August 5, 2011


Every school child knows the lines from William Henry Davis’ poem, “Leisure”:

                 “What is this life if full of care

                 We have no time to stand and stare?”

I think of that poem on a hot summer day as I stand and stare out my window, watching my neighbors garden in their bikinis. Sometimes a poem comes to me:

                 “Cloaked in the sun’s rays

                 All modesty falls away.”

Okay, it’s doggerel, but so were some of Davis’ poems. Certainly, he was uneducated, having begun a life of adventure at fifteen. He traveled in England and then America, surviving as a hobo until he lost one leg beneath the wheels of a train.   

(photo by A.L. Coburn)

In his book, “The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp, Davis writes of his bitterness once he’d lost his leg and could no longer wander. But life is full of ironies and the tramp’s future was far from over.  Had he not been maimed, he might never have written, might never have been discovered and become famous. Calamity was the fate that forced him to stand and stare. A lesson for us all?