Guest Feature by John Wynn-Jones: Joy

Dr John Wynn-Jones is well known in WONCA circles and immediate past chair of the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice. During the COVID-19 crisis he has been writing a daily 'Rural Miscellany' email with poems and resource ideas to help and divert us in this difficult time. This month we feature his item on "joy".

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” Buddha

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” Rumi

“He who binds to himself a joy Does the winged life destroy; But he who kisses the joy as it flies Lives in eternity's sun rise” William Blake

“I have drunken deep of joy, and I will taste no other wine tonight.” Percy Bysshe Shelley

“The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.” Charles Dickens (Nicholas Nickleby)

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.”
Mark Twain


For many of us joy is something that has been missing in your lives this year. With so much sadness and despair around, it’s difficult to think about joy. Having experienced so much turmoil and tragedy, we might even feel guilty wishing to experience joyful moments. Many of the experiences that bring us joy, such as human contact, family meetings, fulfilling employment and the opportunity to be creative and kind are missing. Unfortunately, the pandemic is not over and with little in the way of hope ahead of us we must rekindle a sense of joy in ourselves and those around us.

Buddha said in his teachings said “Live in Joy, In love, Even among those who hate. Live in joy, In health, Even among the afflicted. Live in joy, In peace, Even among the troubled. Look within. Be still. Free from fear and attachment, Know the sweet joy of living in the way”

I have put together some poems about joy. Please enjoy and reflect on them.

The Buddha (5th-4th Centaury BCE)

The Buddha was a philosopher, mendicant, meditator, spiritual teacher, and religious leader who lived in Ancient India. He is revered as the founder of the world religion of Buddhism and worshiped by most Buddhist schools as the Enlightened One who has transcended Karma and escaped the cycle of birth and rebirth.

Let us live in joy, not hating those who hate us.
Among those who hate us, we live free of hate.
Let us live in joy,
free from disease among those who are diseased.
Among those who are diseased, let us live free of disease.
Let us live in joy, free from greed among the greedy.
Among those who are greedy, we live free of greed.
Let us live in joy, though we possess nothing.
Let us live feeding on joy, like the bright gods.

Michael Drayton (1563-1631)

Michael Drayton was an English poet who came to prominence in the Elizabethan era.
He was born at Hartshill in Warwickshire in 1563 and as a youth he became page to Sir Henry Goodeere of Polesworth. Goodeere is to be credited for Drayton's education. Drayton fell in love with Sir Henry's daughter, Anne, who served as an inspiration. Little is known of Drayton's early years, though it has been suggested that he may have served in the army, before settling down in London in 1590.
Drayton's career as a poet was long: from his first published work in 1591 to his last in 1630. Drayton constantly revised his works, rewriting and reissuing them, sometimes under different titles.

Sonnet Xli: Why Do I Speak Of Joy
Love's Lunacy

Why do I speak of joy, or write of love,
When my heart is the very den of horror,
And in my soul the pains of Hell I prove,
With all his torments and infernal terror?
What should I say? What yet remains to do?
My brain is dry with weeping all too long,
My sighs be spent in uttering my woe,
And I want words wherewith to tell my wrong;
But, still distracted in Love's lunacy,
And, bedlam-like, thus raging in my grief,
Now rail upon her hair, then on her eye,
Now call her Goddess, then I call her thief,
Now I deny her, then I do confess her,
Now do I curse her, then again I bless her.

William Blake (1757-1826)

William Blake was an English poet, painter, visionary and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age.

Infant Joy

'I have no name;
I am but two days old.'
What shall I call thee?
'I happy am,
Joy is my name.'
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy, but two days old.
Sweet Joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while;
Sweet joy befall thee!

Listen to “Infant Joy” sung by Andreas Weller to an arrangement written by Vaughan Williams


He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.

Listen to “Eternity” sung by Andreas Weller to an arrangement written by Vaughan Williams

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer and statesman. His works include: four novels; epic and lyric poetry; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; and treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour. He is considered the greatest German literary figure of the modern era

Joy And Sorrow

As a fisher-boy I fared

To the black rock in the sea,
And, while false gifts I prepared.

Listen'd and sang merrily,
Down descended the decoy,

Soon a fish attack'd the bait;
One exultant shout of joy,--

And the fish was captured straight.

Ah! on shore, and to the wood

Past the cliffs, o'er stock and stone,
One foot's traces I pursued,

And the maiden was alone.
Lips were silent, eyes downcast

As a clasp-knife snaps the bait,
With her snare she seized me fast,

And the boy was captured straight.

Heav'n knows who's the happy swain

That she rambles with anew!
I must dare the sea again,

Spite of wind and weather too.
When the great and little fish

Wail and flounder in my net,
Straight returns my eager wish

In her arms to revel yet!

Jane Austen (1775-1817)

Jane Austen was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen's plots often explore the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favourable social standing and economic security.

She is considered one of the greatest English novelists, revered around the world. Not generally known as a poet, she wrote this autobiographical poem “My Dearest Frank, I wish you joy” to her brother. Early in the poem, Jane Austen reveals that her sister-in-law has recently had a baby boy. Jane is glad that the birth was not as difficult as that of a previous child, Mary Jane. The poem is full of optimism and she hopes that the child will turn out to be a good child, and "well deserve his Parents' Love!" Jane also hopes that the child will have similar traits to her brother, as revealed in the line: "Another Francis William see!" Just when it seems Jane Austen is expecting too much from the boy, thinking of him as being fearless, she looks forward to the child's "saucy words and fiery ways". She also wants the boy to grow up to be as "considerate and kind" as his father.
As a great lover of her novels, I find this very personal poem intriguing giving us some insight into the private Jane Austen.

My dearest Frank, I wish you joy

My dearest Frank, I wish you joy
Of Mary's safety with a Boy,
Whose birth has given little pain
Compared with that of Mary Jane.--
May he a growing Blessing prove,
And well deserve his Parents' Love!--
Endow'd with Art's and Nature's Good,
Thy Name possessing with thy Blood,
In him, in all his ways, may we
Another Francis WIlliam see!--
Thy infant days may he inherit,
THey warmth, nay insolence of spirit;--
We would not with one foult dispense
To weaken the resemblance.
May he revive thy Nursery sin,
Peeping as daringly within,
His curley Locks but just descried,
With 'Bet, my be not come to bide.'--
Fearless of danger, braving pain,
And threaten'd very oft in vain,
Still may one Terror daunt his Soul,
One needful engine of Controul
Be found in this sublime array,
A neigbouring Donkey's aweful Bray.
So may his equal faults as Child,
Produce Maturity as mild!
His saucy words and fiery ways
In early Childhood's pettish days,
In Manhood, shew his Father's mind
Like him, considerate and Kind;
All Gentleness to those around,
And anger only not to wound.
Then like his Father too, he must,
To his own former struggles just,
Feel his Deserts with honest Glow,
And all his self-improvement know.
A native fault may thus give birth
To the best blessing, conscious Worth.
As for ourselves we're very well;
As unaffected prose will tell.--
Cassandra's pen will paint our state,
The many comforts that await
Our Chawton home, how much we find
Already in it, to our mind;
And how convinced, that when complete
It will all other Houses beat
The ever have been made or mended,
With rooms concise, or rooms distended.
You'll find us very snug next year,
Perhaps with Charles and Fanny near,
For now it often does delight us
To fancy them just over-right us.—

Listen to My Dearest Frank, I Wish You Joy - Jane Austen (Poetry reading) | Jordan Harling Reads

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Walt Whitman was an American poet, essayist, and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition to realism in American poetry. Whitman is among the most influential of American poets, often called the father of free verse.

A Song of Joys (extract)

O to make the most jubilant song!
Full of music-full of manhood, womanhood, infancy!
Full of common employments-full of grain and trees.
O for the voices of animals-O for the swiftness and balance of fishes!
O for the dropping of raindrops in a song!
O for the sunshine and motion of waves in a song!
O the joy of my spirit-it is uncaged-it darts like lightning!
It is not enough to have this globe or a certain time,
I will have thousands of globes and all time.
O the engineer’s joys! to go with a locomotive!
To hear the hiss of steam, the merry shriek, the steam-whistle, the
laughing locomotive!
To push with resistless way and speed off in the distance.
O the gleesome saunter over fields and hillsides!
The leaves and flowers of the commonest weeds, the moist fresh
stillness of the woods,
The exquisite smell of the earth at daybreak, and all through the

Listen to Walt Whitman - Leaves of Grass #7: A Song of Joys

Emily Dickenson (1830-1836)

I can’t avoid including poems by this remarkable poet. Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was an American poet. Little known during her life, she has since been regarded as one of the most important figures in American poetry. Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, into a prominent family with strong ties to its community

'Tis so much joy!

'Tis so much joy! 'Tis so much joy!
If I should fail, what poverty!
And yet, as poor as I,
Have ventured all upon a throw!
Have gained! Yes! Hesitated so—
This side the Victory!

Life is but Life! And Death, but Death!
Bliss is, but Bliss, and Breath but Breath!
And if indeed I fail,
At least, to know the worst, is sweet!
Defeat means nothing but Defeat,
No drearier, can befall!

And if I gain! Oh Gun at Sea!
Oh Bells, that in the Steeples be!
At first, repeat it slow!
For Heaven is a different thing,
Conjectured, and waked sudden in—
And might extinguish me!

Tis so much joy - Emily Dickinson

Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950)

Sri Aurobindo was an Indian philosopher, yogi, guru, poet, and nationalist. He joined the Indian movement for independence from British rule, for a while was one of its influential leaders and then became a spiritual reformer, introducing his visions on human progress and spiritual evolution
Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol is an epic poem in blank verse by Sri Aurobindo, based upon the theology from the Mahabharata. Its central theme revolves around the transcendence of man as the consummation of terrestrial evolution and the emergence of an immortal supramental gnostic race upon earth.

Extracts from Savitri

Even joy itself becomes a poisonous draught;
Its hunger is made a dreadful hook of Fate.
All means are held good to catch a single beam,
Eternity sacrificed for a moment’s bliss:
Yet for joy and not for sorrow earth was made
And not as a dream in endless suffering Time.

Even in this labour and dolour of Ignorance,
On the hard perilous ground of difficult earth,
In spite of death and evil circumstance
A will to live persists, a joy to be.
There is a joy in all that meets the sense,
A joy in all experience of the soul,
A joy in evil and a joy in good,
A joy in virtue and a joy in sin:
Indifferent to the threat of Karmic law,
Joy dares to grow upon forbidden soil,
Its sap runs through the plant and flowers of Pain:
It thrills with the drama of fate and tragic doom,
It tears its food from sorrow and ecstasy,
On danger and difficulty whets its strength;
It wallows with the reptile and the worm
And lifts its head, an equal of the stars;
It shares the faeries’ dance, dines with the gnome:
It basks in the light and heat of many suns,
The sun of Beauty and the sun of Power.

Sri Chinmoy (1931)

Sri Chinmoy has been a poet from a young age. He began writing poetry whilst a in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. His poetry has always been a reflection and revelation of his own spiritual experiences.
Sri Chinmoy was born in 1931 in India. At a young age he lost both parents and therefore moved to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. After 20 years in the ashram he followed an inner command to go to America to share the wisdom of yoga to seekers in the West. Since 1964 Sri Chinmoy has sought tirelessly to inspire others to lead better more fulfilling lives. As well as being a noted poet Sri Chinmoy is also a musician and has given several hundred free concerts of meditative music.

A little joy have I of ceaseless joy
A little joy have I of ceaseless joy,
A little day of timeless day.
Yet knows no bound this empty show of mine;
I march along a goalless way.
O Love! A desert within me ever pines.
Do turn it into a song of dawn.
I know not in what hour of evil night
Thou art, my Lord, from me withdrawn.
Life now must reach Thy Breath of Bliss supreme,
Make Thee the one and only Guide.
Thou art the Bridge between my death and birth;
O let my longings in Thee abide.

Songs of Joy

Hallelujah: Medical Mums Sing in Solidarity
Medical mums and their families across Australia and New Zealand collaborated from various stages of COVID lockdown and stress. We shook off our inhibitions, dusted off our instruments and made something beautiful.

What a Wonderful World: Louis Armstrong

Best of Joy: Michael Jackson

The Beach Boys: Good Vibrations

The Beatles: Here comes the sun