SUPERTRAMP

PORTRAIT: A painting of WH Davies by Augustus John

“I bore this accident with an outward fortitude that was far from the true state of my feelings. Thinking of my present helplessness caused me many a bitter moment, but I managed to impress all comers with a false indifference … I was soon home again, having been away less than four months; but all the wildness had been taken out of me, and my adventures after this were not of my own seeking, but the result of circumstances.’ ~ W.H Davies, The Autobiography of a Supertramp, 1908

~*~

W.H Davies, writer, vagrant, traveller, and perhaps one of the most popular poets to have originated from Wales is possibly better known for authoring, The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp published in 1908 together with the poem Leisure (1911)….

‘What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare…’

Davies spent significant periods of his life as tramp vagrant and hobo both in the UK and America. Central to his poetry were themes exploring and expanding upon his observations of life’s hardships. His deep appreciation and love of Nature was also a major motif and used repeatedly as a backdrop for reflecting upon the human condition. A contemporary and tangible reference for The Autobiography of a Supertramp appears in the film, Into The Wild, (2007) where the lead-character, Christopher McCandless, adopts the name ‘Alexander Supertramp’. Would it be surprising to know that Davies attended The Alexandra Road School (1883 – 1884/5), in Newport, Gwent, Wales prior to commencing his travels. His motivation for travel a life long ambition was keened after being expelled for alleged theft and receiving 12 strokes of the birch….a poem titled ‘Death’ was published in 1885.

The Autobiography of a Supertramp details his travels in America between 1893 and 1899 and brings to life the many characters, situations and circumstances he encountered. During this 6 year period Davies crossed the Atlantic at least seven times, working for his passage aboard cattle ships. Travelling widely Davies crossed many state lines and set about making provision for himself by begging or taking seasonal work when available. It is reputed that Davies would frequently spend what little savings he were able to amass on drinking sprees with fellow travellers. Whilst journeying through the state of Michigan, Davies found opportunity to exploit the corrupt system known as ‘boodle’ – being passed from one jail to another along with other vagrants, where chance for playing cards, singing, smoking, and relating experiences.

After having returned briefly to England, Davies made preparation to leave for Canada believing that wealth and fortune would be gold harvested from the Klondike. Writers suggest that this trip was the turning point in the life of Davies, when attempting to board a train in Renfrew, Ontario (20/03/1899) with a fellow called Three-Fingered Jack he slipped and fell, his leg crushed beneath train wheels. For all intents-and-purposes, the accident forced Davies to abandon his desire for travel and adventure and following surgery (the leg was removed) returned to London where he fashioned a life moving between doss-houses, shelters and hostels. It is widely thought that during this period, Davies began in earnest to develop and establish his poetry, often, or so it is said mentally compiling his poems whilst attempting avoidance of his fellow travellers.

In 1905, he self-published The Soul’s Destroyer with money saved whilst tramping for six months in London. The sacrifice was worth the investment and whilst only 60 of the 200 copies were sold his work came to the attention of Arthur Adcock a journalist writing for the Daily Mail. His reaction upon first reading the book was later to be included in an essay entitled ‘Gods of Modern Grub Street.’ Adcock said that he, ‘recognised that there were crudities and even doggerel in it, there was also in it some of the freshest and most magical poetry to be found in modern books.’ Adcock is credited as the person who discovered Davies. Three editions of The Soul’s Destroyer were published between 1907 and 1910.

In 1907 Davies moved from his home in Llanwern Street, Newport, Wales via London into accommodation provided by Edward Thomas in Egg Pie Lane, Sevenoaks, Kent. Thomas was at that time literary critic for the Daily Chronicle. Thomas encouraged and supported Davies in his work, and brought him into contact with rising names in the literary world. Indeed, in 1907, The Autobiography of a Supertramp caught the attention of George Bernard Shaw, who wrote a preface for the tome. The book was rejected by the original publishers, Duckworth and Sons when Davies tried to renegotiate terms. As a consequence the manuscript was placed with London publisher Fifield.

After moving to London in 1914, and finally taking up residence at 14 Great Russell Street (previously the home of Charles Dickens) in 1916, where he remained until 1921. Davies set about promoting his work through a series of open-air readings, taking stage alongside poets such as W.B Yeats and Hilaire Belloc. Opportunities to socialise and engage with other leading figures from society life quickly followed, and before long Davies was hobnobbing with the likes of Lord Balfour and Lady Randolph Churchill and striking up friendships with artists including Jacob Epstein, Laura Knight, Nina Hamnett, Augustus John, William Rothenstein, Harold Gilman, Walter Sickert, Siir William Nicholson and Osbert and Edith Sitwell.

In October 1917 Davies had his poetry included in the anthology Welsh Poets: A Representative English selection from Contemporary Writers collated by A. G. Prys-Jones. By now an established poet in his own right, Davies continued his work despite the discomfort and impact of flaring rheumatism. Perhaps it was this discomfort that provided motivation for Davies to embark upon a series of recorded readings with the BBC, totalling 14 in all between the period 1924 – 1940. A sequel to The Autobiography of a Supertramp, titled Later Days, was never recorded by the BBC, nor curiously his most famous poem, Leisure.

Marriage to Helen Matilda Payne in 1923 finally brought Davies to his final home, ‘Glendower’ in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire after periods spent in East Grinstead, Sevenoaks, and Oxted (Surrey). It was whilst at Glendower in 1930 that Davies edited the poetry anthology Jewels of Song. The anthology was substantial and included works by more than 120 different poets, with contributions by William Blake, Thomas Campion, William Shakespeare, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and W. B Yeats. Davies selected just two of his many poems, The Kingfisher and Leisure. The Anthology was re-published in 1938 as An Anthology of Short Poems.

Davies returned to Newport in 1926 to receive his honorary degree from the University of Wales. Professor W. D. Thomas, M.A introduced Davies with the following address, which many believe serves as a summary of Davies’ themes, style and tone:

“A Welshman, a poet of distinction, and a man in whose work much of the peculiarly Welsh attitude to life is expressed with singular grace and sincerity. He combines a vivid sense of beauty with affection for the homely, keen zest for life and adventure with a rare appreciation of the common, universal pleasures, and finds in those simple things of daily life a precious quality, a dignity and a wonder that consecrate them. Natural, simple and unaffected, he is free from sham in feeling and artifice in expression. He has re-discovered for those who have forgotten them, the joys of simple nature. He has found romance in that which has become commonplace; and of the native impulses of an unspoilt heart, and the responses of a sensitive spirit, he has made a new world of experience and delight. He is a lover of life, accepting it and glorying in it. He affirms values that were falling into neglect, and in an age that is mercenary reminds us that we have the capacity for spiritual enjoyment.” (Moult, T. (1934), W. H. Davies, London: Thornton Butterworth., quoted on Wiki.)

~*~

In celebration of the poetry and achievements of W.H Davies, Raven’s 12 are delighted to feature an excellent poem written especially for Gallybloggers by our good friend Tŷ Unnôs.

~*~

~ From The Loquacious Usk ~ By ~ Tŷ Unnôs

~

Son of Pillgwenlly

in the former domain of

Gwynllyw Farfog

on the loquacious Usk

and the tongue-twisting old tongue

~

you sacked conventional work

unless to pay for your passage

eschewing the teeming path

of the Empire’s Christian soldiers

~

to sleep under the forever stars

in a vastness with railway arteries

and waning bison heart

~

you were

transatlantic

transamerican

transhuman

~

you wondered at Nature

the great outdoors

as you wandered

the Great Dominion

and the Great Plains

that reverence for

the unmanufactured world

always walked with you

~

the lines in a weathered face

telling so many histories

the detail in the hedgerow dazzling

that moment’s contemplation

of the search for

the next coin

the next smile

the next shelter

the next stanza

~

from your tramping and your courage

in living with physical trauma

to your single-minded campaign

to become a man of letters

~

the story of you is a lesson

to us in our hours of doubt

and cruel but needless isolation

~*~

~ A personal thank you from all at Raven’s 12  for the superb poetry of Tŷ Unnôs ~

Tŷ unnôs – (plural: Tai unnos) (One night house), is an old Welsh tradition which has parallels in other folk traditions in areas of the British Isles.

It was believed by some, that if a person could build a house on common land in one night, that the land then belonged to them as a freehold. There are other variations on this tradition: that the test was to have a fire burning in the hearth by the following morning; and that the squatter could then extend the land around by the distance they could throw an axe from the four corners of the house. ~ Quoted directly from Wiki.

~*~

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22 thoughts on “SUPERTRAMP

    1. Hey John,

      Playing a little catch up, we apologise for a late reply, the week a tumult of emotion, disruption, change and finally settlement into the new. Your visit most welcome and kindly appreciated, thank you John.

      Thank you also for comments made, the post was intended as a marriage of flavours, fact supporting poetry to broaden the experience. The poem we thought superb, refined and elegant, hewn like the Welsh from granite and polished to a shine. Ty Unnos, our ‘one night poet’ builds a beautiful home.

      We hope you caught reference to Ontario…us Welsh we travel widely when the wilderness calls our name and always leave a little bit of us behind for posterities’ sake. In this case, his leg, and Jack, quite possibly 2 fingers.

      Hoping all is well your side of the puddle.

      Take care.

      Namaste 🙂

      DN and Raven’s 12

      Like

  1. What an amazing story of W H Davies.. such a life, adventures. pains and trials, and subsequent success.. Showing determination, true grit and a passion to keep on going.. Showing that the will of the word can be a mighty teller of truth..
    Such an acclaimed honour too receive the distinction of honorary degree from the University of Wales… Inspiring many to pursue their dreams..

    I also so enjoyed the poem by Tŷ Unnôs.. and you continue to educate me with the names meaning also..
    The words brilliantly captures the life of Davies and is a beautifully scripted tribute… And a worthy contender fit to stand beside another great traveler whose head felt more comfort beneath the stars

    Many thanks Dewin for sharing both.. I truly was captivated by this story of Davis.. One I had not heard or known before.. May we all live and learn … And may we all share that which we are taught..

    Blessings to you and Raven’s 12.. Have a Peaceful week..
    Sue

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Sue,

      Our apologies for a tardy reply, we have endured a long week thus far, but no excuse for lateness. Thank you for demonstrating such interest and obvious connection to Davies…perhaps you too often feel the call of the wild Sue, we know how you appreciate the deep-rooted connection we have to Nature. Dewin often recounts the beautiful simplicity in the spiritual dimension of ‘three feathers’ shown in a video you kindly left once before.

      Your phrase, ‘Showing that the will of the word can be a mighty teller of truth’ is supremely apt when the word is cherished as a truth revealed from within and without.

      We share a close affinity with Davies of course, we are travellers and journeymen, stripped of the superfluous and keenly aligned to transience, words, and the beauty of the world around us. Forgoing traditional living in honour of being true to ourselves is a liberation that comes with hardships. Yet we persist, sometimes/mostly with little choice, to respect our personal choices and value our sense of freedom…it is both wonderlust and wanderlust combined

      As a son of Newport, Gwent, it is only right and proper that he was publically honoured by his peers for both his personal success and the contribution he made to the wider world of poetry. We thought Thomas’s address superbly crafted and wonderfully succinct serving as a summary of Davies’ themes, style and tone

      I know Ty Unnos will appreciate the kindness of your thoughts Sue, they pen with a distinct voice, with flair and panache and with a sensitivity to compliment their fierce intellect. A Lion amongst us, Ty Unnos is a ‘one night only poet’, and not here for the full duration, but an observer all the same from afar. It was a privilege to work with them. As to their compulsion towards Nature, we understand them as being from the Celtic fields of Wales. A true Welsh poet though and through, and an inspiration to all a Raven’s 12. Thank you Ty Unnos.

      As always Sue, a real pleasure to have your company here with us again, to feel the warmth of your friendship and the appreciation in your kind comment. Thank you.

      In wishing you a prosperous and peaceful conclusion to the latter part of the week, we hope your path will take you ever onwards to new adventures beyond the beyond.

      Take care good friend, always for always.

      Namaste 🙂

      DN and Raven’s 12

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hope Tŷ Unnôs does not give up on his writing poetry, For his talent is great… And I hope your paths cross again from his one night debut.
        Many thanks Dewin for your most in-depth reply.. This week has been a both busy and restful one as the allotments got more work completed… I hope to load up more photo’s for my Garden Blog today..
        And you may well smile if you should perchance to visit.. As I am sat both with cup and garden fork.. 🙂
        Wishing you a Pleasant rest of the week Dewin..
        Blessings my friend

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hey Sue,

        Thank you, Ty Unnos is busy elsewhere at present and quite possibly tucked away in a secret place, a sort of shed, or so I am told. Our paths will cross again in the early autumn, it is destined.

        Great to hear you’ve been directing operations regards all things allotment and appear to have done so from the comfort of your chair, Sue! The ‘fork’ being a prop for the camera of course. You can’t fool us 🙂 We want proof, photos of blisters, calluses and the dirt under fingernails, even an action shot perhaps just to convince? lol 🙂

        We will catch up with your beautiful blog…the weekend is nigh and we think Dewin has an additional day booked as leave from the dark place where he works. Obviously we’ll encourage him to visit and in the process share our company with you.

        Grateful for your visit. A pleasure always to have you wander by and leave a smile.

        Hoping all is well with you in all ways. As we scarecrows say…’may sunshine always warm the soil upon which you stand.’

        Namaste 🙂

        DN and Raven’s 12

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Garden gloves are a godsend Dewin.. And keep those finger nails more or less dirt free… Though some jobs I can not help but take the gloves off too.. 🙂 The proof will be up by the end of tomorrow.. 🙂 And enjoy your day in the Brightness from the shadows..

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Hey Sue,

        Hmmm. Not convinced! Love the humour….tea drinking requires careful handling and delicacy, always best attempted without gloves 🙂

        We’ll send Dewin over to take a peek at all things active in the process of blooming.

        Thank you for best wishes Sue. We love those! Deep within the depths of shadow is where one finds oneself. What emerges from it is always improved in some way. Pluto always has that way about him. As too the Raven of course.

        Brightest blessings from all at Raven’s 12.

        Namaste 🙂

        DN and Raven’s 12

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Thank you Sue 🙂

        Some carry lanterns for the trip down, others just walk straight in with Merlin and Archie at their shoulder. We do the latter….it’s what Dragons and Scarecrows do.

        Enjoy a wonderful evening. Take good care.

        Namaste 🙂 ❤

        DN and Raven’s 12

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Burning Heart

      Welcome to Gallybloggers and Raven’s 12 hosting for the Homeless and grateful for your visit, comment and support. Thank you kindly.

      Indeed, we believe Davies was very successful in blending the call of his wild with the crafting of words, a true man of letters, he bypassed tradition and conventional living for freedom, living we believe very close to the true nature of us all. We admire him greatly and hold him and his work in very high regard.

      A statue of W.H. Davies stands in Newport City Centre. It features a hooded man, his face entirely veiled stepping out from between two embracing boughs upon which two Doves perch, one of which rests upon an open book. It is a beautiful piece of art and imaginatively in keeping with the nature of Davies. We often sit to admire the statue, seen at its absolute best when silhouetted against a flaring sun. It is then that the darkness of shadow truly encourages the magnificence of the poet to emerge.

      With gratitude for both comment and interest, thank you for visiting. We have bookmarked your Blog site and will visit shortly. The extended narrative you currently have posted makes for excellent reading. It is highly detailed, hence pledge of our return with opportunity to engage and digest the contents. Thank you.

      Take care in all ways.

      Namaste 🙂

      DN and Raven’s 12

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your gracious welcome, I like your blog content, so we shall return, we will be happy to see you in our blog as well.

        Greetings 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you, that is really most kind, and your support here valued and appreciated. We shall very much look forward to your return visit and to spending time in your company on your Blog.

        Until then new friend, travel boldly with positive intention and deliberate purpose and be blessed with the rewards of endeavour. Take care.

        Namaste 🙂

        DN and Raven’s 12

        Like

  2. I now am certain that I have a hobo’s heart, Dewin. I fell into Davies’ story and traveled with him as I read your superbly written article. I was especially moved by the last 3 lines of the poem ~ ‘cruel but needless isolation.’ So much of what we feel is self-inflicted, for a thunderstorm will see one person crying and another rejoicing. Outstanding post, my friend. Love and blessings to all at GallyBloggers 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Tina,

      A little late in replying than we had intended, our apologies for tardiness. Our week has been a difficult one following the death of one of our number. Your presence here is a gift, thank you Tina ❤

      We were delighted to hear you disappeared into the wilderness with Davies and shared something of his wild-spirit and unending endeavour towards adventure, experience, and words. He was an amazing man with whom we have an especially close affinity. If we may be so bold, your gentleness, your insight, your kindness and generosity in supporting us here spoke to us the first time you commented. We knew then there was a 'hobos' heart beating quietly deep within 🙂 Who could hide such a thing from eyes that have seen so much and met so many thousands of people from all across the UK? You are as 'romantic' as are we, joyful and youthful in spirit and celebrating life with a deep and consistent sense of wonder and passion.

      Dewin has sat with the statue of Davies all week whilst taking lunch breaks from his employer. We've seen him staring into the beyond, his gaze piercing the veil of Davies's hooded face to stare deeply into the eyes of Spirit. We watched as his expression glazed and his spirit lifted and submitted to the wind to be carried far, far, far away. Sometimes Dewin appears more of a tramp than his friends at Raven's 12…always a caged raptor clawing and biting at the bars that contain him 🙂 On Friday, two of us shared smiles as we sat watching children playing around the sculpture, squeezing themselves into the dark places within it before emerging with excited smiles, satisfied they had conquered their immediate curiosity and then hastening away eager with anticipation of the next adventure. The wild untamed nature of sweet innocence and eternal curiosity is intoxicating…we were drunk on drafts of their beautiful spirits and left evergreen in our scarecrow hearts.

      We thoroughly enjoyed consideration of your eloquent thunderstorm simile, thank you. Our conclusion: it takes a bold and courageous heart to submit in reverence to the actions of those sitting on both the left and right-hand side of God's throne. We are a duality of competing opposites always seeking singularity within the wholeness of perfect Love. Your appreciation of the work of Ty Unnos is warmly received and most welcome, thank you, they will appreciate your words.

      With gratitude and warm thanks from one and all at Raven's 12 for having shared company with us, fellow dreamers and visionaries alike 🙂

      Hoping Sunday will provide thrill and adventure, curiosity and intrigue, and perhaps have you take off for a wonderful wander in the wild. Keep an eye open for feathers! 🙂

      The purple heart was a wonderful touch, thank you 🙂

      Brightest blessings for the week ahead Tina. Take good care of one and all.

      Namaste 🙂

      DN and Raven’s 12

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, Dewin, your reply is so beautifully poetic. It moved me so much that I read it 3 times. I’m humbled by the compliment you’ve paid me. Thank you, my dear friend. My heart is with you and all at GallyBloggers 💜

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hey Tina,

        We are moved by your comment and humbled by the presence of your Spirit amongst us. The warmth and kindness you bring is like a never-ending summer that knows only the reign of sunshine. You’ll always have a welcoming home here amongst us Tina, a space with your name on it that’ll be shared with no other. You are a dear friend to us also and we’ll always be grateful for your esteemed company and gentle grace, thank you so much 🙂

        In writing on another wonderful friend’s blog we discovered that the name Derwin means ‘friend of the deer’. We find that charmingly fitting for friendship with you.

        Our sincere thanks for your company, kindness and generosity. Always a pleasure to have you visit. We saved some chocolate hobnobs for your next visit 🙂

        Until next time….take great care of you and that wild evergreen garden always blooming in your hobo heart!

        Namaste ❤

        DN and Raven’s 12

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The feeling is mutual, dear friend. I am the eagle who rests on your back and rides with you through the emerald forest, as we soak up the glory of Nature. Sending so much love to all of my friends at GallyBloggers 💜

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Hey Tina,

        Your beautiful sentiment leaves us delirious with delight, Light and Love. You are indeed that majestic Queen of all birds whose wings lift the soulof the World and bring sweetness and joy into our hearts for always. ❤

        Gallybloggers, Raven's 12 return that Loving sentiment and wish you happiness and joy, peace and comfort always. Fare thee well fair Lady Tina ❤

        Namaste 🙂

        DN and Raven's 12

        Liked by 1 person

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