William Henry Davies (1871 – September 26, 1940), was a Welsh poet and writer. He spent most of his life as a tramp in the United States and United Kingdom, but became known as one of the most popular poets of his time.
He was born in Newport, Monmouthshire, in Wales, where his father died when he was two years old. His mother then abandoned him and his siblings when she remarried, leaving them to be brought up by their grandparents.
He was a difficult and somewhat delinquent young man, and after failing to settle as an apprentice, took casual work and travelled. The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp (1908) is an account of his times in the USA 1893 – ’99, during which he lived as a vagrant. He lost a leg while jumping a train in Canada, and wore a wooden leg.
He returned to England, living a rough life in London in particular. His first book of poetry, in 1905, was the beginning of success and a growing reputation; he drew extensively on his experiences with the seamier side for material. By the time of his prominent place in the Edward Marsh Georgian poetry series, he was an established figure. He is generally best known for two lines from his poem, Leisure:
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
He married in 1923 Helen Payne, an ex-prostitute and his junior by three decades; his frank account of how this came about was only published in 1980. They lived quietly in Sussex and Gloucestershire.
- The Soul’s Destroyer (1905) poems
- The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp (1908)
- Beggars (1909)
- New Poems (1907)
- Nature Poems (1908)
- Farewell to Poesy (1910)
- Songs of Joy (1911)
- Foliage (1913)
- The Bird of Paradise (1914)
- Raptures (1918) poems
- Shorter Lyrics 1900-1922 (1922, Bodley Head anthology) editor
- Secrets (1924) poems
- The Collected Poems of W. H. Davies, (1928)
- The Loneliest Mountain (1939) poems
- Complete Poems (1963)
- Young Emma (1980) autobiography