Tag Archives: W. H. Davies

29 May: A May morning

Red Sussex Cow
 
The sky is clear,
  The sun is bright;
The cows are red,
  The sheep are white;
Trees in the meadows
Make happy shadows.

 Birds in the hedge
  Are perched and sing;
Swallows and larks
  Are on the wing:
Two merry cuckoos
Are making echoes.

 Bird and the beast
  Have the dew yet;
My road shines dry,
  Theirs bright and wet:
Death gives no warning,
On this May morning.

 I see no Christ
  Nailed on a tree,
Dying for sin;
  No sin I see:
No thoughts for sadness,
All thoughts for gladness. 

(from Foliage: Various Poems by W. H. Davies.

Sometimes Davies says it all in sheer simplicity: Christ is risen, No sin I see!

Image by Charles Drake Public domain

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si', PLaces, poetry, Spring

27 December: Christmas Generosity

“This is no time to save, but spend,
To give for nothing, not to lend.
Let foes make friends: let them forget
The mischief-making dead that fret
The living with complaint like this—
“He wronged us once, hate him and his.”
Christmas has come; let every man
Eat, drink, be merry all he can.
Ale’s my best mark, but if port wine
Or whisky’s yours—let it be mine;
No matter what lies in the bowls,
We’ll make it rich with our own souls.
Farewell to study, books and pen,
And welcome to all kinds of men.”

From Foliage: Various Poems by W. H. Davies. A man who had known poverty, living on the streets, before he was taken up by other writers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent and Christmas, Daily Reflections

5 November: My Youth by W. H. Davies

My youth was my old age,
    Weary and long;
It had too many cares
    To think of song;
My moulting days all came
    When I was young.

Now, in life's prime, my soul
    Comes out in flower;
Late, as with Robin, comes
    My singing power;
I was not born to joy
    Till this late hour." 
                                                  W. H. Davies

Another Welsh poet today, this one writing in English. Davies was famously discovered as a poet when he was living in a homeless hostel, walking through London, selling a little booklet of verse from door to door. Before that he had shipped cattle across the Atlantic and tramped over much of North America: the Supertramp.
Not a life conducive to singing power.

Never give up on life! Joy comes to many at a late hour, and with it perspective and understanding of the trials and depressions of youth.

The European robin sings through Autumn and Winter to defend its territory but is less vocal when moulting – growing a new suit of feathers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Autumn, Daily Reflections, poetry

17 October: Night Wanderers

WH Davies was a Welsh poet who knew the hostels and streets of London, and the night wanderers who could not go indoors through the coldest winters. They are back on the streets and in the closed shop doorways of Canterbury as I write. Will.

They hear the bell of midnight toll,
And shiver in their flesh and soul;
They lie on hard, cold wood or stone,
Iron, and ache in every bone;
They hate the night: they see no eyes
Of loved ones in the starlit skies.
They see the cold, dark water near;
They dare not take long looks for fear
They'll fall like those poor birds that see
A snake's eyes staring at their tree.
Some of them laugh, half-mad; and some
All through the chilly night are dumb;
Like poor, weak infants some converse,
And cough like giants, deep and hoarse." 
                                                                            W. H. Davies

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Mission, PLaces, poetry

22 May: The mind has mountains.

“O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.”

Gerard Manley Hopkins

So let’s be a little more serious about the sorrow we looked at yesterday. Sorrow and depression are real. Hopkins bids us take comfort, even if we are tossed about by a whirlwind of spinning emotions and thoughts. We know our sorrow will at least have an end in death: life death does end. But does this mean that death brings an end to a frightful life, or that life puts an end to death? I would suggest both arguments hold true. And each day dies with sleep, ‘and another succeeds it’ is the subtext of that word ‘each’. We always have another chance to open our eyes and say with another of Wales’ poets, WH Davies:

Good morning Life, and all things glad and beautiful.

It may feel all wrong at this moment to be uttering such a prayer, but that does not mean that it is actually wrong to make an act of hope.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry

2 May: Look at Chapter 13

candle

An evening Taizé service, all three readings taken from 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, each one followed by silence.

After the first reading I felt quite let down: for much of my life, there was no praying for the higher gifts, or even any great feeling of having gifts worth mentioning. Day by day seemed a matter of getting through the agenda: getting up, half-hearted morning offering (Good morning life and all things glad and beautiful), breakfast, commuter trains, waiting for students who might or might not attend the lesson, more trains, sit down to eat with whoever’s at home, prep for next day, sleep more or less well, repeat.

That was how it looked on a cold, damp evening, a year and more into retirement. But at the time it was not all gloom, as this old post makes clear. Good morning life and all things glad and beautiful!

What does Paul say? Just look at Chapter 13: whatever gifts I may have count as nothing, without love. And I dare to say that I loved my work, loved the oddball teenagers I worked with, and even loved the commute. Writing this blog has forced me to open my eyes and look into that mirror where we can see the Lord at work, however dimly. I hope a few readers have enjoyed the reflections our writers have shared.

Good morning life and all things glad and beautiful!

MMB

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, PLaces, poetry

15 January: We do celebrations very well.

 

A few days ago David wrote of L’Arche: ‘As a Community we do celebrations very well, and for me, being involved gives me a sense of belonging which deepens my passion for L’Arche.’ And I began to consider the celebrations that have taken place lately. 

The Annual Advent Celebration brings hundreds of friends and family to share our preparations for Christmas in songs and sketches, sales and refreshments. The Christmas market in Saint Peter’s church was as much a celebration as a day of work. There were Christmas parties for the different work activities groups, for the half-barrels gardening club, and of course in the houses. Some of us squeezed into the Cathedral carol service.

And before that … birthdays, community gatherings, the Harvest Festival, the funerals of Emma and Denise … and that’s not all, not by any means.

Any occasion can be celebrated. My wife recalls her first arrival in the community and finding on her bed a card welcoming her by name. My first weekend was marked by the teeth incident. A core member had been sick and had flushed her teeth away down the toilet with everything else. Every manhole and inspection cover was lifted, every toilet flushed. I was poised by the last one before the cesspit, with Leo, a crazy Canadian, singing ‘Teeth are flowing like a river, flowing out to you and me-e-e.’ We didn’t catch the teeth, (and nor did anyone else) but I caught the L’Arche sense of belonging that David mentions. It has never left me.

The last-mentioned celebration was not about teeth or sewage, but about the joys of being alive among sisters and brothers on a Spring morning. I hope I can continue to bring this sense of celebration to all areas of my life, and invite all readers to do likewise! Here is a morning offering that a Christian or a non-Christian could use to start the day:

‘Good Morning Life, and all things glad and beautiful! 

W.H.Davies.

Celebration of the half-barrels group; our decoration for the Harvest Festival at St Mildred’s, Canterbury.

1 Comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, L'Arche, Laudato si'

9 April: Killed in action.

entering woods.jpg

Edward Thomas died in battle on this day in 1917. He came late to poetry, as did W.H. Davies, who wrote this tribute to his friend. They were great walkers through the countryside, like these friends from L’Arche Kent. May we all walk in peace!

Happy the man whose home is still
In Nature’s green and peaceful ways;
To wake and hear the birds so loud,
That scream for joy to see the sun
Is shouldering past a sullen cloud.

And we have known those days, when we
Would wait to hear the cuckoo first;
When you and I, with thoughtful mind,
Would help a bird to hide her nest,
For fear of other hands less kind.

But thou, my friend, art lying dead:
War, with its hell-born childishness,
Has claimed thy life, with many more:
The man that loved this England well,
And never left it once before.

MMB.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry, Spring

7 February: Helping and Helping 5, The Lodging House Fire II.

 

ossyrianfire

If we read his Autobiography of a Supertramp, we learn that Davies did spend time in the libraries but lacked the energy to get the most out of being there because of sitting in front of the Lodging House Fire. What would he have done with a mobile phone? Played mindless games all day?

I gave myself over to the influence of the coke fire. After going out in the morning for two or three hours, I would return at midday, often earlier, and sit hopelessly before this fire for ten or eleven hours, after which I would retire to my room. What a miserable time was this: the kitchen, foul with the breath of fifty or sixty men, and the fumes of the coke fire, took all the energy out of a man, and it was a hard fight to keep awake. It has taken the play out of the kitten, and this small animal lies stretched out, overcome by its fumes, without the least fear of being trodden on. Sometimes, when I endeavoured to concentrate my mind, with an idea of writing something, it was necessary to feign a sleep, so that these kind hearted fellows might not disturb me with their civilities. On these occasions it was not unusual for me to fall into a real sleep. And, when I awoke, it sickened me to think of this wasted time; for I was spending in bed more hours than were necessary for my health, and it was a most cruel waste of time to be sleeping in the day.

This fire exerted a strange influence over us. In the morning we were loath to leave it, and we all returned to it as soon as possible. Even the books and magazines in the libraries could not seduce me longer than an hour.

There was one seat at the corner of a table, which I have heard called “the dead man’s seat.” It was within two yards of this great fire, which was never allowed to suffer from want of coke. It was impossible to retain this seat long and keep awake. Of course, a man could hardly expect to keep this seat day after day for a long winter, and to be alive in the spring of the year. This was the case with a printer who, unfortunately, had only three days’ work a week. The amount he earned was sufficient for his wants, so, in his four idle days, he would sit on this seat, eating, reading, but more often sleeping, until before the end of the winter, he was carried away a dying man. Some of these lodgers claim to be able to recognise in the public streets any strangers who are suffering from this coke fever.

car-lights

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

4. There’s Helping and Helping: the Lodging House Fire I.

ossyrianfire

Here is the poet W.H. Davies himself in a homeless hostel in  early 20th Century London, after the railroad accident that disabled him. Here is a stifling charity, literally; coke here is neither drug nor soft drink but a type of solid fuel, a hot-burning by-product of extracting chemicals from coal. Today Davies would quite likely spend his days in and out of the public library. I see homeless people treated with great courtesy by librarians, who are unsung, unofficial social workers.

The Lodging-House Fire

My birthday-yesterday,
Its hours were twenty-four;
Four hours I lived lukewarm,
And killed a score.

Eight bells and then I woke,
Came to our fire below,
Then sat four hours and watched
Its sullen glow.

Then out four hours I walked,
The lukewarm four I live,
And felt no other joy
Than air can give.

My mind durst know no thought,
It knew my life too well:
‘Twas hell before, behind,
And round me hell.

Back to that fire again,
Six hours I watch it now,
And take to bed dim eyes
And fever’s brow.

Ten hours I give to sleep,
More than my need, I know;
But I escape my mind
And that fire’s glow.

For listen: it is death
To watch that fire’s glow;
For, as it bums more red
Men paler grow.

O better in foul room
That’s warm, make life away,
Than homeless out of doors,
Cold night and day.

Pile on the coke, make fire,
Rouse its death-dealing glow;
Men are borne dead away
Ere they can know.

I lie; I cannot watch
Its glare from hour to hour;
It makes one sleep, to wake
Out of my power.

I close my eyes and swear
It shall not wield its power;
No use, I wake to find
A murdered hour.

Lying between us there!
That fire drowsed me deep,
And I wrought murder’s deed-
Did it in sleep.

I count us, thirty men,
Huddled from Winter’s blow,
Helpless to move away
From that fire’s glow.

So goes my life each day-
Its hours are twenty-four-
Four hours I live lukewarm,
And kill a score.

No man lives life so wise
But unto Time he throws
Morsels to hunger for
At his life’s close.

Were all such morsels heaped-
Time greedily devours,
When man sits still – he’d mourn
So few wise hours.

But all my day is waste,
I live a lukewarm four
And make a red coke fire
Poison the score.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry