Monday, April 11, 2011

The Listeners

"Is there anybody there?" said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champ'd the grasses
Of the forest's ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller's head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
"Is there anybody there?" he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Lean'd over and look'd into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplex'd and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirr'd and shaken
By the lonely Traveller's call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
'Neath the starr'd and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:--
"Tell them I came, and no one answer'd,
That I kept my word," he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

Walter de la Mare
English Poet
1873 - 1956

Brand new to me, de la Mare seems a bit moody but worth following.  This particular poem captured my attention just after one reading.  I am intrigued by the act of listening and non-listening, the nightime setting, and the integrity of the speaker.
Note to self:  For further study, remember de la Mare's interest in the imagination and his influence on writer Elizabeth Goudge.

Photo Credit:
DD#2 in Ireland


  1. I love this poem. Our family became familiar with de la Mare through his excellent *Come Hither* collection of poems "for the Young of All Ages," but it doesn't include any of his own! We had to find those elsewhere, but they are worth the finding. Thanks for posting this one.

  2. Thanks for stopping by GretchenJoanna....

    I'm working on building my poetry collection and now will be adding some de la Mare.