• Martin Kirkbride

Thought For Today: Martin Kirkbride

What is this life if, full of care.....?,So starts the opening stanza of the 1911 poem, “Leisure" by the wandering Welsh poet W. H. Davies.

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

If badly read aloud, with rushed cadence and over annunciated rhyme, then this poem Is pure excruciating schoolboy doggerel. Conversely, when it is carefully read, with understated but definite rhythm and an unhurried softness of rhyme, we will indeed ‘... in broad daylight see, Streams full of stars, like skies at night.’

The lover of poetry may sense within Davies’ poem the possibility of inspiration from

William Wordsworth’s sonnet, “The World Is Too Much with Us". What all of us, however, should sense is a poem whose essential imperative is that we slow down, stop awhile, and look around. Something which at present is sadly forced upon us by dire circumstances, but in which we should still find advantage of opportunity.

Here in Somerset there are innumerable locations that beckon us to stop and stare, to take in all the glory of creation. Our physical ability to enjoy them may presently be curtailed by the pandemic lockdown, but they still await us, and we will enjoy them once again.

Whilst reflecting on this another poem came to mind. In 1885 the Swedish poet Boberg wrote a poem in similar sentiment "O Store Gud" (O Great God). Translated into German then later into Russian, it eventually made its way into English. It comes to us as that majestic hymn, ‘O Lord my God’

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder

Consider all the works Thy hand hath made.

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,

Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:

How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:

How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

All of which brings me right back to concur with the conclusion of our first poem:

‘A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand (sit!) and stare’.

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