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 if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
William Henry Davies (1871-1940), who wrote as W H Davies, was a Welsh poet and prose writer who is best known for two works, his early ‘Autobiography of a Super-Tramp’, which detailed his life as a hobo in the United States from 1893 to 1899, and the short poem ‘Leisure’, which appeared in his “Songs of Joy and Others” in 1911.
‘Leisure’ is only fourteen lines long, and is comprised of seven rhyming couplets
The repeated ‘no time’, which appears in every couplet, rings like a bell in this carefully crafted poem which takes the reader through a catalogue of occasions on which the excuse of ‘no time’ prevents one from enjoying life to the full.
The second to fourth couplets refer to the natural world and have most relevance to the rural reader who is likely to encounter boughs, woods and streams in the course of their day. They are salutary reminders that the privilege of living in the countryside is largely wasted if one does not pause and allow its sights and sounds to do their work on one’s feelings and emotions.
The fifth and sixth couplets take the principle of ‘standing and staring’ to the highly recommended pastime of people-watching.
The title of ‘Leisure’ is an interesting one, because the poem is a call to create leisure by taking the decision to ‘stand and stare’. Davies wrote these words more than a hundred years ago and they are even more relevant today than when he penned them. Most people seem to be ‘full of care’ most of the time and many complain that they have no time for leisure. However, few would disagree with Davies’s conclusion that their life is impoverished because they do not make the effort to switch off and absorb the world around them.
We are now in the height of the holiday season and I do hope we all have given ourselves time to take a break even if we are not going away on holiday. We live in a most beautiful county which gives us that opportunity to stand and stare, to take time to see what is really going on around us and to enjoy God’s creation in all its beauty.
My husband, when we have taken a short flight and fly below the clouds, says this is what God must see, beautifully tended fields with not a weed or a thistle in sight, animals enjoying their pastures, trees and gardens showing themselves at their best, the sand and the sea sparkling as we pass over, tiny houses full of people leading different lives, and the buildings of our towns and cities portrayed at night by light pollution.
Jesus took time to stand and stare, took time out from the busyness of life and the clamouring of the people. Many of his parables and teachings were taken from observing what was going on around him and we often read that Jesus took himself to a quiet place to pray or to set out on the sea to get away from the crowds to find a time of rest and recuperation.
We all need to take time to stand and stare, switch off our phones for at least a week, tell ourselves to switch off our I-pads and computers, have conversations with our nearest and dearest, enjoy a meal with friends without any distractions, but above all we need to find time just to be and make contact with our inner self and with God.
A month ago I was in Dubrovnik, a beautiful place with delightful people who have had more than their share of troubles in the past. It was a sweltering day so I left my friends to find peace, tranquillity and a cooling breeze by taking a short trip in a small boat with ten other people around the islands. I was so looking forward to the space this short time would give me. I smiled at my fellow passengers and settled back to enjoy the peace and tranquillity. A gentleman to my left started to talk to me; he was an American on holiday and we started to talk about the world situation. For some reason I asked if he was a Christian and the flood gates opened; he had many troubles on his mind and this holiday was to be a time to ‘stand and stare’ and to find God. Other people in the boat listened into our conversation, and before long prayers for all different reasons were being said around the boat. We had all been given that time of leisure, that time to ‘stand and stare’ and pray together in the most beautiful of settings. We all hugged each other as we left the boat to go our different ways. God had been in our midst and we had found him.
This summer take time to ‘stand and stare’ and see what happens. Thank God for the many blessings he gives us day by day, find within your leisure time that time to commune with God and pray, and you will find that God is in all that we see and hear around us.
Love to you all
Reverend. Sue (Assistant Curate)