W William H. Davies

The Kingfisher by William Henry Davies

In ‘The Kingfisher’ Davies explores themes of solitude, nature, and beauty. The poem depicts the colours of the kingfisher, a small to medium-mixed brightly coloured bird. They are often deep blue, orange, and yellow. It is likely that Davies was speaking about the common kingfisher, the most populous species in the United Kingdom.  

The Kingfisher by William Henry Davies


Summary of The Kingfisher

The Kingfisher’ by William Henry Davies addresses a kingfisher and how it was given “birth” by a rainbow. The rainbow left it all its hues.

The creature goes through the world with its “glorious hues”. These allow it to stand proud alongside the colourful peacocks in the “green parks”. It is just as vibrant. The bird could also hold its own against the windows of kings, but it chooses not to. It is not “vain” as a human would be. Instead, it prefers the quiet, just like the speaker does.


Structure of The Kingfisher

The Kingfisher’ by William Henry Davies is a single stanza poem that contains eighteen lines. These lines follow a rhyming pattern of ABCBDDBEFEGGHIJIKK. This is less a pattern than it is an arrangement of lines that at times breaks into rhyming couplets and half-rhymes. The latter, half-rhyme,  also known as slant or partial rhyme, is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line, or multiple lines of verse. For instance, “you” and “hues” in line seven and “I” and “quiet” in line seventeen.

In regards to the meter, the lines are all divided into four sets of two beats, for a total of eight syllables per line. 


Poetic Techniques in The Kingfisher

Davies makes use of several poetic techniques in The Kingfisher’. These include but are not limited to epistrophe, anaphora, alliteration, and enjambment The first, anaphora, is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. This technique is often used to create emphasis. A list of phrases, items, or actions may be created through its implementation. For example, “And” at the beginning of lines two and three. By using the word twice, the poet is able to create a list of features. Building up what the speaker sees as defining the kingfisher. 

Epistrophe is the repetition of the same word, or a phrase, at the end of multiple lines or sentences. In this case, Davies ends lines two and seven with the word “hues”. This provides the reader with a clue that the colour, if one was not already aware, is incredibly important in this short piece of poetry. 

Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, left” and “lovely” in line two and “shining” and “show” in lines nine and ten. 

Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For instance, the transition between lines four and five as well as that between five and six. 


Analysis of The Kingfisher 

Lines 1-8

It was the Rainbow gave thee birth,

And left thee all her lovely hues;

And, as her mother’s name was Tears,

So runs it in my blood to choose

For haunts the lonely pools, and keep

In company with trees that weep.

Go you and, with such glorious hues,

Live with proud peacocks in green parks;

In the first lines of ‘The Kingfisher,’ the speaker begins by addressing the kingfisher. This is a technique known as apostrophe. Apostrophe is an arrangement of words addressing someone or something who does not exist or is not present, in the poem’s immediate setting. The person, creature, or thing is spoken to as though they/it can hear and understand the speaker’s words. 

Davies also makes use of personification from the start. This is seen through his depiction of the rainbow as a mother. It “gave…birth” to the kingfisher. It left “thee all her lovely hues”. This is a very direct reference to the colours of the kingfisher’s feathers. 

The next lines are quite figurative. They depict the rainbow’s nature. “her mother’s names Tears”. This relates to rain and the presence of the rainbow after the rain has cleared. 

In lines seven and eight the speaker tells the kingfisher that is should go and be confident while walking with the “proud peacocks 


Lines 9-18 

On lawns as smooth as shining glass,

Let every feather show its marks;

Get thee on boughs and clap thy wings

Before the windows of proud kings.

Nay, lovely Bird, thou art not vain;

Thou hast no proud, ambitious mind;

I also love a quiet place

That’s green, away from all mankind;

A lonely pool, and let a tree

Sigh with her bosom over me.

In the next set of lines the speaker goes on to describe the peacocks and the park and how when there, the bird can show itself off. It can land on the boughs of trees and flap its wings as it flies around. It should grace the windows “of proud kings” knowing that it is just as grand and beautiful as anything in their palaces. 

But, the thirteenth line asserts, this is not what the bird is going to do, for it is not vain. It is not “proud” as the kings and peacocks are. There is no ambition in its mind. The speaker relates their own perception of the world to the bird’s. They both like “a quiet place / That’s green, away from all mankind”. 

The speaker imagines being by a “lonely” or isolated pool under a tree. There, they can be amongst the quiet happiness of nature and birds like the kingfisher. 

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Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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