Leisure, William Henry Davies: Summary & Analysis

"Leisure" by William Henry Davies presents a contemplation on the nature of life and the importance of finding moments of stillness and reflection. Through vivid imagery and succinct language, the poem highlights the idea that a life consumed by busyness and care can lead to a lack of appreciation for the beauty and wonder of the world around us.


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 is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Critical Analysis

"Leisure" explores the idea that a life consumed by constant worries and responsibilities can lead to a lack of appreciation for the simple, natural beauties that surround us. The poem's succinct structure and vivid imagery emphasize the contrast between the hurried pace of life and the tranquil moments of observation and contemplation.

The opening lines, "What is this life if, full of care, / We have no time to stand and stare," immediately pose the central question of the poem. The use of "stand and stare" suggests the act of mindful observation and contemplation that is often neglected in a busy life.

The poem then proceeds to list various natural scenes that go unnoticed due to the lack of time for observation. The imagery of standing "beneath the boughs" and watching sheep or cows emphasizes the stillness and presence of nature.

The reference to squirrels hiding nuts and streams appearing like "skies at night" creates a sense of wonder in the everyday world, which often goes unnoticed due to the haste of life.

The stanza "No time to turn at Beauty's glance, / And watch her feet, how they can dance" captures the fleeting nature of beauty and the missed opportunities to appreciate it fully.

The final lines reinforce the poem's message by stating that a life filled with constant concerns and no time for reflection is a "poor life." The phrase "stand and stare" is repeated, underscoring the poem's call for moments of pause and contemplation.

"Leisure" serves as a reminder of the need to find balance in life and to take time to appreciate the small wonders that often go unnoticed in the rush of daily existence.


"Leisure" by William Henry Davies emphasizes the importance of taking moments of stillness and observation in a busy world. The poem encourages readers to find time to appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds them and to avoid a life consumed by constant care and busyness.

Themes of the Poem

  • Observation and Reflection: The poem highlights the significance of taking time to observe and reflect on the beauty of the world.
  • Balance: The poem suggests the need for balance between responsibilities and moments of leisure.
  • Nature's Beauty: The poem underscores the wonders of nature that often go unnoticed in the rush of life.

Imagery and Language

  • Vivid Imagery: The poem employs vivid imagery to depict scenes of nature and beauty.
  • Repetition: The repetition of "No time to..." emphasizes the various missed opportunities for observation and reflection.
  • Metaphorical Language: Metaphors like "streams full of stars" and "watch her feet, how they can dance" evoke a sense of wonder and beauty.

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