Saturday, June 9, 2012

Smelling the Roses

“My Sweet Rose” by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)

Embedded as I am in a seemingly endless season of 7-day-a week editing, I’ve had little time to enjoy the finer things of life recently so I thought I’d share with you a poem on exactly that subject.

It was written in 1916 by the Welsh poet, W.H. Davies (1871-1940) and, in all its simplicity, must have struck a chord because it has been much anthologized. Davies’ life was one of extremes. Born in the port city of Newport in Monmouthshire and raised by his seafaring grandfather, he was a rebel all his life. Between 1893 and 1899, he rode the rails around the United States and Canada until his lower right leg had to be amputated after it was crushed under the wheels of a train. He returned to Britain and lived rough on the streets in London till his poetry caught the eye of fellow Welsh poet Edward Thomas, who became his mentor. After the publication of The Autobiography of a Super-tramp, his memoir of his time spent as a hobo in the US, Davies began to associate with such literary icons as D.H. Lawrence, George Bernard Shaw, and Edith Sitwell. Yet at some point between these two extremes of his life, Davies was struck by how rarely modern man stops long enough to smell the roses. For myself, I cannot wait till I’m once again able to “stand beneath the boughs, and stare as long as sheep or cows."


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

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