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Describe a summary of the poem "Joy and Pleasure" by William Henry Davies.

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Bridgett Sumner, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Welsh poet William Henry Davies wrote "Joy and Pleasure" in the early twentieth century, and in it, he draws a distinction between two powerful emotions. In doing so, he places more value on joy than pleasure.

In stanza 1, joy is described metaphorically as coming from a more precious place, from "poorer parents." In contrast, pleasure is much more commonplace, so it is not nearly as precious.

The contrast continues in the second stanza through an analogy. The speaker likens pleasure to a moth that is seduced by false light at night, whereas joy is a butterfly that flies more wholesomely by day, as Nature intends.

In stanza 3, the speaker uses another analogy to liken joy to a bee that is content to drink nectar from flowers, but pleasure is like a wasp that rampages through an orchard, destroying the cherries and plums growing there.

The next analogy, in stanza 4, compares joy to a lark, a type of bird that lives contentedly with a few close companions in the same place, while pleasure is like a cuckoo that is never satisfied; it roams incessantly with only superficial ties to others.

The final stanza reiterates the idea one last time: joy is assigned more value than pleasure. It is more meaningful, true, modest, and humble than pleasure, which is superficial, flashy, and ultimately meaningless.

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The poem "Joy and Pleasure" compares the difference between pleasure and joy, and can be summed up with the conclusion that joy is the better of the two, because it is more lasting, pure, exuberant, sincere, and moving.  William Henry Davies, in each stanza, compares pleasure and joy to different things that demonstrate the difference between the two.  For example, pleasure is a "moth", a roaming "cuckoo" bird seeking attention, a "greedy wasp", and is "cold and dumb" when alone.  However, joy is a "sweet...song", a "butterfly" embracing the daylight, a "bee" nurturing the flowers, a "Lark" with strong connections, and sings "with little care if others hear."  Basically, joy is something that comes from your soul, that you enjoy simply for the happiness that it brings you-a happiness that is independent of other people.  Pleasure depends on other people being involved, giving attention, and as soon as those people leave is dead and cold.

I hope that helps!  Good luck!

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