The Poetry Corner

Return To Nature

By William Henry Davies

My song is of that city which Has men too poor and men too rich; Where some are sick, too richly fed, While others take the sparrows' bread: Where some have beds to warm their bones, While others sleep on hard, cold stones That suck away their bodies' heat. Where men are drunk in every street; Men full of poison, like those flies That still attack the horses' eyes. Where some men freeze for want of cloth, While others show their jewels' worth And dress in satin, fur or silk; Where fine rich ladies wash in milk, While starving mothers have no food To make them fit in flesh and blood; So that their watery breasts can give Their babies milk and make them live. Where one man does the work of four, And dies worn out before his hour; While some seek work in vain, and grief Doth make their fretful lives as brief. Where ragged men are seen to wait For charity that's small and late; While others haunt in idle leisure, Theatre doors to pay for pleasure. No more I'll walk those crowded places And take hot dreams from harlots' faces; I'll know no more those passions' dreams, While musing near these quiet streams; That biting state of savage lust Which, true love absent, burns to dust. Gold's rattle shall not rob my ears Of this sweet music of the spheres. I'll walk abroad with fancy free; Each leafy, summer's morn I'll see The trees, all legs or bodies, when They vary in their shapes like men. I'll walk abroad and see again How quiet pools are pricked by rain; And you shall hear a song as sweet As when green leaves and raindrops meet. I'll hear the Nightingale's fine mood, Rattling with thunder in the wood, Made bolder by each mighty crash; Who drives her notes with every flash Of lightning through the summer's night. No more I'll walk in that pale light That shows the homeless man awake, Ragged and cold; harlot and rake, That have their hearts in rags, and die Before that poor wretch they pass by. Nay, I have found a life so fine That every moment seems divine; By shunning all those pleasures full, That bring repentance cold and dull. Such misery seen in days gone by, That, made a coward, now I fly To green things, like a bird. Alas! In days gone by I could not pass Ten men but what the eyes of one Would burn me for no kindness done; And wretched women I passed by Sent after me a moan or sigh. Ah, wretched days: for in that place My soul's leaves sought the human face, And not the Sun's for warmth and light, And so was never free from blight. But seek me now, and you will find Me on some soft green bank reclined; Watching the stately deer close by, That in a great deep hollow lie Shaking their tails with all the ease That lambs can. First, look for the trees, Then, if you seek me, find me quick. Seek me no more where men are thick, But in green lanes where I can walk A mile, and still no human folk Tread on my shadow. Seek me where The strange oak tree is, that can bear One white-leaved branch among the green, Which many a woodman has not seen. If you would find me, go where cows And sheep stand under shady boughs; Where furious squirrels shake a tree As though they'd like to bury me Under a leaf shower heavy, and I laugh at them for spite, and stand. Seek me no more in human ways, Who am a coward since those days My mind was burned by poor men's eyes, And frozen by poor women's sighs. Then send your pearls across the sea, Your feathers, scent and ivory, You distant lands, but let my bales Be brought by Cuckoos, Nightingales, That come in spring from your far shores; Sweet birds that carry richer stores Than men can dream of, when they prize Fine silks and pearls for merchandise; And dream of ships that take the floods Sunk to their decks with such vain goods; Bringing that traitor silk, whose soft Smooth tongue persuades the poor too oft From sweet content; and pearls, whose fires Make ashes of our best desires. For I have heard the sighs and whines Of rich men that drink costly wines And eat the best of fish and fowl; Men that have plenty, and still growl Because they cannot like kings live, "Alas!" they whine, "we cannot save." Since I have heard those rich ones sigh, Made poor by their desires so high, I cherish more a simple mind; That I am well content to find My pictures in the open air, And let my walls and floors go bare; That I with lovely things can fill My rooms, whene'er sweet Fancy will. I make a fallen tree my chair, And soon forget no cushion's there; I lie upon the grass or straw, And no soft down do I sigh for; For with me all the time I keep Sweet dreams that, do I wake or sleep, Shed on me still their kindly beams; Aye, I am richer with my dreams Than banks where men dull-eyed and cold Without a tremble shovel gold. A happy life is this. I walk And hear more birds than people talk; I hear the birds that sing unseen, On boughs now smothered with leaves green; I sit and watch the swallows there, Making a circus in the air; That speed around straight-going crow, As sharks around a ship can go; I hear the skylark out of sight, Hid perfectly in all this light. The dappled cows in fields I pass, Up to their bosoms in deep grass; Old oak trees, with their bowels gone, I see with spring's green finery on. I watch the buzzing bees for hours, To see them rush at laughing flowers, And butterflies that lie so still. I see great houses on the hill, With shining roofs; and there shines one, It seems that heaven has dropped the sun. I see yon cloudlet sail the skies, Racing with clouds ten times its size. I walk green pathways, where love waits To talk in whispers at old gates; Past stiles, on which I lean, alone, Carved with the names of lovers gone; I stand on arches whose dark stones Can turn the wind's soft sighs to groans. I hear the Cuckoo when first he Makes this green world's discovery, And re-creates it in my mind, Proving my eyes were growing blind. I see the rainbow come forth clear And wave her coloured scarf to cheer The sun long swallowed by a flood, So do I live in lane and wood. Let me look forward to each spring As eager as the birds that sing; And feed my eyes on spring's young flowers Before the bees by many hours, My heart to leap and sing her praise Before the birds by many days. Go white my hair and skin go dry, But let my heart a dewdrop lie Inside those leaves when they go wrong, As fresh as when my life was young.