Leisure – William Henry Davies – Analysis

Leisure

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.

William Henry Davies (1871 – 1940)

This fourteen line poem can be regarded as a sonnet comprising of seven rhyming couplets. It is a simple poem to memorise and people of a certain vintage may have come across this poem in their school days.

This is a poem about time and the use of time that use being defined as ‘Leisure’. Leisure implies taking time out from being busy. The iambic rhythm has been likened to a heartbeat and heartbeats are a measure of time. Also the repetition of the two syllables ‘no time’ in each line reinforces the passage of time.

The first couplet has become memorable to the extent that William Henry Davies is mainly known for this one poem. Each of these lines comprise of eight single syllable words (iambic tetrameter). Single syllable words have more strength in immediate mind absorption because they stand alone and start and finish quickly. This couplet poses the question on the use of time. What is life if we don’t stand and stare? And full of care has implications of self-absorption encouraging us to look outside ourselves.

The next three couplets tell us to appreciate nature advocating that the way to do this is to take time out from what we are usually doing and be still and thus recognise the beauty that abounds in the natural environment. It is more relevant to those that live in rural settings with an obvious English setting as there are no squirrels in Australia.

Unfortunately for me stare has connotations of something not to do so although I fully understand the implications of the use of this word in the context of stopping for a moment to absorb and be aware of surroundings. But I can’t avoid the childhood admonition in respect of people. In the fifth and sixth couplets we are encouraged to appreciate the beauty in another person and maybe the use of glance in these lines encourages some discretion in how this is done to gain appreciation.

The last couplet answers the question posed in the opening lines. Life is diminished if we don’t take time out, or is it putting time in, to appreciate our surrounds and to stop and just absorb.

William Henry Davies on Wikipedia

I saw the beauty go – Mary Gilmore – Analysis

I saw the beauty go

I saw the beauty go,
The beauty that, in a stream,
Flowed through the breadth of the land
Like the fenceless foot of a dream.

There went the kangaroos, that, in hosts,
For their bedding-down grouped at even,
Only the sound of the nibbling lips
Making the sunset steven.

Then as they stilled, and the moon
With her white cloths mantled the trees,
From the shadows beneath the mopoke called,
And the curlew made her pleas.

I saw the beauty go,
The beauty that could not be tamed;
But before it went it looked at me
With the eyes of the maimed.

Dame Mary Gilmore (1865 – 1962)

There are four stanzas each a sentence with the second and fourth line rhyming.

We tend to think of environmental concern as something new. In this poem Mary Gilmore clearly demonstrates her concern for the changing face of nature at a time when Australia was very much being tamed. It appears to me to be her concern for the killing of kangaroos.

S1 … Beauty disappearing ‘like the fenceless foot of a dream’– the land was being fenced for rural development and the kangaroo a pest.

S2 … steven = enhancing
The beautiful picture of kangaroos at sunset totally at peace with nature.

S3 … mopoke = spotted brown owl, curlew = wading bird with a hooked beak
As they stilled the curlew made her pleas … a warning of imminent danger … MG does not declare what might be about to happen leaving it to the reader to fill in the tradegy.

S4 … If ever you experience the accidental road death of a kangaroo, or for whatever reason, that maimed look from their brown eyes is heart wrenching … ‘with the eyes of the maimed’. Something very beautiful is dead.

It would have been unusual in her time to be supportive of the lives of kangaroos.

Mary Gilmore had strong political views and was a voice beyond her time.

Mary Gilmore on Wikipedia … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Gilmore

Would I might find my country – Roland Robinson – Comments

Would I might find my country

Would I might find my country as the blacks
come in and lean their spears up in the scrub,
and crouch and light their flickering fires and spread
their mission blankets on the ground beneath
the dark acacia and bauhinia trees.

Would I might find my people as the blacks
sit with their lubras, children, and tired dogs,
their dilly-bags, their bundles of belongings
tied up in scraps of some old coloured dress,
and pass the long straight smoking pipe around,
and talk in quiet calling voices while
the blood deep crimson flower of sunset burns
to smouldering ash and fume behind the trees,
behind the thin grassed ridges of their land.

Roland Robinson (1912 – 1992)

Lubras – A female Aboriginal Australian (now an offensive term, just as the use of ‘blacks’)
Dilly-bags – is a traditional Australian Aboriginal bag, generally woven from the fibres of plant species of the Pandanus genus.

Roland Robinson was born in Ireland and came to Australia when nine years old. He had many different jobs including a roustabout and boundary rider, railway fettler, cleaner, horse trainer, fencer, and factory worker. He was a conscientious objector in WW2 and was sent to work on the railways in the Northern Territory. It was here that he spent many years working and endorsing the Aborigine life style. And likewise he was highly appreciative of the Australian landscape. He was the first white poet to listen to, and collect, the anecdotes and oral traditions of the Aborigine population.

The poem (a sonnet with a 5/9 split) has nice balance between the start of the evening fire and the closing burn of sunset. It is clearly a statement that the European life style is somewhat wanting compared to that of the Aborigine. Unless one has that heritage it is difficult to comprehend the depth of feeling for the land. Maybe if we had such association we would be far more concerned with environmental issues.

Roland Robinson on Wikipedia

The Road through the Woods – Rudyard Kipling – Analysis

The Road through the Woods

They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods …
But there is no road through the woods.

Rudyard Kipling

Nice balance between the two stanzas and I like the internal rhyme … the first stanza defining the history of the area and the second exploring any on-going effect … a ghostly mystical effect as though the environment retains an imprint of its history and can speak to those sensitive to such communication … one negative – I question the need for the comment about the otter – it detracts.

And this could be regarded as an early environmental poem … an anti-development poem perhaps, and showing the after effect of mans’ intrusion on nature.

S1 … tells the story of change when once there was a road, presumably not bitumen, and now the road has been replaced by both man and nature … and to look at the environment you would never know that once it had been a thorough fare … however, the keeper knows … the person who looks after the area … he knows that the woods has been violated – perhaps ‘violated’ is the wrong word for the road through the woods might have been environmentally friendly … however the anemones are only thin now implying the old road still has a negative effect.

S2 … poses a question can the imprint from the past be heard again … at special times when more sensitive and when the ‘ghosts’ are likely to emerge … in this case the horses may have known the old road which could help their recall to previous times when they travelled through this area, especially if it was on a regular basis … I think animals have a greater sense to where they have been.

The last two lines in S2 says it all … although something has gone it is still alive – for those that have experienced the past … perhaps all experience is retained to some degree … the mind a continuous growing memory bank … and digressing as we age we start to recall events long forgotten … of course inanimate objects speak or show their past in their very own different ways … I like the element of mystery evident in the poem – a good poem should always make people think – don’t you think?

Rudyard Kipling is better known for his books especially ‘The Jungle Book’ here is a link to Wikipedia 

However, his poem ‘If’ – is very well known and was head of a popularity count in the UK in the nineties.

And here is Walter de la mere’s well-known poem ‘The Listners’ with an element of mystery