The Song of Love – W H Davies


The oak bears little acorns, yet
Is big in branch and root:
My love is like the smaller tree,
That bears a larger fruit.


In Spring, when it is leafing time,
We know what plants will live;
But love needs never wait for Spring,
To show its power to thrive.


Trouble may come, yet love will stay:
No heavy rain can beat
The lightning down and out-and birds
Wet through sing twice as sweet.


Love is a staff, and Love’s a rod,

A wise man and a fool;

I thought that I was wise, until

Love sent me back to school.


Scorn not because my body lives

In such a little place;

Think how my mind, on that account,

Inhabits greater space.


My smallest blossom sometimes is

The Moon or setting Sun;

Seas are my pearls, and forests vast

Have no more trees than one!


The finest scarf or collar made,

To keep a woman warm,

By night or day, on sea or land,

Is still a lover’s arm.


Last night I dreamt that Dinah’s ghost

Was standing near my bed:

What brings you here this hour of the night,

Picking your cheek? I said.


She picked her cheek with her right hand,

Then held her arm out firm:

She made my hand a present then

Of a tiny little worm.


Lie here, I said, my poor dead love,

I’ll not live many hours;

And take my word that I’ll return

A worm of mine for yours.


I thought when I was thirty years,

My marrying time had come;

But in that year the girl I love

Was in her mother’s womb.


But when she brought her twenty years

To my two score and ten,

I heard a cuckoo in a place

It never charmed till then.


Time, my love said, is sprinkling his

White jewels in my hair;

To join like dewdrops soon, and make

One big white diamond there!


So let her still praise Age and Time,

The more our years are told,

And say a garden’s beauty grows

The more as it grows old.


Six months in friendship, side by side,

Like blades of grass we grew;

Love pinned us together with

One diamond of his dew.


Since then our love has vaster grown,

Far up the branches reach;

Our smallest twigs as big as trunks

Of full-grown oak or beech.


And though my years outnumber hers

By thirty years all told,

My healthy fear of Death remains

To prove I am not old.


Who can deserve a dog’s pure love,

Which any villain can have?

One of the richest things on earth

Goes cheap to any knave.


My dog and I are waiting now,

His love is safe at least;

But never think my love can be shamed

By the love of my beast.


Let’s marry soon, and live no more

Like disappointed flowers

Whose heads are wet, but not their feet –

When mocked by passing showers.


Where shall we live, in some green vale,

Or on a hill that’s high?

Sometimes a hill and wood are one,

With tree-tops in the sky.


And should we live in London town

Shall we by chance not meet

Two horses with a load of hay,

Sweetening a crowded street?


A sight as fair as when the sun

Is burning on a pool,

And, standing on their heads in water,

The ducks keep calm and cool.


When I was rich without a care,

And lived with wandering men –

My belly spread across my back

Was all my bed-clothes then.


But when I say a house is mine,

The tax-collectors come

To show a man is poor indeed,

Who keeps a little home.


I’ll go into the country now

And find a little house;

And though its eyes are small, they shall

Have heavy, leafy brows.


A house with curtains made of leaves,

Hanging from every stone;

I’ll pass before the windows oft,

And it shall not be known.


I’ll have a garden full of flowers,

With many a corner-place;

Where love can learn from spiders’ webs

To make her mats of lace.


When I am at one end of the garden

And she at the other end,

I’ll see the Sun’s bright face and hers

Into each other blend.


Until her face alone is seen,

And nothing she has on;

I’ll see her shining face, with no

More body than sun.


We’ll sit in our garden, with a joy

That’s great enough to give

The sun our pity with his poor

Few million years to live.


We’ll keep a pool where under leaves

The fish swim out and in;

Sometimes we’ll see a breast of gold,

Sometimes a silver fin


And though I scorn a painted skin,

Think not my tongue could scold her,

Should such fair things as butterflies

Encourage her to powder.


And if, when I’ve been out with some

Bass-singing, belted bee,

I take a drink or two myself –

Will she not pardon me?


One time I thought it was my brain

That made the songs I sing;

But now I know it is a heart

That loveth every thing.


And while his heart’s blood feeds his brain,

To keep it warm and young,

A man can live a hundred years,

And day break into song.


How sad it is when Age has lost

Imagination’s power,

And with a feeble, active tongue

Can jest of his last hour.


But when I hear no birds in song

And beauty there is none,

That is the hour when death can strike-

With all my wonder gone.


The hour I hear a nightingale,

Or see a dragonfly,

Shall not be my last hour on earth –

For then I cannot die.


My love grows large when I behold

A blossom sucked by a bee;

Or leaves with sails of butterflies,

Floating like ships at sea.


So will my love increase when I

Can cast some kindly light

Of human thought on matter dead,

That’s lovely to my sight.


Our life is dust, and dust is life:

When I am heavy and sigh,

A paper rag that rides the wind

Is greater far than I.


I pass though life a laughing man,

Untouched by any sin:

Death makes us all, both king and fool,

Lie down at last to grin.


And who can tell, when stripped by Death,

A monarch from his clown;

Who knows which head has worn the bells,

And which has worn the crown?


Day after day and night after night,

The silly game is fought:

Life makes a question mark, and Death

Answers it with a nought.


No matter what we say or do,

Or what it’s all about,

There’s that lean fellow, Death, behind,

Waiting to blot it out.


Is Death a mask that life puts on

To curb our foolish laughter;

And shall our sprits, living still,

Enjoy the jest hereafter?


Is Death’s dark tunnel endless night

Where, entering, none can choose;

Or is a greater light to come

Beyond the light we lose?


Answer, you poets, one and all,

Answer us from the height;

Speak from your many-jewelled mountain –

Are we wrong or right?


But the more I question things unknown,

The more my mind is lost;

My voice is echo’s echo, and My life a shadow’s ghost.


For while I speak the thunder growls;

My dog, without a whine,

Barks fiercely back, and proves his voice

To be as vain as mine.


When as a little boy I saw

The water break and stir,

I wondered what mysterious life

Had brought those bubbles there.


Now as a man full-grown and strong,

And known to many men,

I watch those bubbles still, and know

No more than I did then.


Is there a God, I ask, and smoke-

But fear, with reverence,

To foul the Face of a God with smoke

And mortal’s arrogance.


My pipe goes out, I sit in thought,

A humble man and sad:

And then a voice within me says-

You have done well, my lad.


The great broad rivers, miles in width,

Are for the world to roam;

But little streams, for paddling feet,

Whisper of Heaven and home.


Could we survive the breathless leap

That brought her door to mine,

I would not care if a whirlwind made

Our houses toe one line.


I would not care if an earthquake came

And opened its mouth wide,

If when it closed and shrunk the earth,

It brought her to my side.


When deer and tigers flee from fire,

Which is the master then?

Love shares the power with Fear to bring

Equality to men.


The kingĀ  who would not rather see

His queen without her crown,

Is but a king, and less a man

Than any lover in town.


Who is this creature that has come

Between her life and mine?

I saw the look she gave my love,

And took it for a sign.


I saw the hard and cruel look,

To wither, dry and wilt:

Where were her adder-bracelets then,

And deadly, scorpion-belt?


We’ll not make Jealousy our foe,

A hound to track us down;

That sleepless hound, with bloodshot eyes,

Shall be to us unknown.


Give Jealousy his shadows, let

Him still gnaw lifeless stones,

And in his wild delirium think

He works on meaty bones.


All other women that I know,

I’ll look on them as men;

She’ll look on other men as women-

There’ll be no trouble then.


My rival has a pleasant wife,

But who has heard her name?

Let him praise his, as I’ll praise mine,

And leave the rest to Fame.


See how my horse can fret and stamp

To pass a bird in flight:

My rival’s horse is stamping too-

To shake off fleas that bite.


A DONKEY’S gallop, rare and short,

Gives joy to all that see’ t :

My rival’s horse gives joy to none-

Except its own vain poet.


Would that some power would turn all things

To mirrors that reflect him;

To haunt him with his own vain face,

Till later days neglect him.


If our contented hearts are blind

To what the world calls great,

How can that world, whose pride is wealth,

Look down on our low state?


The thing we call a truth to-day

Is but to-morrow’s lie;

We change our minds, our bodies change,

Until we come to die.


To-day I swear that music’s best,

To-morrow swear by books;

If there’s one truth that stays unchanged,

It’s Love, and how she looks.


The story of my love shall be,

When I am oneĀ  with Her,

Far richer than a Blackbird’s yarn

In merry April’s ear.


I praise the Blackbird’s golden bill

Because of his golden song:

Were Love less kind than she is fair,

The devil could take my song.


When she, poor bird, is croaking hoarse,

After her glorious June,

The Nightingale shall wonder much

To hear my love in tune.


Skylarks sing well for meadows green,

But for ploughed land sing sweeter:

When I was single I sang well,

But married men sing better.


When rats bite rats and snakes bite snakes,

They seldom die from harm:

Could Dinah live if one of these

Should bite her leg or arm?


We’ll live beyond our fellow’s reach,

From gossip, slander, strife,

And leave those human rats and snakes

To their own poisoned life.


So when my foe, who knows far less

Than He who knows all life,

Has taken a mistress from my side,

God gives me a good wife.



A fool without experience, poor,

Began one day to think

How rich he’d be with scores of friends-And wrote that down in ink.


A rich man said, with scores of friends,

Who wisely understood,

‘How poor am I with these false friends!’

And wrote that down in blood.


I met a lonely man who had

No friend, no child, no wife:

O what a wretched thing, said I,

Is this poor mortal’s life!


But when I met a poorer man,

With neither friend nor foe,

This man is doubly damned, said I-

With twice the other’s woe.


But Love has saved me from that state,

I shall not live alone,

A weak, unloved, unhated thing,

Unnoticed and unknown.


Though we are two are we not one?

Aye, even as that Pair

Of scissors, which we hold in turns,

To cut each other’s hair.


One- like our Pair of household tongs,

There with his crooked thighs,

His long thin legs, his little head

With neither mouth nor eyes.


My Love is fair, but fairer still

With eyes a little wild;

When she forgets how fair she is,

And wonders like a child.


Let not her face be doted on

Too much by stranger men,

For when her back is turned their eyes

Dart on her ankles then.


When flies are old and going blind,

They bite all things they touch:

But never think that Age or Time

Will trouble Love so much.


And when a spider damns the dew

For pearls on every string,

My Love will clap her hands, and say-

‘Look at this lovely thing!’


I’ve seen six bees together kiss

A sunflower’s golden face;

But still she turns towards the Sun,

]and follows face to face.


So, thinking of my greater love,

I live on her good looks;

And give my second thoughts, not first,

To music, verse, or books.


The kiss of Love is half a bite,

And worth a thousand others;

Girls who have no desire for that

Should never leave their mothers.


Should she complain no kiss of mine

Has left one little bite,

I’ll let her take a needle and thread

And sew my mouth up tight.


If cheek or chin of hers can say

It never felt one nip,

I’ll let her take a packet of pins

And Pin me lip to lip.


In winter, when the evergreens

Have seen their plumpness go;

When all the little holly leaves

Wear padded gloves of snow-


We’ll pay the birds for their past songs,

In bread that’s white and new:

Jack Frost, the finest artist known,

Shall be the kindest, too.


Her birthday comes, and I will buy

A pair of buckled shoes;

With two silk stockings cradled there,

Between the heels and toes.


Her right leg’s stocking shall contain

A comb to dress her hair;

In her left stocking she shall find

A silver thimble there.


See how my hands stretch out to take

The hand of Her I love:

Did Noah make more haste when he

Reached out to take God’s Dove?