Centenary of 'Leisure' by poet WH Davies is celebrated

Glendower - photo by Anthony Burton Davies lived in Glendower for two years until his death in 1940

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Celebrations to mark the centenary of the most famous poem by Newport writer WH Davies are being held to promote the restoration of his last home.

The author of the poem Leisure and the memoir Autobiography of a Super-Tramp spent his final years in the village of Nailsworth, Gloucestershire.

Work is already underway to repair Glendower, his 18th Century cottage and its garden.

The Friends of Glendower stage a public reading of Davies's work on Monday.

Colourful character

Born in Pill, Newport, in 1871, William Henry Davies became a celebrated working-class poet in Edwardian London after spending his early adulthood hitch-hiking across north America.

Davies documented his escapades in his acclaimed memoir Autobiography of a Super-Tramp.

He wrote his most famous poem, Leisure, in 1911, warning that the hectic pace of modern life had a detrimental effect on the human spirit.

At the age of 50, Davies married a prostitute 30 years his junior, leaving London to move first to Sussex and later Gloucestershire.

The Poem "Leisure"

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.

WH Davies

From Songs Of Joy and Others (1911)

He moved to Nailsworth in 1928 and lived at Glendower for two years until his death in September 1940.

The Friends of Glendower was founded in 2010 by residents of Nailsworth who wanted to help the writer's great-nephew Norman Phillips restore the delapidated cottage.

Mr Phillips, 78, faced a five-figure sum for essential repairs and had to move out of the property eight years ago.

Stroud District Council had threatened to take possession of the cottage if it was not repaired.

Campaign continues

Friends founder Anthony Burton said restoration work was now well underway and visitors were given an opportunity to see the progress on Sunday.

"The main structural work undertaken this year has been rebuilding the bay window area, and clearing a large part of the back garden, ready for replanting an orchard.

WH Davies WH Davies found fame as a working-class poet in Edwardian times

"Progress has been slower than hoped due to a shortage of volunteers and money but interest grows from our awareness campaign.

"Hopefully the council conservation department, seeing work started, will put off any compulsory purchase plans."

On Monday, the Friends of Glendower are arranging a small reading circle at Nailsworth library with the Stroud branch of the Workers' Educational Association.

Visitors will be invited to join Davies's biographer Barbara Hooper and others in reading his poems and autobiography aloud.

Ms Hooper said the poem Leisure had a "universal appeal" which had ensured its enduring popularity for a hundred years.

"The message is that Leisure is a basic human need - freedom to relax, to do one's own thing," she said.

"This is what we all aspire to: lives free from care, free from the pressures of modern living."

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