Friday, 25 April 2014

Leisure by William H. Davies, The Vineyard May 1911

I found this poem whilst looking for a suitable accompaniment to a photograph of our 'Blount apple tree'.  This the 100 year plus Bramley apple tree in our garden in what was once Foundry Meadow.  I don't think that this tree has changed much since it's last appearance in 2011 in this post.

All of the gardens in what was once Kings Road's Foundry Meadow either still have apple trees which may have been planted at the same period of time as this, or did have.  Our neighbour lost their apple tree two Summers ago when covered with apples it was slightly windy.  There were apple trees in the garden at The Dye House but I have been told that they were chopped down, this was probably sometime between 1948 and the 1960s.  So I presume that Foundry Meadow was an orchard of sorts at some point in time.

When I began reading 'Leisure' I quickly realised that despite my limited knowledge of poetry, this was a poem I was familiar with.  A quick Wikipedia search informed me of some interesting overlaps with the Peasant arts movement.  I wonder at what part in his life, William H. Davies' path crossed with The Vineyard?  Wikipedia describes William H. Davies as "living a rough life, particularly in London shelters and doss-houses, including the Salvation Army hostel in Southwark known as "The Ark"  which he grew to despise", that he moved to rural life in Kent in 1905, that George Bernard Shaw (who has appeared in a few previous posts here) wrote the preface to his 1907 autobiography The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp and also "in 1911, Davies was awarded a Civil List Pension of £50" (ibid).

Bramley apple tree,
old Foundry Meadow, Kings Road
In The Vineyard (May 1911 p.541), beneath Maude Egerton King's plea:

"The first of May
Is garland day:
Please remember the garland."

William H. Davies' poem 'Leisure' is printed:

"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 care."


  1. I love this poem. I wonder if William Davies could be the link connecting the Haslemere Peasant group with the poet Edward Thomas, who lived and wrote at Steep, near Petersfield, in the years before his death in WW1 in 1915?

    Davies and Thomas knew each other and were also part of the Dymock Poets group, based on the Gloucestershire homes of Robert Frost, Lascelles Abercrombie and several other contemporary poets.

    Edward and Helen Thomas moved to Steep so that their children could go to Bedales. ET loved to walk for miles in the countryside of Hampshire and Surrey. Did he ever walk to Haslemere and did he know anyone there?

    Did William Davies wander his way to Haslemere or was the relationship with The Vineyard purely a publishing one? So many unanswered questions......

    How good to know that you have protected that special old apple tree.

  2. Crikey, I had no idea about any of that. I will bear in mind whilst I carry on researching. Thank you.


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