Critical Analysis of An Epitaph by W.H. Davies

Critical Analysis of An Epitaph by W.H. Davies

Critical Analysis of An EpitaphW.H. Davies has been deemed as one of the leading figures of the Georgian poetry. He was gifted writer who was influenced by the simplicity and lucidity of expression of William Wordsworth. Though the poem “An Epitaph” deals with a simple theme, it appeals to the heart and head of the readers. It is imbued with emotions; and it presents realistic picture of man’s life. William Henry Davies’ poem “An Epitaph” is a short poem which comprises three verses made up of six rhymed lines each.

W.H. Davies excelled in his lyrics which are tinged with pictorial description of nature and English country-side. His poems are pregnant with simplicity, naturalness and realism. The readers can also find fine mingling of sarcasm and irony in the poem.

Critical Analysis of An Epitaph

The Poet led his life of a tramp; and a description of his life is given in his famous book, “Autobiography of a Super Tramp’ published in 1908. The poet led the life of a tramp. During his days on a road, he had bitter experiences. William Henry Davies is poet on his own life and his experience. His poems appeared in the volume “The Collected Poems” published in 1963.


W.H. Davies’ poem “An Epitaph” is a serious and thought-provoking poem. He composed his poems in unconventional style and adhered to traditional form and simple expressions. In his poems there is fine mingling of sarcasm and irony. It is natural for a man who has led his painful life to be become satirical and harsh towards his life.

The poem “An Epitaph” by W.H. Davies comments on the sorry state of humanity which is entrapped in misunderstanding and confusion. The poet praises the gentleman who lies beneath the tomb-stone; and in the poem, he has expressed his faith in love and kindness of the dead man through the poem.

The poem is an epitaph of one good-natured and compassionate man who lies beneath the tomb-stone. An epitaph is an inscription used to mark burial places; commemorative verses or lines appearing on tombs or written as if intended for such use.

The man was kind, and generous towards all the men around him; he treated them on equal terms. His thoughts were kind towards all the living and dead. The man had few enemies. He tried to help and cooperate with people throughout his life without any pride. He was an epitome of virtue who spent all his life for the welfare of others.

Analysis of An Epitaph by W.H. Davies

“Beneath this stone lies one good man; and when

We say his kindly thought towards all men

Was as generous to the living as to the dead –

What more for any mortal could be said?

His only enemies were those he tried

To help, and failed; who blamed him, in their pride.”

But when he could not help people; they became his enemies. He tried his level best to help them but he fell short. His power was not as great as his intention. But these people whom he had failed could not understand him and his limitations. They blamed him in their pride and forgot his good deeds and love.

“Forgetting that his power was not as great

As his intention – and their own weak state.

And if he met with men too slow to move

Into the fullness of his own clear love

He looked for the faults of his own self, and not

Blamed other men – like our more common lot.”

The man who is beneath the tomb-stone was a generous and honest man. He encouraged and motivated people to prosper and tried to bring happiness to them despite of their shortcomings or flaws. But he did not point fingers at them or find faults in them even when he knew their fault and shortcomings. On the contrary, the man tried to find fault in his own behavior. He was quite different from the common people. He did not blame others for their faults and mistakes because he loved them all from the core of his heart.

“His boundless trust and innocence of evil

Tempted the base and mean, and helped the devil.

Since such a man, without suspicion, kind,

Was duped by many a false, ungrateful mind,

He’s gone to Heaven – because he lived so well

That many a wretch through him has gone to hell.”

He was innocent and benevolent man who had great faith in his fellowmen. But his innocence and kindness made him vulnerable to attack and criticism. The people tried to hurt and harm him with their misconduct. They were wicked and ungrateful to him. They did not realize his goodness and love. So they treated him in ruthless manner.

But owing to his goodness, he reached to Heaven while the others who treated him badly went to hell. In other words, the generous man’s weakness spoiled the men who were helped by him. His simplicity and goodness showed them a way to hell as they became jealous of him.

In this way, the good man helped the other people to go to hell. The poem presents an ironical picture in society; but the poem also affirms the poet’s faith in goodness and compassion.  The benevolent and generous person receives no reward from the people for his kindness and generosity but he gets hatred, enmity and ingratitude in return. The poem presents a kind of poetic justice. Though “An Epitaph’ of W.H. Davies is a short poem it is thought provoking and it has universal appeal.

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