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William Henry Davies talks about modern life in this poem. The progress of development to modernity has several harmful effects on human lives. It has seized the simplicity away from modern people. According to the poet, nowadays all that a person needs are care and comfort. One does not have the time to enjoy simple feelings. In this poem, Davies justifies the importance of nature and how it helps one to keep his spirit alive.
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?
In this poem, Davies talks about living a life that is full of care. One has to recognize the significance of this phrase before moving to the next line. Through this phrase, the poet refers to a person whose life is busy mostly with necessities meant only for the body. Hence, they don’t have sufficient time to work on their intellect. The poet says that they are so involved that they don’t even have the time to simply stand and stare at the simple things of nature. In the next couplet, the poet says in modern times, people have no time to stand beneath the branch and stare as long as the 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?
In the following couplets, Davies talks about what modern humans try to escape due to the lack of time in their busy schedules. It can also be true that they don’t even care about such things. But, the poet cares. In the first couplet of this section, he says people have no time to see the woods when we pass through it. People don’t even know where squirrels hide their nuts in grass. Thereafter, the poet refers to the streams that shine in the daylight, like the stars in the skies at night. This section indicates how people have separated themselves from nature. If one just takes a leisurely walk in the woods or stares at the streams in daylight, he or she can see those things.
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.
Moreover, according to the poet, people have no time to turn to a beautiful girl and watch how her feet graciously move while she dances. Along with that, one doesn’t wait till her mouth can enrich that smile her eyes began. Here, the poet strikes on a thrilling idea. When one is about to smile, her eyes reflect the sense of happiness first. Then one can see how the emotion gets expressed through her face. In the last couplet, the poet remarks that a poor life, a metaphorical reference to mental poverty, is that of a person who doesn’t have time to stand and enjoy those things. The last couplet acts as a refrain.
Davies’ poem, ‘Leisure’ presents several themes such as modernity, simplicity, spirituality, nature, and most importantly leisure. The most important theme of the poem is, as said earlier, is leisure. Throughout this work, the poet focuses on the importance of relaxation in one’s life. Thereafter, another important theme of the poem, modernity, gets merged into the body completely. Here, the poet expresses how modernity keeps modern people separated from nature. Apart from that, this poem is a celebration of simplicity and simple activities that keep one’s spirit alive. Such simple activities lead one to the path to devoutness.