Leisure – William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies teaches us what should a meaningful life be. A meaningful life is like a child’s life. We should find time to stand like cows and sheep and look around us and enjoy the beautiful nature. We should not hurry away in life. A life that is full of anxieties is a poor life.

Stanza 1

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.


  • Full of care – Full of anxieties/ worries/ tension
  • Stare – Look/ see
  • Beneath – Under
  • Bough – Main branch of a tree
  • Stare as long as sheep and cows – Sheep and cows are least worried about what happens around them.

Questions & Answers

About what kind of life is the poet complaining?
The poet is complaining about a life that has been made complicated by human life-style. Today man thinks that he is too busy to enjoy the bounties (gifts) of the earth that are beautiful and soothing.

Why is the poet not happy with a stressed life?
The poet is not happy with the modern lifestyle that is full of stress. In his opinion, life is an opportunity to enjoy the beauty around us.

Why does the poet pick up the example of sheep and cows?
Sheep and cows are peaceful animals, tamed and domesticated easily. They are seldom found moving in a hurry. Unlike most animals, cows and sheep do not attack other animals unless it is for self defense.

What does the poet want human beings do to make life meaningful?
The poet wants human beings to start enjoying the beauty of the nature. He advises us to put an end to the stress that we associate with life. People unfortunately feel that a serious life style makes it worth. He wants us to shed the cares we have put up on our simple lives. We should find time to see the beauties of nature. We should pause under trees and look up to catch sight of the birds and butterflies that silently flit from branch to branch. We should be like sheep and cows that endlessly look at something as if they are lost in a dream.

Stanza 2

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.


  • Woods – Forests/ trees
  • When woods we pass – While passing through a forest
  • Streams – Rivers
  • Streams full of stars – Shining bubbles in the rivers

Questions & Answers

What can one see while passing through woods?
While passing through woods, we see squirrels running off with nuts. They are in a hurry to hide them from little thieves. Sometimes we can see endless number of sparkles of the sunlight reflecting upon the ripples of the streams. These sparkling beams of light appear like stars in the nightly sky.

What is the river compared to? Why?
The river is compared to a starry sky at night. It is so compared because the sparkles of the sun-beams that reflect upon the ripples of the rivers look like stars in the sky.

Stanza 3

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.


  • Beauty’s glance –
  • Her feet
  • Smile her eyes began

Questions & Answers

How does nature smile?
Nature’s smile is the beauty of the earth.

  1. Why is it said that smile begins from one’s eyes?
  2. How does mouth enrich smile?

Stanza 4

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare. 


  • A poor life is this – This kind of worried life is a useless life.

Questions & Answers

What kind of life is poor life?
A poor life is one that is under the pressure of the engagements of life and forgets to enjoy the beautiful bounty of life.

Written by Biju John

Biju John is an educational writer, educator and the author of OM - The Otherwise Men. He gives live classes on Skype and Facebook. You can attend his 3 Day Classes (English & Business Studies) in Delhi, Bangalore, Qatar and Dubai. His Contact number is 91 9810740061.

Sonnet 116 – Let me not to the marriage of true minds – William Shakespeare

The Vagabond – R L Stevenson