The Catholic Parish of
Saint John Henry Newman

 Covering most of East Leeds


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“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.”

Familiar lines of poetry we probably best remember from our schooldays, but what do we know about the man who wrote this famous poem. W.H.Davies was a Welshman who was born in 1871 and at the age of 22, finding that the Welsh valleys didn’t offer much of a future, he decided to emigrate to America, looking for fame and fortune in this brave new world across the sea.
He first obtained work as a casual farm labourer, but soon this work dried up and try as he may he couldn’t find another job. He roamed the ountryside for some time, living as a tramp whilst looking for employment. The method of travel in those days if you had no money was to “jump” a passing train going to your destination and jump off before you were caught by the railway guards. He did this for several months travelling all over America looking for work and then tragedy struck one day when he was jumping from a moving train, he slipped and fell under it and the train severed off one of his legs.

Now disabled and still out work, he decided to return to England, working his passage home as the ship’s cook, but once again found he was still unable to find work, so he turned to writing. He began to write poetry and books in order to earn a living and in 1908 he published his autobiography entitled, “An Autobiography of a Super Tramp,” which he was surprised to find was quite successful. His life time collection of poems, about three hundred of them were all published in 1943, three years after his death, in September 1940 aged 69.

This is a story of a man who spent a lifetime struggling against all odds to find work and eventually gained the recognition he so richly deserved as a writer. His observations throughout his life must have given him a deep understanding of human nature, a love of the countryside and the beauty of the world all around him.

“All that is expected is for us to be ourselves. Whenever we are true to ourselves
and live by our intuitive nature, we rely on our strengths, not our shortcomings.”

Alexandra Stoddard

Published Fri 31st Aug 2012 23:36:41

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