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Likely Stories: Forty-Nine Poems by W.H. Davies & Illustrated by Jaycinth Parsons


A delightful collection of illustrated poems written around the turn of the 20th century

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

I have often told a tale of finding a book, which delights me to no end.  On a recent trip to Tampa, Florida, I revisited a wonderful bookshop – The Old Tampa Bay Bookstore.  The first day I spent all my time in the fiction section, and as I left that day, I saw a large section devoted to poetry.  I had to come back the next day, and my decision was rewarded with a little treasure by a poet which never crossed my “Bookdar.”  Forty-Nine Poems by W.H. Davies.

According to Wikipedia, William Henry Davies was born on July 3, 1871.  He was a Welsh poet and writer.  He spent a significant amount of time as a tramp or a hobo in England and the U.S.  W.H. Davies, as he was known, became one of the most popular poets of his time.  He wrote a number of volumes of poetry as well as an autobiography.  He died September 26, 1940 in Nailsworth, U.K.

The first thing that attracted me to this book were the wonderful color illustrations by Jacynth Parsons.  He began his career as an illustrator at the age of 16.  He died in 1992 at the age of 81.  His work reminds me of the book of poems we read in about the fourth or fifth grade.  His illustrations are soft, gentle, and filled with little creatures and people hidden inside trees and clouds.  Most are in black and white, but the hand tinted drawings are the most enchanting of all.

Here is a sample, “My Love Could Walk.”  Davies wrote, “My love could walk in richer hues / Than any bird of paradise, / And no one envy her her dress: Since in her looks the world would see / A robin’s love and friendliness. // And she could be the lily fair, / More richly dressed than all her kind, / And no one envy her her gain, / Since in her looks the world would see / A daisy that was sweet and plain. // Oh, she could sit like any queen / That’s nailed by diamonds to a throne, / Her splendor envied by not one: / Since in her looks the world would see / A queen that’s more than half a nun” (7).

Here is another with the moon emerging from the clouds as a woman floats above the trees.  He writes in “The Moon,” “Thy beauty haunts me, heart and soul, / Oh thou fair Moon, so close and bright; / Thy beauty makes me like the child, / That cries aloud to own thy light: / The little child that lifts each arm, / To press thee to her bosom warm. // Though there are birds that sing this night / With thy white beams across their throats, / Let my deep silence speak for me / More than for them their sweetest notes: / Who worships thee till music fails / Is greater than thy nightingales” (29).  And, finally, here is a short poem about winter titled “In the Snow,” “Here how my friend the robin sings! / That little hunchback in the snow, / As it comes down as fast as rain. / The air is cold, the wind doth blow, / And still his heart can feel no pain. // And I with heart as light as his, / Hold up a fist as cold as death’s; / And into it I laugh and blow -- / I laugh and blow my life’s warm breath” (52). 

This slim volume will entertain on a beautiful Texas spring morning.  Forty-Nine Poems by W.H. Davies would be more than well-worth the effort.  5 stars.

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.