No doubt it is a selfish thing/ To fly from human suffering

Two poems by W.H. Davies

W. H. Davies (1871–1940), a Welsh poet, lived most of his life as a tramp.
  • W. H. Davies (1871–1940), a Welsh poet, lived most of his life as a tramp.

In May

  • Yes, I will spend the livelong day 
  • With Nature in this month of May; 
  • And sit beneath the trees, and share 
  • My bread with birds whose homes are there; 
  • While cows lie down to eat, and sheep 
  • Stand to their necks in grass so deep; 
  • While birds do sing with all their might, 
  • As though they felt the earth in flight. 
  • This is the hour I dreamed of, when 
  • I sat surrounded by poor men; 
  • And thought of how the Arab sat 
  • Alone at evening, gazing at 
  • The stars that bubbled in clear skies; 
  • And of young dreamers, when their eyes 
  • Enjoyed methought a precious boon 
  • In the adventures of the Moon 
  • Whose light, behind the Clouds’ dark bars, 
  • Searched for her stolen flocks of stars. 
  • When I, hemmed in by wrecks of men, 
  • Thought of some lonely cottage then 
  • Full of sweet books; and miles of sea, 
  • With passing ships, in front of me; 
  • And having, on the other hand, 
  • A flowery, green, bird-singing land. 

In the Country

  • This life is sweetest; in this wood 
  • I hear no children cry for food; 
  • I see no woman, white with care; 
  • No man, with muscled wasting here.
  • No doubt it is a selfish thing 
  • To fly from human suffering; 
  • No doubt he is a selfish man, 
  • Who shuns poor creatures, sad and wan.
  • But ’tis a wretched life to face 
  • Hunger in almost every place; 
  • Cursed with a hand that’s empty, when 
  • The heart is full to help all men.
  • Can I admire the statue great, 
  • When living men starve at its feet! 
  • Can I admire the park’s green tree, 
  • A roof for homeless misery! 

W. H. Davies (1871–1940) was a Welsh poet who lived most of his life as a tramp in and around the United Kingdom and the U.S. He was considered one of the most popular poets during the time he was writing. Although he is often categorized with the Georgian poets, his themes and concerns — nature, his own hobo experiences, and the trials and tribulations of daily living — were not typical of the Georgians’ work.

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