisure to notice the various aspects of the natural world around them.

    • Couplet 4:

    • In daylight, streams appear to be sparkling under the effect of sunshine making it seem as if the streams are full of stars like the night sky. However, such beauties of nature are likely to be missed by people overburdened by anxiety and living a life of haste without any leisure, remarks W.H. Davies.

    • Couplets 5 and 6:

    • There are two ways of looking at the fifth and sixth couplets of the poem: literally and metaphorically.

    • Looking at it literally- The poet states that the rush of life provides people with no leisure to turn at the glance of a beautiful maiden and marvel at her dancing feet.

    • They are unable to leisurely observe her as her mouth shapes out a smile that started from her eyes.

    • Looking at it metaphorically- W.H. Davies has personified the beauty of the world around us which many often fail to observe due to a lack of leisure. The dancing feet and enchanting smile refers to various aspects of the beauty around us.

    • Couplet 7:

    • In the final couplet of the poem, Davies states that a life which is so bogged down by worry that it allows one no time for leisure is indeed a miserable life. If you read the first couplet of ‘Leisure’ carefully, you will notice that although it ends with a full stop, (and is hence in the form of a statement) it can also be interpreted as a question asked by the poet. In that case, the final couplet can be seen as W. H. Davies’ answer to his own question. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kshitij Goel (3/16/2012 8:38:00 AM)

    this is a really good poem (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 16 Points Cleveland Gibson (7/6/2011 5:04:00 PM)

    I read the poem 'Leisure' by William Henry Davies many years ago at school. Only now with the internet it is possible to find out extra facts about the writer. WHD had a hard time as a poet but many in the Theatre supported him. He self published a book of poems and earned some money from the sales. He covered the many miles of road making observations and writing his poetry. An amazing person. Loved his poem 'Leisure' by the way. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Glenn Baker (3/10/2011 2:37:00 PM)

    A severe warning against planned preoccupation. Do not shut the doors of your mind. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Ravindran Govindaraju (10/18/2010 5:24:00 AM)

    A stark reality of life, chasing the shadows of that dream/s called life. By wink of an eye we miss seeing the world.How true, we have no time to stand and stare, appreciate the god's creation; peoples love; fragmenting with our own divided walls, by island of ourselves.narrow parochial outlook; oh my, give eyes to wonder, lack words to praise. beauty, beauty from every creations. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 7 Points The Ashraf (9/14/2010 7:22:00 AM)


  • Rookie John Loudon (2/20/2010 4:53:00 PM)

    As a scientist I often have to pause to consider a new idea or concept. It is just so important to free one's mind from the day-to-day clutter that one finds so prevalent in this modern World. So by pausing in life I find one can become much more observant and perceptive and for myself I find that new ideas that oftentimes are very significant come to me much more readily. William Davies has spoken clearly to me over time and distance.
    John Loudon
    Sydney, Australia (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Lee Harrison (10/28/2006 2:45:00 AM)

    Thanks to Luis Gumucio of Santiago, Chile, I have 're' discovered this poem that I learnt in Grammar School in England in the mid-sixties.
    Being an eternal romantic the verse that had stuck in my mind for forty years is... ' No time to wait till her mouth can, enrich that smile her eyes began', but indeed, the words should help us reflect on what we are doing with our lives and others lives. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Daphne Grant (3/20/2006 3:18:00 PM)

    This is a poem that many people know, but don, t know the author. It is often quoted because it gives us chance to think what are we doing with our lives?
    How to make time to be quiet, rest and contemplate how we are doign, our goals. Our Treatment of others etc. So read and enjoy it and remember the name of the author, then if any one askes Yes, you can I know William Henry Davies and say it proudly.
    Thanks for listening. (Report) Reply

Read all 22 comments »

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