William Henry Davies

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What sweet, what happy days had I,
When dreams made Time Eternity!

William Henry Davies (3 July 187126 September 1940) was a Welsh poet and writer. He spent many years as a tramp in the United States and United Kingdom but became known as one of the most popular poets of his time. He was admired by George Bernard Shaw, who wrote the preface of his autobiography, The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp (1908).


  • Autumn grows old: he, like some simple one,
    In Summer's castaway is strangely clad
    • "Autumn", in The Soul's Destroyer and Other Poems (1907)
  • They sniffed, poor things, for their green fields,
    They cried so loud I could not sleep:
    For fifty thousand shillings down
    I would not sail again with sheep.
    • "Sheep", in Songs of Joy and Others (1911)
  • Sweet Stay-at-Home, sweet Well-content,
    Thou knowest of no strange continent;
    Thou hast not felt thy bosom keep
    A gentle motion with the deep;
    Thou hast not sailed in Indian seas,
    Where scent comes forth in every breeze.
    • "Sweet Stay-at-Home", in Foliage: Various Poems (1913)
  • The collier's wife had four tall sons
    Brought from the pit's mouth dead,
    And crushed from foot to head
    • "The Collier's Wife", in The Bird of Paradise and Other Poems (1914)
  • Thou shalt not laugh, thou shalt not romp,
    Let's grimly kiss with bated breath;
    As quietly and solemnly
    As Life when it is kissing Death.
    • "A Fleeting Passion", in The Bird of Paradise and Other Poems (1914)
  • From my own kind I only learn
    How foolish comfort is
    • "Comfort", in The Song of Life and Other Poems (1920)
  • What sweet, what happy days had I,
    When dreams made Time Eternity!
    • "The Time of Dreams"

The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp (1908)

  • This man has talent, that man genius,
    And here's the strange and cruel difference:
    Talent gives pence and his reward is gold,
    Genius gives gold and gets no more than pence.
    • Foreword to 1923 edition
  • What a glorious time of the year is this [Spring]! With the warm sun travelling through serene skies, the air clear and fresh above you, which instils new blood in the body, making one defiantly tramp the earth, kicking the snows aside in the scorn of action.
    • Ch. XIX
  • Cats — by day the most docile of God's creatures, everyone of them in the night enlisting under the devil's banner — took the place by storm after the human voice had ceased.
    • Ch. XXV
  • People are not to be blamed for their doubts, but that they make no effort to arrive at the truth.
    • Ch. XXXIV

"The Kingfisher"

From Farewell to Poesy and Other Pieces (1910). Davies regarded this as his best poem. Full text online
  • It was the Rainbow gave thee birth,
    And left thee all her lovely hues.
  • Go you and, with such glorious hues,
    Live with proud peacocks in green parks.
  • I also love a quiet place
    That's green, away from all mankind;
    A lonely pool, and let a tree
    Sigh with her bosom over me.


From Songs of Joy and Others (1911). Full text online
  • What is this life if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.
  • 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.

Quotes about Davies

  • this extraordinary and memorable being, who, for all his humility, bore about him something of the primitive splendour and directness of the Elizabethan age
    • Osbert Sitwell, Introduction to The Complete Poems of W. H. Davies, p. xxxiv
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