‘Money, O!‘ by W.H Davies is intended to be a warning that having money does not always equate to being happy. In the poem, the narrator states that he was only able to experience true joy in his life once he lost all of his money. This is because having money impedes your ability to form genuine connections with others, as it is sure to attract a lot of fake friends. People who want to be in your life regardless of how much money you have are worth more than any riches. The poem encourages the reader to appreciate the genuine relationships they have in their life, as no amount of money is worth genuine love.
Money, O! W.H. DaviesWhen I had money, money, O! I knew no joy till I went poor; For many a false man as a friend Came knocking all day at my door. Then felt I like a child that holds A trumpet that he must not blow Because a man is dead; I dared Not speak to let this false world know. Much have I thought of life, and seen How poor men's hearts are ever light; And how their wives do hum like bees About their work from morn till night. So, when I hear these poor ones laugh, And see the rich ones coldly frown Poor men, think I, need not go up So much as rich men should come down. When I had money, money, O! My many friends proved all untrue; But now I have no money, O! My friends are real, though very few.
Explore Money, O!
‘Money, O!‘ warns the reader that money cannot buy genuine happiness.
The poem begins with the narrator lamenting that when he had money, he experienced no joy until he went poor again. This is because the wealth he had only attracted fake friends, and he felt he needed to keep his wealth hidden to keep these kinds of people away. The narrator then states that in his experience, all the “poor” people that he sees are much happier than “rich” people. They have more fulfilling relationships compared to people who have money because money attracts people who seek to gain from it.
The narrator then says that rather than try to increase their wealth, rich men should humble themselves so that they can experience the same genuine fulfillment as poor men. The poem ends with the narrator stating that while he now has little money and few friends, the friends he does have are genuine.
Structure and Form
‘Money, O!‘ is divided into 5 stanzas, with each stanza being 4 lines long. The poem follows an interesting rhyming scheme that varies slightly by stanza. The first, second, fourth, and fifth stanzas follow an ABCB rhyme scheme, while the third line follows an ABAB rhyme scheme. The poem is therefore a “Quatrain” poem.
The main themes of ‘Money, O!‘ surround the idea that money is not as important as the people that you have in your life. The poem argues that while people endlessly seek out money, it cannot buy what is most important in life: genuine companionship. “Money, O!” argues that a poor man can find more fulfillment in his life than a rich man.
When I had money, money, O!
I knew no joy till I went poor;
For many a false man as a friend
Came knocking all day at my door.
The first stanza of ‘Money, O!‘ begins by establishing that the narrator of the poem had once been a rich man, who has since lost his wealth. This gives his words more weight, as he speaks from personal experience. The narrator states that when he was rich, “many a false man as a friend” came knocking “all day” at his door. This causes the narrator great grief, and he even states that this is the reason that he truly knew no joy until he went poor. Despite the fact that he had wealth and should have therefore been happy, the lack of genuine connection made him miserable.
Then felt I like a child that holds
A trumpet that he must not blow
Because a man is dead; I dared
Not speak to let this false world know.
In the next stanza of the poem, the narrator utilizes metaphor to convey how he felt when he was rich. As a rich man, he felt that he had to hide his wealth from others to keep “fake” friends away. This meant that he was unable to really enjoy his wealth or share it with loved ones. He compares the feeling to that of a child being unable to play his trumpet.
Much have I thought of life, and seen
How poor men’s hearts are ever light;
And how their wives do hum like bees
About their work from morn till night.
In the third stanza of ‘Money, O!‘, the narrator states that the poor man experiences more fulfillment in life than a rich man does. Their wives “hum like bees”, as they work all day, which demonstrates that they experience a sense of joy and fulfillment from their hard work. The mention of a hardworking wife also demonstrates that the poor man has loving relationships in his life, unlike the rich man.
So, when I hear these poor ones laugh,
And see the rich ones coldly frown
Poor men, think I, need not go up
So much as rich men should come down.
The last stanza of the poem offers a contrast between the rich and the poor. The rich man, despite his wealth, is cold and unhappy. On the other hand, the poor man lacks monetary wealth, but is filled with laughter. Seeing this, the narrator feels that it is not the poor man who should strive towards gaining more wealth, but rather the rich man who should seek to achieve a more humble lifestyle.
When I had money, money, O!
My many friends proved all untrue;
But now I have no money, O!
My friends are real, though very few.
‘Money, O!‘ ends with the narrator stating that when he was rich, he was surrounded by people who proved themselves to be fake friends. This is because they hung around him for his money, not because they actually liked him. Now, as a poor man, he has much fewer friends because he doesn’t have much to offer anymore. However, the people who have chosen to be in his life are genuine. This once again demonstrates that while wealth may seem appealing, nothing compares to genuine relationships and friendships.
About W.H. Davies
W.H. Davies was a Welsh poet and writer who spent a large portion of his life living as a tramp or hobo in poverty. However, he was able to live more comfortably after his poetry gained popularity. His poetry and writing often focused on the hardships of life and was inspired by his own observations and experiences.
W.H Davies’ poetry became extremely popular during his time, and he wrote 20 poetry collections. Some of his most popular collections include Nature Poems and Others (1908), Foliage (1913), The Birds of Paradise and Other Poems (1914), The Soul’s Destroyer and Other Poems (1905).
If you liked ‘Money, O!‘, you may want to consider checking out this similar poetry:
- ‘Money‘ by Robert Frost, a poem that warns the reader not to become overly fixated on money.
- Any of the poems from this list of 10 poems about money that Poem Analysis has put together.
- ‘Money‘ by Phillip Larkin, a poem that criticizes consumerism and society’s obsession with money.
- Any of W.H Davies’ poetry. His work often deals with similar themes and is beloved by many.